Zynga's Ambitious Mobile Platform Play

Social Gaming Revenue Forecast

Photo: Business Insider Intelligence

Yesterday Zynga introduced its “Platform For Play” service: a Zynga-powered platform for social games that will allow third-party makers of social games to propel their games through Zynga’s network. The service offers useful services for developers, such as zFriends, allowing players to play against or with people outside their Facebook graphs, matched by interest and skill level, a “social stream” that ties together users’ game-related activities and so on.

The move is obviously interesting as a strategic move, as Zynga is trying to become a platform and not just a content producer on various platforms such as Facebook and smartphones. 

But there is another interesting angle: the platform will exist on mobile operating systems like iOS and Android as well as Facebook.

In this sense, the Zynga Platform competes somewhat with Apple’s GameCenter service, which offers games developers similar features, as well as third-party services like ngmoco and AuroraFeint. 

It also, in a more stealthy way, competes with Facebook, because Facebook also wants to build a mobile platform.

Today social games makers want to offer their games both on Facebook and on mobile. The problem with that, from Facebook’s perspective, is that it can’t make money from mobile games like it does on its platform, because it is Apple and Google who control the experience. However, Facebook must cater to the games makers already on its platform.

In a recent talk, a Facebook executive summarized Facebook’s pitch to games developers as: “If you’re big on Facebook, we’ll make you big on mobile.” Facebook does this by giving developers a set of tools, through its Open Graph, that players share actions and invite friends on Facebook from within games. On top to catering to its platform game companies, this could help Facebook’s mobile revenue: over the long run games developers will also probably purchase mobile ads in Facebook’s app to promote their games. 

Now here comes Zynga with, essentially, a similar pitch to games developers. The Zynga Platform says, “If you’re big on Facebook, we’ll make you big on mobile” and “If you’re big on mobile, we’ll make you big on Facebook.” For Zynga (as for Facebook), there is no immediate bottom line benefit but a key strategic benefit — in this case lessening its reliance on Facebook and becoming a platform and not just a content maker. 

After a stormy beginning, Zynga’s relationship with Facebook has been very cordial for the last few quarters, with both companies enjoying the benefits of their zymbiosis. But as Zynga tries to branch beyond Facebook, and tries to become a platform itself — with mobile a key dimension for both endeavours — this might change.

Meanwhile, we remain bullish on the overall social gaming market. We forecast it will rise to $5+ billion by 2015 →

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.