By James Brightman
Facebook has helped propel Zynga into the stratosphere. Popular games like FarmVille andCityVille have led to the social games maker having an estimated value of $10 billion today. For a while there was much speculation about Zynga diversifying away from Facebook and possibly even launching its own portal, but then the firm eventually cozied up to the social behemoth and signed a long-term deal to use Facebook Credits as well. IndustryGamers asked Zynga what the company would do if the Facebook relationship fell apart or if Facebook suddenly vanished.
“Presumably there would be some other way to do social networking. We’re agnostic to platform but we’re interested in platforms where they’re social. We’re not going to suddenly become an app maker who just makes single player games on phones or consoles or something like that. We’re interested in ways people can play together with their friends and that’s what we feel like is the magic of Zynga… If somehow there wasn’t a Facebook, I would assume there would be some new social networking that had miraculously beaten them and would be an even better place for us to run games,” offered Brian Reynolds, Chief Games Designer at Zynga.
He continued, “We have a deal with Facebook, so as long as they’re around, we’re a partner with them. After the early adjustment period, I think they’ve come to realise that it really is symbiotic, that people want to play games on social networks and that what we offer is really light ways to keep in touch with people. So if I had a friend from high school and we’ve had the little e-mail exchange – ‘Oh, you’re on Facebook. I’m on Facebook. Cool. What do you do? I’m a farmer in Nevada and I’m a video game guy in Baltimore.” At some point it’s kind of like well what else do you say? We don’t have a lot in our lives in common anymore but it’s still a person I care about so it’s like, ‘Oh, hi, how are you doing? Here’s something for your mafia.’ Just like on Facebook you click ‘like’ and it’s very low friction, low effort, but I still care about you and that was a neat thing you just said. And then maybe at a higher level we even kind of help you write your jokes. We give you funny little things you can post and then comment ”What is she doing to the sheep?’ kind of silliness, so it’s a light way of doing social touches.
“So it’s our mission and I think Facebook realises that’s one of the things that people want and need on a social network to be able to keep the thing healthy and going, and so I don’t see any of that going away.”
So Zynga’s naturally a big partner for Facebook now, but you may remember that about a year ago, speculation was that Zynga was about to launch its own ‘Zynga Live’ website to help diversify itself away from Facebook. Reynolds, however, denies this, but he does acknowledge the value in such an approach.
“There isn’t a project called Zynga Live, but there will probably be things that we do that are like some of the things that people would think that would be like if we did something called Zynga Live. There’s Xbox Live, so everyone’s saying, ‘Oh, they’re going to do one of those.’ We will probably do something at some point that has some of that stuff, but whatever we do we’re going to be partnered with Facebook and we’re going to do it with Facebook. The rumours you hear about ‘There’s going to be some kind of end run and they’re going to try to…’ We’re not doing any of that,” Reynolds insisted.