Zynga is sowing the seeds of its new business plan on your smart phone.
The social gaming company announced it is releasing a version of its infamous FarmVille game on Android and iOS this week. This move marks a notable change in direction for Zynga, which has seen a significant drop in revenue after the drop off of FarmVille on Facebook and a few so-far unsuccessful acquisitions. Will moving to mobile allow social gaming sustainability?
FarmVille has seen a parabola of success since inception in 2009. Soon after it was released it was drawing 11 million daily active users, adding a million more each week. In 2011, Zynga had a highly valued initial public offering (around $7 billion) and snatched up OMGPOP (maker of "Draw Something") in 2012. However, by the last quarter of 2013, its daily active users had shrunk by two-thirds from the previous year, and its shares were down concurrently. Its revenue in 2013 dropped to $873 million, down $1.3 billion from 2012. Last summer, it laid off more than 500 employees.
The savior of the social gaming company's fall? Zynga is putting its hope in “FarmVille 2: Country Escape,” the new app for Android and iOS. The new game and app will have similar functions and features as the desktop version, in which gamers cultivate their own farms by growing crops, tending to animals, and trading supplies with fellow farmers (hence why it was so popular on Facebook). “Country Escape” is a free app. Revenue will come from ads and in-app purchases.
Zynga general manager Jamie Davies says the company based the new app off of player feedback, and would continue to adjust in regard to demand in the future.
“We’ve redesigned crop timers, animal interactions, touch controls and the game board to deliver a satisfying play session whether you have two minutes in line at the store or 30 minutes at home on the couch,” she says in a blog, adding that players can connect their previous desktop game to the new mobile game, likely in hopes of regaining some lost players.
Players can also play FarmVille 2 while offline, another first for the game.
"FarmVille pioneered social gaming on the web, and with FarmVille 2: Country Escape we've reimagined the franchise as a mobile experience to match how players want to connect with their farm and with their friends," says Jonathan Knight, vice president of games at Zynga, in a release.
Zynga is banking on this mobile-first philosophy. The company says 75 percent of its upcoming games will be created for mobile, and updated versions of "Words With Friends" and "Zynga Poker" apps are on the way. Zynga also acquired mobile game company NaturalMotion for more than $500 million in January, bringing games such as “CSR Racing” and “Clumsy Ninja” under its wing.
This is the first major attempt at a turnaround by new CEO Don Mattrick, who got the job nine months ago after a long tenure at Microsoft.
Despite the recent issues, and looking at gross numbers and reach alone, FarmVille would be qualified as a success by most: it has reached more than 400 million players worldwide, including 37 players in the Vatican and one in Antarctica.