Zynga’s Exclusivity Deal With Facebook Is Done, But Its SVP Says Friends Aren’t Everything

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You’re a poker shark. Your friends aren’t. If you play with them you’ll just crush them and it won’t be any fun. That’s why Zynga’s SVP of mobile Travis Boatman seems unfazed by the end of the game giant’s exclusivity deals with Facebook. During a fireside chat today at the Mobile-Loco Conference in San Francisco, he said “There’s a lot of people who play games and want to connect socially who don’t want to use Facebook.”

Boatman characterized Facebook as a critical stepping stone in Zynga’s early days, but with time it needed the social network less and less. Fireside chat moderator AJ Glasser of Inside Social Games asked Boatman about the companies’ relationship, and he replied “We’re super fans of Facebook. They were a great partner of ours in founding and growing the company.” But earlier this month, Zynga and Facebook prematurely ended a partnership agreement that guaranteed games would launch on Facebook before Zynga.com. More broadly, it shows the two companies don’t need each other as much as they used to, and will be less likely to give each other special treatment.

The bulk of Zynga’s business is built on Facebook, and it rises or falls depending on the level of viral distribution it gets in the news feed. That means that being less buddy-buddy with the social network could hurt the growth of its games in the future.

Zynga at Mobile-Loco

However, “on the flip side,” Boatman says there are plenty of times when you want to play with humans that you don’t necessarily hang out with and Zynga wants to make those moments happen. For example, he explained that if “You really like to play poker and like to play aggressively, maybe you don’t have any friends who play like that. The relationship with us and Facebook is great but it provides users a lot more value to be able to connect to people who they aren’t friends with on Facebook.”

Perhaps a way to connect and play with your Twitter friends or an email list will find its way to more Zynga games soon.

One more interesting tidbit: Boatman admitted that if it wants to turn real-money gambling into a core part of its business, it will need to rely on casual gambling games. “Poker may be too aggressive,” Boatman said, which means it could emphasize games like Zynga Bingo, Go Slots, and Sports Casino, and build or buy other gambling games that don’t require tons of skill or experience. That could keep it more of a gaming company rather than a hardcore gambling company.

[Image Credit: Katherine Gray / Saturday Evening Post]