July 12, 2012

Zynga Cautious About Developing Mobile Apps

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

In a fireside chat yesterday morning, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus said his company is still not ready to heavily invest in mobile games, saying they´ve proven web-based games–like their popular FarmVille–can be successful even if they´re bound to a desktop experience.

Pincus made his comments amidst the MobileBeat 2012 conference, which is being held in San Francisco this week. As many online-based organizations look to cater to mobile devices in the near future, Pincus says his company will continue to focus on web-based titles. It is worth noting that Facebook, who recently went public, has also decided that mobile is the way to go, snatching up mobile-only service Instagram and allegedly redesigning their iOS app. Zynga gained their popularity by hosting their games on Facebook´s platform.

According to Pincus, even though the move to mobile is an obvious one, (they did buy mobile game developers OMGPOP for $183 million in March) they simply aren´t ready to move their focus from web-based gaming yet.

“We invest north of $10 million in a potential franchise game like the Ville,” Pincus said. “We can´t make that investment yet confidently in mobile. And I´m confident in the next couple of years we´ll get to the point where we can. But it´s not there yet and I think it´s a little chicken or egg.”

Zynga isn´t completely turning their back on mobile, however. As previously mentioned, they did acquire OMGPOP, makers of the short-lived hit Draw Something. Zynga has also acquired the makers of Words with Friends, another popular mobile game with a bit more longevity than Draw Something. According to the CEO, Zynga tried to push into mobile once, tying together their desktop and mobile games, but their players were none too pleased with the results.

“We spent a huge amount engineering to build a totally synchronous gaming for FarmVille with different clients,” said Pincus.

“Consumers hated us for it. They wished we would´ve built them a totally separate FarmVille experience. We´ve had some successes “¦ such as Words With Friends.”

Pincus´ comments are especially curious considering his companies suffering stock. The 5-year old company went public in December, but saw their lowest stock prices ever last month when prices sunk to $4.80 a share after a report from the Wall Street Journal revealed their mobile offerings paled in comparison to competitors, such as Rovio. One month earlier, Facebook had their own IPO and subsequent stock slip, bringing Zynga´s shares down by as much as 50%.

“We´ve made a huge investment in mobile, organically building up teams and products and with one large acquisition,” Pincus said. “We´re at the point where it´s obvious that we all should be investing heavily. But I don´t think we have that all-in confident moment. The flywheel isn´t there in an obvious way.”

Zynga has developed some run-away success with their FarmVille and CityVille web-based games. Though those that play these games may only see farm animals and buildings, the teams behind these web-based games constantly analyze and monitor the mechanics within, even years after they´ve been released. Before their slip in June, Zynga was able to grow and harvest $1.1 billion in revenue from 223 million monthly players in 2011. Recently, Zynga announced even more web-based games, such as a Sims-like game called The Ville.

They´ve also recently announced an entire gaming platform, encouraging other game developers to build on top of Zynga´s network. This new platform will also allow for cross-platform gaming, a move that Pincus is making with some trepidation, given the complaints they received from their first attempt.