Zynga to offer Lady Gaga download

Zynga, the social gaming company behind titles such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars, is expanding into music distribution after striking a deal with Lady Gaga ahead of the release of her new album next week.

The largest social gaming company, with a valuation of more than $8bn in the secondary market, will include a download of Born This Way for players who buy $25 game cards that can be used to buy virtual goods in FarmVille and other Zynga titles. Zynga will also stream tracks from the album – released by Interscope, a Universal Music Group subsidiary – within FarmVille before the album is released on May 23.

More than 250m people play Zynga games every month, according to the company, with 46m playing FarmVille.

“We have a really interesting opportunity in that we have a large audience which is in some cases, the most deeply engaged audience on the internet,” said Owen Van Natta, executive vice-president of business at Zynga.

“What we’re trying to do is create the best possible experience … when we do that, our players reward us with more time and by spending more money.”

Mr Van Natta, the former chief executive of MySpace, denied that the company was shifting away from its core gaming business.

“This is an opportunity to be entertained in a highly social environment,” said Mr Van Natta. The Lady Gaga album was “not Zynga-created content,” he added, “but it gives [our users] a way to be social around our content.”

Richard Greenfield, an analyst with BTIG Research, said the Zynga-Lady Gaga tie-up illustrated “how gaming, entertainment and advertising are all converging and using social media as an amplifier”.

Zynga has partnered with Best Buy, the US consumer electronics retailer, which sells Zynga game cards and has also signed a deal with Clear Channel, the radio group, which will stream Lady Gaga tracks within FarmVille.

Zynga has explored music and film before: when Paramount Pictures’ animated picture Rango was released this year, a trailer for the movie was hidden within FrontierVille, one of Zynga’s games.

Dr Dre, the hip-hop artists, also struck a deal with Zynga, using Mafia Wars to promote his album.

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