Zynga, a social gaming network whose backers include Kleiner Perkins, has released a new multiplayer Poker game on the iPhone that will likely leave its competitors in the dust. The application, called Live Poker, taps into Zynga’s network of online poker games, allowing you to play seamlessly against users on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Hi5. You can grab the free version of the app here, or the $10 version (which gives you more chips to start off with) here.
There are at least 25 poker apps on the App Store (including one developed by Apple in-house), but none of them feature multiplayer networks that come close to rivaling the Zynga network’s 4.8 million daily active users (up to 80,000 of whom are active at any given moment). This large userbase and network infrastructure allow Zynga to expand beyond standard sit-down gameplay by holding regular tournaments, which will also be available through the app.
The game itself is well executed, and will be familiar to anyone who has used poker sites like Party Poker, PokerStars, or Zynga’s social network poker apps (it may not have the flair of Apple’s poker app, but it gets the job done). To ensure speedy gameplay the game typically places iPhone players at smaller tables, though you’re free to join larger ones if you’d like. All games use virtual (i.e. fake) money, but your total earnings are persistent so if you burn through your chips you’ll wind up playing at the small stakes tables, where gamers are generally less experienced.
All users are granted a daily allowance of 1,000 free chips every day, so you’ll never go bankrupt for long, and if you’re really eager to start playing high stakes you can purchase the ’40k’ version of the application for $10, which sets your initial chip count to 40,000. Unfortunately purchasing chips beyond this is tricky (if not impossible), as Apple does not yet allow for microtransactions within applications.
The app also incorporates some social aspects into the game. Users can pull in their Facebook photos and basic information using Facebook Connect (which Zynga says is a first for iPhone games). At the table, users can interact through chat and can also offer virtual gifts and drinks (which do nothing to the gameplay but can still be amusing). Users can also add other players as buddies so they can find each other later.
Zynga’s Live Poker app will likely do very well – its massive network is exponentially larger than any of its competitors on the platform, and the company has plenty of resources to build on the game, having raised nearly $40 million over the last year. And frankly I spent far more time testing it than I needed to, which is always a good sign.