New Zynga.com Platform is a Step Away from Facebook

October 12, 2011

1:33 pm

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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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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