Last March, Zynga announced its ambitions to create a web and mobile platform for social games. Zynga.com is a destination for both the company’s own games as well as for third-party developers who want to leverage Zynga’s social feed and users. In September, Zynga debuted its first third-party games. And today, Zynga is rolling out a number of changes to Zynga.com, namely how you sign in.
The platform itself allows developers to post to the stream of social gaming activity at Zynga.com, and also to include social features like chat and real-time multiplayer. One of the major changes with this update is how players sign in. Previously, you signed in via your Facebook login, and your experience was built around all your previous Zynga gaming interactions on the social network (based on your permissions). With the new sign-in, you actually sign in with a Zynga account that is created and Facebook Connect is optional.
You can still integrate all of your Facebook game boards, progress and friends, but this is no longer required. Reading between the lines, it appears that Zynga wants to continue down the road of becoming less reliant on Facebook for social interactions and more. This isn’t particularly surprising considering Zynga and Facebook’s new terms that were released late last year. As part of the agreement at the time, the Zynga.com platform was no longer obligated to use Facebook ad units and Facebook credits. In exchange, Zynga’s right to cross-promote its non-Facebook games using Facebook data and email addresses are limited by the standard terms.
Since launching, Zynga has noticed a number of things about how people are playing games on the platform, namely that people want to be challenged and they want the ability to progress faster.
For example, on the social stream, you can see who else is playing a current game (and your friends), and by interacting in the stream, you can share gifts to the community. So if you are in FarmVille, and you needed a specific tool, you could share this to your social stream, and any friends could click on this to send you the gift as a reward for interacting with the stream. Zynga does keep track of how many people you have helped.
It’s not only a way to showcase the millions of players that are playing with you, but it’s also a way to actually share gifts and benefit not only yourself within a game, but others. Seventy percent of players on Zynga.com are interacting with the social stream, and some are clicking more than 100 times a day.
Zynga also found that interweaving ads within the stream was better for players in terms of monetization than a static ad across the bottom of the page. The company has also been experimenting with actions like watching a video ad to get through a segment of a game.
Right now, Zynga is shipping more third-party games on Zynga.com than in-house. There have been more documentation, SDKs and tools (even a help forum) added to aid developers in building games around the platform.
It’s no secret that Zynga is rethinking its approach to gaming at the moment. The company has shut down a number of once-popular titles and is releasing fewer games and spacing their releases further apart. Zynga’s Q4 saw layoffs and a continuing series of executive and mid-level departures. It’s clear this is a transition point for the gaming company, but the Zynga.com network is one of the areas that the gaming giant is doubling down. The goal is to figure out what’s sticky for both the player and the developers, and it’s a challenge to find a balance on both fronts.