Tag Archives | Zynga

Google+ Games Needs New Ideas, Not Facebook’s Leftovers

At first glance, CityVille’s arrival on Google+ seems like good news for the social network. CityVille is Zynga’s most popular game on Facebook, and among the 18 titles currently on Google+ Games, it’s a standout alongside Angry Birds and Bejeweled Blitz.

But with CityVille, Google+ Games is no more exciting than it was last week. The game already launched on Facebook nine months ago, so unless you’ve got some grudge against Facebook and have been holding out all this time, CityVille+ doesn’t offer anything new.

Google may not realize this because it’s new to gaming, but it won’t get anywhere by pursuing Facebook’s leftovers. What it really needs–as any new gaming platform throughout history has needed–is a killer exclusive. Something that everyone wants, but no other platform has. The social network’s equivalent to Super Mario Bros., Halo or Uncharted. A system seller.

I have a feeling this game won’t come from Zynga, a publisher whose biggest innovations in social gaming are behind it, and whose main interest will continue to be in Facebook as long as that’s where the users are. For that matter, no major social game publisher is likely to create the killer exclusive that Google+ Games really needs.

But somewhere, there’s a developer with amazing ideas that could innovate social gaming in unforeseen ways. Maybe it’s an industry veteran-turned-indie game maker, or a small developer that lacks the resources to pursue its vision, or an up-and-coming studio like Mojang. In any case, Google needs to be on the hunt for this developer, and this idea, if the company is at all serious about gaming on Google+. The platform doesn’t need CityVille. It needs the next FarmVille–figuratively, of course.


Adventure World: A Zynga Game With a Goal

At a glance, Adventure World looks most other Zynga games — colorful, cartoony, isometric, with lots of things to click on. But Adventure World has a rare quality among Zynga’s social games: you can beat it.

Zynga is best known for open-ended simulations. In Farmville, for instance, you cultivate an ever-expanding plot of land. In CityVille, you cultivate an ever-expanding metropolis. In Mafia Wars, you cultivate an ever-expanding criminal empire. Whereas these games provide a sandbox, Adventure World offers structure — and a break from Zynga’s usual theme of resource management.

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Flock: Officially Dead

I regret to say that this is almost certainly the last thing I’ll ever write about Flock. There was a time when it was my favorite Web browser. But being based on the Mozilla engine turned to be tricky, and last year Flock started all over again as a Chrome variant–one which was quite different from its earlier incarnation. Even if the move was logical, it was confusing.

In January, social gaming behemoth Zynga snapped up the team behind Flock–but not the browser or the company. (Most of the stories about the buyout, including mine, inaccurately said that Zynga had acquired Flock itself.) When Flock CEO Shawn Hardin’s blog post about the news didn’t say anything about the browser surviving, it was ominous. Today, it’s official: Flock is dead.

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Zynga Buys Flock

Flock, the “social browser” that was my favorite browser, period, for a time has been acquired by social gaming giant Zynga. Flock CEO Shawn Hardin’s post about the news has me worried–it doesn’t make clear what’s going to happen to the browser. That’s a bad sign in itself–if Zynga was going to continue work on it, wouldn’t he say so?–and his references to the Flock team working on social gaming and his use of the past tense when discussing Flock’s user base lead me to assume the worst.

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Cityville on Track to Top Farmville

How appropriate that as interest stagnates in Zynga’s hit Facebook game Farmville, players are now moving into the city with Cityville.

Just 18 days after launch, Cityville has 47.9 million monthly active users, Inside Social Games reports. At this pace, Cityville could soon top Farmville, currently with 56.3 million users, as Zynga’s most popular game and the biggest game on Facebook. It’s already Facebook’s fastest-growing game ever.

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Faltering Farmville is a Sign of Social Gaming Woes

If you’re the kind of gamer that frowns upon Farmville, enjoy this while it lasts: the game has fallen to second place among all Facebook apps in monthly users.

However, it’s only a matter of time before Farmville regains the throne, and arguably, it was never lost to begin with. The new champion, Phrases, is a quiz and quote app, and as Inside Facebook points out, these tend to flare out pretty quickly as Facebook’s privacy enforcers catch up with them. Phrases was recently suspended for American users, and already lags far behind Farmville in daily users.

Still, the fact remains that Farmville fell behind another app in monthly users for the first time in 13 months. This wouldn’t have happened if the game weren’t shedding players.

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Google's Gaming Plans May Involve Zynga

We’ve seen growing evidence of Google’s plans to take gaming seriously, but the latest rumor from TechCrunch is a whopper: Google has reportedly invested between $100 million and $200 million in Zynga, maker of popular Facebook games Farmville and Mafia Wars.

Later this year, Google will launch Google Games, anchored by Zynga’s addictive brand of social gaming, TechCrunch’s multiple unnamed sources said. The investment by Google — not Google Ventures — is reportedly part of a larger strategic partnership between the two companies.

This wouldn’t be an exclusive arrangement. Zynga already has a deal with Yahoo that will see Farmville and other games scattered across Yahoo’s network later this year, and Farmville landed on MSN Games in February.

The benefit for Zynga — aside from truckloads of cash — would be another potential escape from Facebook. The two companies quarreled in May over Facebook Credits, a virtual currency system of which Facebook takes a 30 percent cut, but made amends by agreeing to work together for five years. I still think Zynga’s survival depends on whether it can tap into Facebook’s existing social network, but other heavy hitters like Google and Yahoo will a least provide new opportunities.

For Google, a strong gaming platform featuring Zynga would fit nicely into several other Google developments involving Flash, on which Zynga’s games are built. First, there’s Flash for Android 2.2, which is already available for the Nexus One and coming to other phones later this year. Google TV will also feature Flash as a way to watch video and play games. Finally there’s the recent integration of Flash into Chrome, which keeps the platform secure and up to date. It’s certainly possible for a Google gaming service to exist across PCs, mobile phones and televisions.

I’m no Farmville addict, but I think good games are essential to all those platforms. I hope Google’s gaming plans are as ambitious as this rumor suggests.


Oh Dear God, Here Comes FrontierVille

Those who have followed me on Facebook or on my Twitter account (@edoswald) know my near-visceral hatred for FarmVille. I cannot stand the game and what has become almost an unbearable stream of meaningless “I found a lost cow” statuses coming across my news feed.

Get ready for it to happen all over again: FarmVille creator Zynga has launched a new game called FrontierVille, and instead of tending to your crops and building your farm, the player gets the chance to build a bustling frontier town. Like FarmVille, much of the gameplay relies on the social side of things, so it’s still important to help out your neighbors.

There’s one difference however: Zynga takes gameplay to a whole new level in this title. In the words of game designer Brian Reynolds, it’s “Oregon Trail meets Little House on the Prairie meets FarmVille.”

Why yet another annoying (at least to me) title from this now high-profile social game maker? It could be traffic-related. AppData metrics indicate that FarmVille seems to slowly be losing steam, likely due to the fact that after awhile, there is only so much you can do.

Thus, the deeper social interaction with your “neighbors” in FrontierVille could be an attempt to keep people interested in the game much longer. With FarmVille, it pretty much was limited to tending crops. However in FrontierVille, this has been expanded to allow users to help in many more ways, even allowing the “hiring” of friends to complete tasks, which in turn you pay them for.

Also, without interaction, your frontier abode can actually deteriorate: for example weeds may grow rampant; wolves, bears, and other varmints may besiege your property; the weather will change, causing new problem; and there’s a host of other consequences may make you more than just a casual player of the game.

Essentially, this is much more like popular RPG’s like Sim City rather than FarmVille itself. All I have to say is god help us, here comes another game to clog our news feeds — and this one sounds a whole hell of a lot more involved. I know its just days, if not hours, before I have new “Hey Ed, please be my neighbor” requests!


Facebook, Zynga Buddy Up For an Internet Eon

It doesn’t surprise me at all that Facebook and Zynga have made amends.

A week ago, the respective giants of social networking and social gaming were at odds over of Facebook Credits, a form of online currency. Facebook wants 30 percent of all Facebook Credits revenue from developers, and Zynga, whose hit games Farmville and Mafia Wars rely mainly on virtual item purchases for revenue, was understandably miffed.

But because Farmville needs the daily traffic Zynga creates, and Zynga desperately needs Facebook’s existing social network, the companies worked out their differences. Facebook keeps its 30 percent cut, but sweetened the deal for Zynga with undisclosed perks.

What does surprise me is how long Facebook and Zynga agreed to stay together: Five years. Given the pace technology and the Internet have moved and continue to move, a half decade is, for lack of a better term, a ridiculously long time. Instead of breaking out the crystal ball, let’s put this in perspective by looking back.

Five years ago:

A lot can change in five years. Any bets on whether Facebook and Zynga will still be together in 2015?


Sorry Zynga, Farmville Needs Facebook

There’s apparently some drama happening between Facebook and Zynga, maker of the wildly popular social games Farmville, Cafe World and Mafia Wars.

The beef is primarily about Facebook forcing game developers to use Facebook Credits for in-game purchases, says TechCrunch’s anonymous sources. Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of all Credits transactions, and Zynga makes a lot of money by selling items that speed people’s progress through the game. You can see why there’s tension.

In case things go from bad to worse, Zynga’s reportedly preparing its own social gaming site, and is prepared to leave Facebook completely.

I agree with CNet’s Daniel Terdiman that both sites need each other. Facebook relies on Zynga for daily traffic — as of December more than 26 million people played Farmville every day — and Zynga uses Facebook as the primary platform for all those users. Moving them would not be easy.

Still, Zynga depends more on Facebook than vice versa because of the very nature of its games. Farmville’s biggest critics note that the game is not fun, per se, but it’s addictive. In a fascinating essay on what’s wrong with this game, SUNY Buffalo professor A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz explains:

The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in [sic] entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies.

Without Facebook, Zynga loses this crucial layer of interaction between friends, the meta-game that makes Farmville worth playing. Zynga Live could try and replicate it, but it’ll never be as tightly woven as Facebook’s existing network.

If Zynga leaves Facebook completely, as the company has reportedly threatened, it would be suicide. Farmville is not a good enough game to stand on its own. It needs the social structure of Facebook more than Facebook needs Zynga in particular. After all, there’s no shortage of imitators who would love to take Farmville’s place atop the app charts.