Tech Industry

Zynga works 'social magic' with new games, Project Z

At a San Francisco press event, the company unveils several games along with new gaming platform Zynga Direct. CEO Mark Pincus says Zynga is "trying to build the next platform for play."

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus today about to kick off his company's press conference.
Rafe Needleman/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--Facebook gaming giant Zynga today took the wraps off several new games, some of which work on the new Facebook iPad app that was released yesterday. The company also unveiled its new gaming platform, Zynga Direct.

The first game unveiled, Hidden Chronicles, is a puzzle game--a new category for Zynga--in which you search for objects hidden in graphics, either in competition or partnership with your friends.

Mafia Wars 2 is the sequel to one of Zynga's first and more popular games. With a focus on "Franchise, Friends, Feel, and Fighting," it brings popular features to everyone that were previously available only to advanced players. For example, you can practice fighting in the "boneyard"; when you win a fight, you're transported to your rival's home turf, where you can ransack their buildings and property.

Erik Bethke, GM of Mafia Wars, rolls out the sequel to the popular game. Rafe Needleman/CNET

The company is launching a new "Ville" game today, CastleVille. Execs say this game has "a lot of love and attention to detail" in the characters, and that it's also a "true manifestation of Zynga's social magic."

Zynga unveils a new "Ville" game, CastleVille. Zynga

In this game, you can trade anything that you build; it is the "next chapter in social," but also a heavily story-based game, meaning players create their own stories by meeting the main non-player characters and interacting with them. Creative director Bill Jackson also pointed out that the game has a full orchestral music score.

Zynga is taking another of its early games, Zynga Poker, and expanding it into a new franchise of its own, Zynga Casino. The first new game in this franchise: Zynga Bingo.

The company also rolled out five games today on Facebook's new HTML5 mobile app: Words with Friends and poker are coming to the new platform, as well as a light way to interact with your FarmVille experience, FarmVille Express.

Two all-new games are also coming to the HTML5 platform: Mafia Shakedown is a fighting game where you try to become the next don. The company also launched Dream Zoo, in which you raise animals in a "zoo without cages."

A new platform
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus said at the press event here, "We are trying to build the next platform for play, not the next big game--but it's OK if we do." Details on how Zynga will open up its platform, Zynga Direct, to developers were not given in his talk, but Pincus and other Zynga execs did talk about how the company is building a new gaming-focused social network on top of the Facebook network that Zynga has so far leveraged.

The company's new "Project Z" is a "social environment just for games, for your friends on Facebook." It will be a network where players can always find their friends who are up for a game. Also, you'll be able to have a "gamer tag" on the network that you choose--instead of using your real Facebook name.

Pincus, speaking to the audience of journalists covering the event, asked, "How can we get you guys to play?" He said, "We think play is a macro theme activity that we need to fit back into our lives." Pincus added that the company focuses heavily on the "FTUE," for First Time User Experience, and how to provide users with a "meal" of 5 to 15 minutes of play. "We don't ask for more," he said.

Zynga revealed that there are 232 million active monthly users of the network, and 60 million daily users. The company records 2 billion play minutes each day.

Revenue figures and the business of Zynga were not discussed. On the iOS platform, there is still an open question of how in-game revenue will be collected and what the split will be between Apple and Facebook.