Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has quietly (secretly, one might say) invested somewhere between $100 million and $200 million in social gaming behemoth Zynga, we’ve confirmed from multiple sources. The company has raised somewhere around half a billion dollars in venture capital in the last year alone, including $150 million from Softbank Capital last month and $180 million late last year from Digital Sky Technologies, Tiger Global, Institutional Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz. The Softbank announcement was never officially confirmed by the company, however, and the Google investment was likely part of that deal as well.
The investment part of the deal closed a month ago or so. A larger strategic partnership is still in process.
The investment was made by Google itself, not Google Ventures, say our sources, and it’s a highly strategic deal. Zynga will be the cornerstone of a new Google Games to launch later this year, say multiple sources. Not only will Zynga’s games give Google Games a solid base of social games to build on, but it will also give Google the beginning of a true social graph as users log into Google to play the games. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see PayPal being replaced with Google Checkout as the primary payment option. Zynga is supposedly PayPal’s biggest single customer, and Google is always looking for ways to make Google Checkout relevant.
And there’s more. These same sources are saying that Zynga’s revenues for the first half of 2010 will be a stunning $350 million, half of which is operating profit. Zynga is projecting at least $1.0 billion in revenue in 2011, say our sources. This blows previous estimates out of the water.
Zynga continues to work on high level strategic business development deals. The reason these deals are so attractive to companies like Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) and now Google is this – Zynga allows them to rebuild the massive social graph, currently controlled by Facebook. For whatever reason people love to play these games and get passionately addicted to them, coming back day after day. That’s helped Facebook become what it is today. Google, Yahoo and others want some of that magic to rub off on them, too.
We’ve reached out to both Google and Zynga for comment. Neither have responded.