Zynga Unveils Farmville Sequel, New Social Gaming Network
June 27, 2012

Zynga Unveils Farmville Sequel, New Social Gaming Network

Zynga unveiled on Tuesday a new line up of games, including a sequel to the popular Farmville title, and announced plans to build a social network to get more people playing online games together across multiple devices.

The company made the announcements during its ℠Zynga Unleashed´ press event in San Francisco.

The new titles are part of Zynga´s dramatically refreshed product line, which includes a number of new games, enhancements to its gaming platform and a mobile strategy the company described as the biggest in its five-year history.

The additions are aimed at regaining momentum the company has lost since hitting a rough patch in June, when Zynga´s stock dropped to a low-point of $4.80 per share following an analyst report that its mobile strategy lagged behind rivals.

Among other new titles, Zynga unveiled its Farmville sequel — ℠Farmville 2´ — which builds on the original game´s farming simulation, but adds 3D graphics that allow players to view the world from different angles.

"One of the things that people will notice right away is that it's our first 3D game," said Cadir Lee, Zynga´s chief technology officer, in an interview with BBC News.

"All the buildings, crops and animals are shown in 3D. You can see them from multiple directions, they can rotate, you can see them more richly - so it provides a certain pop in the game itself.”

"The game also has more social elements and a lot more crafting: the crops that you harvest are what you use in the game to make things which you then use to make other things, like on a natural farm."

Players will not be able to carry over items from the original Farmville, meaning they will have to purchase new virtual goods to accelerate progress.

The original Farmville reached its highpoint with about 82 million users playing the game at least once a month in March 2010, according to data from traffic tracking service Appdata.  Even now, the game is still Zynga´s biggest moneymaker, accounting for nearly 30% of its revenue during the first quarter of 2012, the company said in its latest quarterly report.

The most recent Appdata figures suggest some 21.7 million users still play the game at least once a month.

The company also revealed on Tuesday its new ℠Zynga With Friends´ social network, which it described as "a unified experience that will connect all players on any platform."

Although many gamers now play against each other online in some way, Zynga´s new central gaming hub will connect players of multiple game titles on multiple websites or mobile devices.

For instance, on Facebook, players will be able to more easily play against other interested gamers–not merely their existing Facebook friends.

"It's not about the number of friends you have, it's how many friends you have actively playing the game you're playing," said Manuel Bronstein, who heads Zynga's consumer network products, during an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

Mark Pincus, Zynga's chief executive, said he is focused on building games that reach the largest number of players, and that as the games get more advanced, they will attract more discriminating players used to playing games on a videogame console.

"It's not about diversifying," he told The Journal.

"It's about taking the path to get our games in front of the largest possible audience and then deepen the value."

Zynga said its ℠Zynga With Friends´ network is an example of the next generation of social technology, moving beyond general friendships to personal networks centered on interests.

Activity within those networks tends to be higher than in a generalized setting, such as Facebook, Zynga said.

Pincus said that social gaming is in roughly the same place as online search in 1999, and e-commerce in 2002.

These crucial markets were on the cusp of becoming more ubiquitous, he said during an interview with USAToday.

"Social gaming, on a daily basis, could be as important as e-mail and text messaging.”

Pincus told The Journal that Zynga plans to give developers access to collaboration tools that will help increase the number of users actively playing the games and paying for social goods.

"The value to you as a consumer is liquidity of friends and other interesting people," he said.

"The value to us as a business and soon third parties is a ready audience for the next great game we release."

Zynga also launched two other versions of its Ville franchise on Tuesday, including ChefVille, a next-generation restaurant resembling Zynga's Café World, and Ville, a Sims-like game with Facebook updates and in-game messaging made by the creator of the CityVille and FarmVille titles.

Additional new titles include a "Matching With Friends” mobile puzzle game, the fifth installment in Zynga´s popular "With Friends" games aimed at mobile devices.

The company also unveiled a new multiplayer mode on Zynga.com, which lets up to four people compete at simultaneously on Bubble Safari, Zynga's most popular title.

Despite the plethora of announcements made on Tuesday, shares of Zynga´s stock fell nearly 5% after the event, closing at $5.77 after hitting a daily high of $6.35.

Zynga's stock has lost about a third of its value since the company went public at $9.50 per share last December.