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Category: Zynga

CityVille passes FarmVille as most played game on Facebook


CityVille has surpassed FarmVille as the most popular application on Facebook.

About 69 million have played CityVille over the last 30 days, according to a Monday report from AppData, a website that tracks the use of Facebook applications.

FarmVille, formerly the most used app on Facebook, has been played by about 57 million people over the last month, said AppData, which collects information on more than 75,000 apps directly from Facebook.

Both CityVille and FarmVille are made by Zynga, a San Francisco-based company that also makes the fourth- and fifth-most popular Facebook apps, FrontierVille and Texas HoldEm Poker.

Zyngalogo In CityVille, which was released just over a month ago, players create digital cities that they manage as mayor, deciding how in-game funds are spent to nurture local businesses, build infrastructure and attract residents.

Just as in FarmVille, players can visit the communities their friends create in the game and even operate businesses in their friends' cities.

Zynga has built more than 50 apps on Facebook, as well as for Yahoo, the iPhone and the former-most-popular social networking website, MySpace.

According to AppData, Zynga has a substantial lead as the most popular Facebook app company with about 271 million people having used its products over the last 30 days.

That's more than double the number of users than the second-most popular Facebook app company, Takeoff Monkey, which had about 60 million users last month, AppData reported.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Images: A screenshot of CityVille on Facebook and the Zynga logo. Credit: Zynga

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Trying to kick the social media habit?

This hilarious video from YourTango (fashioned after a 1980s after-school special) is must see TV for the Twitterati.

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Zynga, maker of FarmVille on Facebook, buys Newtoy in play for mobile

Showing it is highly focused on conquering mobile the way it has the personal computer, Zynga Game Network Inc., the biggest maker of games on Facebook Inc. including FarmVille, said Thursday it had bought Texas mobile-game company Newtoy Inc.

Newtoy makes such popular games as Words With Friends on the iPhone, a Scrabble-like game.

Farmville Five months ago, the San Francisco-based social-gaming juggernaut launched FarmVille on the iPhone. Since then, the game has been downloaded more than 7 million times. Overall, more than 10 million access Zynga games on mobile devices each month.

That's actually small fry for Zynga, which has more than 215 million monthly active users playing its games mostly on Facebook. But its ambitions are much grander.

David Ko, senior vice president of mobile games, said the company's goal was to make it possible to play its games anywhere. "It is increasingly clear that mobile is the next great frontier for social gaming," he said.

Zynga has snapped up seven gaming companies in seven months, but this was the first focused on mobile. The Newtoy deal comes after Japan's DeNA bought iPhone-game-maker Ngmoco for $403 million. Zynga has expanded to Japan, home to a trove of mobile-gaming companies. Zynga raised money from SoftBank to create Zynga Japan to help gain a foothold there. The move is part of a major global initiative to extend its gaming empire beyond Facebook. Its new game, CityVille, which went live this week, is already available in five languages.

Newtoy's headquarters in McKinney, Texas, will become the Zynga With Friends Studio, a new game studio. It has 23 people on staff. Newtoy chief executive and co-founder Paul Bettner will be vice president and general manager of the studio, reporting to Ko. Bettner founded Newtoy in 2008 with his brother David Bettner.

Zynga was one of the first companies to spot the potential of building on Facebook in 2007, plunging into the lucrative market for social gaming and virtual goods. Its biggest hit is FarmVille, in which people farm land with their friends.

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-- Jessica Guynn

Image: FarmVille

Mary Meeker, renowned tech analyst, leaves Morgan Stanley for venture capitalist firm


Mary Meeker, a renowned technology analyst and researcher, is leaving her longtime home at financial-services firm Morgan Stanley to become a venture capitalist.

Meeker has joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as a partner, the firm announced Monday morning.

"We're at the beginning of another great wave of tech innovation, and I am incredibly excited by the opportunity to help the next generation of Internet technologies and leaders," Meeker said in a statement.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is well-known in the tech industry for investing in Google, Amazon, Zynga and many other companies.

Meeker led a research team covering many of the same companies at Morgan Stanley, including Google and Amazon, as well as others tech heavyweights such as Microsoft, Yahoo! and EBay. Meeker joined Morgan Stanley in 1991.

At Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Meeker will advise companies in which the venture capitalist firm has invested in, particularly social media, mobile and "new commerce" Internet companies, the firm said.

Aside from her research and analysis, Meeker is known to have a knack for foreseeing tech trends. Her speeches and presentations at tech conferences also tend to be a hit.

This year, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Meeker spoke about the state of the Web.

Last year, in her Web 2.0 presentation, she forecast that eventually 10 times more people will use mobile devices to surf the Web than desktop computers and that about 1 billion people worldwide will be mobile data users by 2013.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Photo: Tech analyst Mary Meeker speaks during the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Nov. 16. Credit: Tony Avelar / Bloomberg

FarmVille maker Zynga unveils CityVille

Hud.jpg For all those social gamers unmoved by the rural charms of Zynga’s popular FarmVille, the developer has released a far more cosmopolitan option.

In CityVille, players will build a metropolis from scratch, creating a community that they will preside over as mayor. The game will launch in coming weeks in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish on Facebook, which also hosts FarmVille.

San Francisco-based Zynga also makes the MafiaWars and FrontierVille games, with hundreds of millions of players total.

The concept of CityVille is “Monopoly meets Main Street,” said Sean Kelly, the game’s general manager, in a statement. Users will build from the ground up –- clearing the land, assembling roads, then building post offices, schools, fire departments and businesses -– all rendered in 3-D.

They’ll  run sales at local shops to keep the economy healthy, decorate homes to justify higher rents, even build train systems and piers to encourage trade with other players.

“Instead of harvesting crops you're harvesting your neighborhood,” Kelly said.

Interactivity will be key. Players can visit each others’ cities and even operate business franchises there. And as the urban sprawl expands, more characters will be available –- doctors, policemen, businesses owners, residents and more.

It’s a bit more ambitious than managing a farm, and it also sounds similar to the SimCity game. Wonder if Villaraigosa plans to give it a spin.

Kelly and others explain the mechanics in this YouTube video:  


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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Zynga

Facebook's Russian investor Yuri Milner talks strategy, not Twitter

Yurimilner Yuri Milner, a Russian financier famous in Silicon Valley for investing in Facebook, would not say whether he plans to invest in Twitter during an onstage interview with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco Tuesday.

Milner's Digital Sky Technologies has been rumored to be interested in investing in Twitter. Twitter's last round of funding valued the San Francisco Internet sensation at $1 billion. A new round, if there is one, would certainly value Twitter at a lot more.

DST snapped up 2% of Facebook for $200 million in 2009, a stake he has increased to less than 10% since then. He also led a $180-million investment in social gaming company Zynga and a $135-million funding round in Groupon, a Chicago company that offers deals.

Milner did not talk about the value of his investments or when some of these companies might test the public waters. He did say he plans to make more big investments in social media companies, saying there are between 25 and 30 companies that fit his criteria: companies worth at least $1 billion in the social media space.

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Yahoo integrates Twitter and Farmville-maker Zynga, reveals other goodies

Farmville and Facebook have long seemed inextricably tied, but there’s now another player in the picture.

That would be Yahoo Inc., which on Tuesday revealed the first phase of the integration of Farmville-maker Zynga’s popular social games into the Internet company’s network.

Users can now play and share games such as Mafia Wars and Fishville across Yahoo’s homepage, games site, e-mail and messenger system. The new relationship doesn’t affect Zynga’s current set-up with Facebook, which involves millions of faithful gamers. 

But it could be the start of something big Yahoofor Yahoo, which was busy Tuesday showing off a slew of other offerings. The new Yahoo Messenger beta -- now integrated with Flickr, Facebook and Twitter as well as Zynga -- enables viewing and commenting on updates from the instant messaging client.

Yahoo is also launching in a limited trial its Local Offers program, which will feature discounts and deals for spas, restaurants and other businesses. Partners include Groupon, LivingSocial, GiltCity, and Valpak.

Later this week, the improved Sketch-a-Search function will also be available, letting viewers focus in on an map to find local businesses using their computers, iPhones or iPads. Yahoo users will also be able to make OpenTable restaurant reservations directly from the search page.


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--  Tiffany Hsu

Photo credit: Paul Sakuma /Associated Press

Andreessen Horowitz raises $650 million venture fund

Marc Andreessen and his longtime business partner, Ben Horowitz, have raised a $650-million second fund for their venture capital firm, giving them a checkbook to match their ambitions.

Andreessen Horowitz raised the money in three weeks from all the same investors that participated in the first fund plus new investors. It took the firm three months to raise $300 million in July 2009.

It is noteworthy that the 15-month-old firm pulled this off in a tough environment for venture capitalists who are struggling to raise money as the industry delivers negative returns when averaged over the past decade. Venture capitalists are also facing rising competition from a new wave of "super angel" investors who sink small amounts in start-ups that need less cash to bring their ideas to fruition than they used to.

Andreessen and Horowitz have growing clout for backing high-profile start-ups such as Foursquare and Zynga on Sand Hill Road, the prestigious stretch that is home to Silicon Valley venture capital firms, including theirs. None of the 28 companies they have invested in have been sold or gone public, but that could soon change. Apple and Google are both chasing one investment, the mobile payments company Boku, and another, Skype, is slated to go public next year.

Andreessen Horowitz is still committed to risking small sums, as little as $25,000, on fledgling start-ups with new ideas. But the new fund gives the firm the firepower to invest up to $100 million in a single deal and to take a bigger role in "really important companies," Andreessen said.

Investors are seeing more opportunity to invest in growth companies now that so few companies are opting to go public. Sometimes that means buying shares on the secondary market, which the firm did in the case of Zynga.

"Every year a small number of companies ultimately get to be very big and very important," Andreessen said. "Our goal is to work with those start-ups."

Andreessen is speaking of start-ups that grow into the likes of Facebook, where he sits on the board. He's also speaking of potentially game-changing deals like Skype, the company that lets users call each other for free over the Internet. Andreessen Horowitz has about a 5% stake in the company which could deliver the largest initial public offering of a technology company since Google in 2004. The $50 million Andreessen Horowitz invested in Skype meant that it went through its first fund faster than it had anticipated.

Andreessen, who developed the Web browser that launched the Internet revolution and his first company -- Netscape -- already had influence and connections in Silicon Valley. But he has taken an increasingly visible role lately.

He joined Hewlett-Packard's board not long after he started Andreessen Horowitz and quickly became a key player, acting as spokesman for the board when it parted ways with CEO Mark Hurd. And he was on the committee that helped recruit Hurd's successor, Leo Apotheker. Andreessen also helped spin out Skype from EBay, where he also sits on the board. In addition, he has roles with two of the hottest companies in the consumer Internet space: He advises Twitter and has the ear of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

After selling their company, Opsware, to Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion in cash in 2007, Andreessen and Horowitz invested side by side, putting $4 million into 45 companies including Twitter before starting their own venture capital firm. Their approach has been to bring their years of experience as technology entrepreneurs to information technology investments in Silicon Valley, evaluating the merit of the idea and the tech savvy of the entrepreneur proposing it.

Like other firms, Andreessen Horowitz bills itself as a firm that supplies the advice and connections that can help fuel the growth of young start-ups. In an unusual move for a firm of its size it has hired teams to offer expertise -- business development, research, marketing -- to the companies in which it invests. It also helps them recruit talented engineers and other key employees, some 73 people so far.

-- Jessica Guynn

Venture capitalist John Doerr makes a big bet on the next wave of the consumer Internet

Doerr Pioneering venture capitalist John Doerr, lionized in Silicon Valley for leading investments in Netscape, Amazon and Google, helped build the consumer Internet. Now he's making a huge bet on the next round of the Web. It's also an ambitious bid to put his venture firm back on top.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has established a $250-million fund called the "sFund" to back social entrepreneurs who connect people online no matter where they are. Doerr made the announcement Thursday onstage at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto flanked by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Zynga's Marc Pincus. He pledged that the fund would find, back and accelerate this next wave of Internet innovation.

Kleiner will put up much of the $250 million, but Amazon, Facebook and Zynga have promised to work with the entrepreneurs that the fund backs. Comcast, Liberty Media and investment bank Allen & Co. also will invest. In an interview, Doerr declined to disclose how much the limited partners would contribute.

The large fund and its prominent investors reflect the dramatic shift in focus in Silicon Valley to a new era of the "social Web."

Zuckerberg said he hoped the new fund would foster a generation of companies that are built with social DNA from the ground up.

"A complete new consumer behavior and experience is happening right in front of our eyes," Pincus said.

"This probably is the golden age of social apps," Bezos said.

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