Pinning Down Zynga's Revenues Is Like Playing Pin The Tail On The Bullet Train

One of the most exciting things to watch in tech these days is various groups’ estimates for Zynga’s revenues. Depending on what you read and on what day, they are all over the map. It’s been that way for a long time too, because the social gaming service is simply growing so fast and monetizing the hell out of their properties. Now that we’re more than halfway into 2010, the consensus seems clear that Zynga made about $300 million in revenue in 2009. But 2010 is proving even tougher to nail down, it seems.

The New York Times has a feature on Zynga that’s online now but running the paper tomorrow. In it, they cite data from Inside Network, a service that tracks Facebook and social games, stating that Zynga is on pace to make $835 million in revenue this year. That huge — unfortunately, it’s not true. NYT actually read the data from Inside Network’s wrong. Their data said that $835 million would be the revenue for the social gaming market as a whole in 2010. We’ve confirmed with both Inside Networks and Zynga that NYT got that wrong.

That said, even though it’s inaccurate right now, that moonshot estimate may not end up being that far off. Two weeks ago, we broke the news that Google had secretly invested over $100 million in Zynga earlier this year. For that story, sources told us that Zynga’s revenues for the first half of 2010 would be an amazing $350 million. So if you double it for the other half of the year, that’s $700 million in revenue for 2010. Not bad. Actually, amazing. But it’s certainly seems likely that Zynga will continue to grow and make more money as the year goes on, so again, the $835 million number may end up not being that far off. It’s just not correct right now.

Those numbers are up hugely from earlier this year when managing director at Lightspeed Venture Partners, Jeremy Liewbroke down what he believed Zynga’s revenues to be for us. At the time, Liew estimated that Zynga had made about $240 million year to date. That was May, so extrapolated out, that would equal a little over $500 million in revenue for all of 2010.

And those numbers were up from a BusinessWeek article in April, which stated that Zynga should do $450 million in revenue in 2010. Yes, the revenue estimates are soaring each and every month, it seems.

Two weeks ago, our sources told us that Zynga is projecting revenues of at least $1 billion in 2011. So it seems we’re going to be playing this game into next year as well. And at least until Zynga goes public, at which point they’ll have to release their actual numbers.

As a side note, the NYT story also confirms our Zynga Google-funding story from two weeks ago with their own sources. According to them, the Series D round was $300 million split “roughly” equally between Softbank and Google. This means Zynga now has about $520 million in funding.

Update: NYT has now updated their story with the following:

An earlier version of this article misstated the revenue Zynga was expected to take in this year, according to the Inside Network. It is as much as $500 million, not $835 million.

[image via ubergizmo]