As the inspiration for dozens of Facebook groups called “I Don’t Care About Your ______”, some of which have member counts in the hundreds, it would be easy to dismiss Zynga, makers of Farmville, Mafia Wars & Café World among others, as a blight on the social media landscape, an annoyance understood only by those who’ve escaped its grasp. Increasingly, however, industry insiders are seeing real potential in this company and its legion of loyal players.
For the Facebook neophytes and the otherwise uninitiated, Zynga games are played within your web browser on social media sites, taking advantage of those programming platforms to produce surprisingly attractive and endlessly addictive entertainment. Key to the proliferation of these games is the regular posting of in-game ‘achievements’ as status updates, presumably viewable and actionable by one’s friends. If your peers are playing or decide to join with you, the games reward you with some of its specific currency, whether it be gold, sheep or even virtual kitchen equipment. Time is the only cost for some casual fun, but pay options abound for those who find themselves truly enamored with these programs. Everything from additional game currency to visual trinkets to ‘gifts’ for other players can be purchased with cold hard cash, as a means to “augment” one’s playing experience.
As mentioned above, people seem to be all or nothing about the Zynga gaming empire. They’re either completely in love, obsessed to the point of paying real money for pixels on a screen, or consumed by their loathing of these applications, seeing them as aberrations, impediment to whatever they perceive to be their social network’s “true purpose”. What cannot be denied, however, is that a lot of people are playing, 65+ million a day according to Zynga.com, and some mighty big names in the business world have taken notice.
For a company founded just three years ago, Zynga’s numbers are staggering. In late 2009, they reached the 100 million user mark, two years faster than current Internet darling Facebook achieved the feat. While other social media institutions continue to wander in the wilderness in search of a profitable business model, Zynga has been aggressively monetized, to the point of excess in some well-known cases. Zynga is no stranger to the courtroom and founder Mark Pincus has candidly admitted doing anything to become a legitimate business. For his efforts, $520 million dollars in venture capital have flowed through the door, coming from the likes of Internet pioneer Marc Andreesen and search titan Google. If that’s not enough name-dropping, consider high-level strategic partnerships with Yahoo!, Microsoft and MySpace, as well as Facebook and Google. Flagship products like the aforementioned Farmville, Mafia Wars & Zynga Texas Hold’em Poker are now available on the iPhone platform, accessible via iTunes.
The most recent news is that Zynga has acquired a leading Japanese social game studio named Unoh, which will be renamed Zynga Japan. This comes on the heels of a similar purchase in China earlier in the year, as well as acquisitions stateside that have expanded their capacity to continue the steady stream of new games and growing profits. What’s the endgame for a company that’s still a startup by definition? Only time will tell. One thing seems certain, Zynga will be a force in the social media space for some time to come.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments, leave them below or email me @ Thomas AT FeedbackAgency DOT com.
- Thomas (@thomasmcdonald)