One of the great social media relationships seems to be at an end as games developer Zynga launched its own portal for its websites having built its international success through releasing its games to Facebook users. From 2009 onwards, with the release of Farmville, Zynga grew into a global phenomenon alongside Facebook – but as it looks to go it alone, The Drum spoke to some of those agency side to get their view on what it means for both companies.
Rick Williams, CTO for Glue Isobar
Zynga’s move towards its own games network has been written on the wall since Facebook IPO’d last year. It’s a sign of the times and a maturity of the sector. With Zynga focusing now on its own social games network that integrates with Facebook as a secondary measure, it can now play by its own rules and not those imposed by Facebook.Ultimately, this is a sign that the social network ecosystem is maturing: backed up by the phoenix-like rise of MySpace over the last six months. As the concept of ‘social platforms’ matures, it’s only natural that there will be diversification and, in the given climate of the console game evolution, Zynga’s play is apt and a slice of things to come.
Jonathan Lyon, global director of strategic insight for LBi
Zynga's move beyond Facebook signals an intent to broaden their gaming eco-system and create greater autonomy to provide opportunities for ad experimentation, protect revenues against share deals and extend third party relationships.The move does not suggest a wholesale breakaway from Facebook, but simply that games will exist in multiple formats, on multiple platforms.A key opportunity for Zynga is leveraging the social stream feature on zynga.com. Seventy per cent of players interact with the social stream. Zynga found that incorporating ads within the stream improves CTR. Zynga will also experiment further with video advertising including unskippable in-game ads.
Claire Adams, head of social media for Havas
Facebook as a games platform has been struggling as consumers have been increasingly moving to mobile. It was natural that Zynga would respond to this and look to create a place dedicated to gamers that allows them to discover and connect more easily then on the Facebook platform.This shift is interesting as by moving its core focus away from Facebook, Zynga is putting a stake in the ground and signalling that it wants to be the default gaming social network of the future. We have seen vertical social networks gaining popularity, with consumers going to LinkedIn for their professional networking, Facebook to connect with friends and Zynga now could be the place for gamers only. It will be interesting to see how this develops and if any of the traditional gaming platforms trusted by hardcore gamers such as PlayStation will put any barriers in Zynga's social gaming domination path.
Robin Grant, global managing director, We Are Social
Zynga and Facebook’s separation has been on the cards for a while. However, I doubt Zynga’s recent move of no longer requiring its players to sign up for a Facebook account is going to prove a big blow to Facebook. With the significant decline in the number of people playing Zynga's games, it's just not that important to Facebook any more. Facebook has made big changes recently to make their advertising solutions more commercially appealing to brands, and these will continue to be their main focus for revenue generation going forward.
Sean Weller, strategy director for Blast Radius Vancouver
Being too closely tied to Facebook means Zynga has less control over their destiny. Distancing themselves from Facebook is a smart move. Zynga smartly used Facebook to build its empire, but they're now mature enough they can cultivate and grow their users beyond Facebook. For Zynga it signals confidence in their products (not a bad thing considering their stock performance), gives them added flexibility to meet the changing needs of their users and could create new revenue possibilities. More social gaming competition will sprout up as Facebook levels the playing field, but considering Zynga's size and stage, they have a strong head start.
Matt Redman, social strategy director of Wunderman
The reason we're surprised is because they [Zynga] are so well associated with being successful because of Facebook and we still see Facebook as a destination. It doesn't matter where the Zynga games exist just as long as the game play has social integration. They have a massive user base now which will allow them a great launch pad for any new game. They also still drive a significant amount of revenue for Facebook so Facebook may wish to increase the tax on Zynga but won't want to lose the revenue in its entirety. What it may demonstrate very publicly is that Facebook have not monetised Connect - perhaps the most powerful tools that they have to offer brands. Stop thinking about the value of Facebook in traditional media destination terms and start thinking about how it proves the connective tissue and data intelligence that drives so much consumer behaviour and purchasing.