October 12, 2011
Zynga will soon be launching Project Z, a platform on its website where users can play games previously available only on Facebook, the social game company announced Tuesday.
“This new social ‘playground’ [will] leverage your friend network on Facebook to play in an environment built for games,” Zynga said.
Project Z uses Facebook Connect to allow players to switch between Facebook and Zynga.com without losing their progress in a game. It is by no means a departure from the Zuckerberg empire, but it is certainly a jab at it; Facebook, the quote above suggests, may not be entirely built for games.
It is still unclear what Project Z will look like, but it may be a social network around games. Founder Mark Pincus said, “We want to inspire you to connect with more people in meaningful ways, similar to what Facebook’s doing but at a game level,” reported GigaOM.
This move is part of a general strategy called Zynga Direct to connect directly with game players. Also in the Zynga ecosystem are mobile games like Words with Friends; independent websites like FarmVille.com; and games available on Google Plus, which together see 232 million monthly active users. At the Tuesday Unleashed event in San Francisco, Zynga also previewed CastleVille and announced three HTML 5 games for Facebook mobile, including Words with Friends and FarmVille Express.
The Wall Street Journal attributes Project Z – and the step away from Facebook – partly to Facebook Credits, which require app developers to fork over 30% of payments to Facebook, and related investor concerns in the face of Zynga’s upcoming IPO, filed for in July.
But I see the move as completely natural. New games can go viral more easily on Facebook, where players invite friends and broadcast updates in their news feeds. Once a game gains enough traction, as Zynga’s have, moving to their own platform is a logical step to regain more control and boost ad revenues. Nonetheless, Project Z is a reminder to Facebook to watch its behavior toward not only users, but the apps that keep them logged on.
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