Zynga has announced its own social gaming platform in a move that will reduce its dependence on the Facebook social network.
The San Franciscan company said it would launch browser-based Zynga.com with five of its best known games – CityVille, CastleVille, Hidden Chronicles, Poker and Words with Friends – later this month.
Third-party game publishers will also be featured on the platform, although Zynga would not say whether it would take the same 30 per cent cut from them for sales of virtual goods as it pays to Facebook on its platform.
“I think this is an important step for us. We’ve made some of the biggest games the world has ever seen and now this takes us into yet another direction where we’re not just a gaming company, but a platform company,” John Schappert, Zynga chief operating officer, told the Financial Times. “I think this is a big step forward, not just for social gaming but for gaming overall.”
The leading social gaming company, which accounts for the top five games on Facebook and has 240m monthly active users, has a symbiotic relationship with the social network– depending on its 845m users for the vast majority of its revenues, but also giving Facebook a significant fillip with advertising it buys and the commission it pays for using the Facebook Credits virtual currency for transactions.
“This is not a schism at all,” said Michael Pachter, video games analyst at Wedbush Securities. “Both parties need, respect and want the other to thrive and Zynga will be saying to Facebook this is good for them as non-Facebook players will be more likely to convert to becoming Facebook members.”
Zynga, which floated on Nasdaq in December, is characterising the new platform as helping its players find more opponents rather than as allowing it to build a rival to Facebook.
It will still use Facebook Credits for virtual goods payments and Facebook Connect to bring Facebook users to games on Zynga.com.
Its third-party partners will have access to its player audience, analytics of their behaviour, Zynga’s network – it has been bolstering its own private infrastructure called zCloud for the launch – and social engagement tools.
The latter includes a new “social stream” similar to Facebook’s real-time ticker of scrolling events on its network. The stream shows friends’ achievements and items they may be providing to other friends to help them in the game – clicking on them can place them immediately in the game being played. Leader boards and a chat function are also included. Users who are not linked as “friends” on Facebook can be “zFriends” on Zynga.com.
Only a handful of third-party developers will be taking part when the new platform, formerly known as Project Z, launches in a beta version early this month, initially in 16 languages. But the company said it would be made more widely available later this year and a mobile version is also in the works.
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