Shares of Zynga (ZNGA) took a wild ride today on the day of its annual Zynga Unleashed conference. Widely followed by technology and stock sites around the world, potential investors were given details of new games and new offerings by the leading social gaming company. Shares of Zynga traded above the $6 level from the market's open until about 3pm, when shares dropped more than 5% due to a lack of investor interest from the news out of Zynga.
Rather than go to other websites who provided commentary on the event, I listened to the ninety six minute presentation from Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus and other Zynga officials. On Sunday, Zynga celebrates its fifth year anniversary as a company and since it launched its first social game (Zynga Poker). Zynga remains the biggest social gaming company in the world and has also transitioned to the biggest mobile gaming company as well.
Zynga's key strategy is to create games that involve interaction with friends and family members from anywhere in the World. The company aims to create games that people will play every day and will consider "the best 50 minutes of the day". To make interaction around the world possible, Zynga has to appeal to players in every country. Zynga touched on their recent roll out of localized versions of the hit game Draw Something. The game is now available in twelve additional languages and will also be coming to television soon, which I analyzed in an article here.
Zynga's huge infrastructure and network puts it ahead of other gaming companies. The company can release updates to any of its games quicker than any other gaming company in the world. In fact, Zynga updates its games 100 times a day and releases 1000 features per week. This ability helps Zynga users create one million activities in Zynga games every second. Zynga's zCloud is the World's largest hybrid cloud and is powerful enough to support large launches from Zynga. Castleville saw 2.8 million players on its first day launch with zero problems on the zCloud.
The Zynga With Friends network launched in March and was one of the big focuses of Zynga Unleashed. Zynga allows users to play through the company's website, Android devices (GOOG), iPhones (AAPL), tablets, Facebook (FB), Windows Mobile (MSFT), Amazon Kindle (AMZN), and the Barnes & Noble Nook (BKS). Zynga continues to add unique features to its own website to lure people away from playing its games on other networks. This move seems beneficial to shareholders down the road as it can increase monetization.
Zynga With Friends started its launch with five games (Words With Friends, Castleville, Zynga Poker, Cityville, Hidden Chronicles) and will now roll out in four additional Zynga games (Bubble Safari, Zynga Slingo, Zynga Bingo, Ruby Blast). Zynga With Friends features include:
· zFriends - 100 million new zFriend relationships have been made since the March launch, linking together strangers who play similar games or can compete at similar playing levels
· Social Stream
· Chat - a new chat is being rolled out, including group chat modes in several games
· Profiles - new feature that will include playing history for players, including high scores
· Fast Load - allows users to launch back into the game where they left off last
· Multiplayer - a new feature announced today, will begin with Bubble Safari first and then roll out to others, makes game play more "exciting" and "accessible"
· Leaderboard - a new feature that will also allow users to see all their friends who are currently on the Zynga site.
In March, Zynga began allowing third party developers to use Zynga's site for its created games. The service has gone successfully for Zynga so far and has formed some powerful partnerships. In a world where applications are easy to create, Zynga makes the games marketable and finds a targeted audience for them. New partnerships announced today include games from Atari and Majesco Entertainment (COOL). Zynga announced today that it would be opening for partners across its mobile platforms as well.
New games from the company announced today:
· Matching With Friends - the newest addition to the With Friends games (Hanging, Words, Scramble, Chess), has users match colorful blocks to form rows of at least three, the game is available starting today on the iPhone.
· Zynga Elite Slots - new slot based casino game will allow players to share in group payouts and group chat, offers several different levels of play for gamers. The game is added to the Zynga Arcade branch, which has seen new games like Bubble Safari and Ruby Blast launched in the last month.
· The Ville - newest game from Mark Skaggs, the creator of Famville and Cityville. Allows players to create a home, choose a look for their character, and invite friends over. The game says "style lives here, social lives here, fun lives here". Gameplay of the Ville showed that players could check Facebook statuses of friends live in the game.
· Chefville - Today marked the largest restaurant grand opening in the world with the launch of Zynga's new ville game. The game allows players to create their own "Dream Kitchen" and cater to guests by providing "VIP service". A new Zynga first sees players of Chefville earning real recipes through game play. The company says they are bringing "Game to Table" by matching over 50 recipes to players' emails as they are unlocked in the game.
· Farmville 2 - the end of Zynga Unleashed showed a trailer for Farmville 2. The anticipated sequel to the hit social game is now official coming soon.
So in conclusion the new announcements today were:
· Multiplayer mode in games
· Mobile platform open for third parties
· New games - Matching With Friends, Zynga Elite Slots, the Ville, Chefville, Farmville 2
· Ruby Blast launch for phones and tablets coming later this year
· Zynga's first game to real world experience by providing recipes to players in Chefville
I have written about Zynga since their initial price offering (article) on Seeking Alpha. I find the company more appealing as it progresses away from Facebook. It seems odd that one of the biggest negatives concerning the company has been addressed by moving away from Facebook, but shares still get hit today. More players are shifting to Zynga With Friends website play. The new game offerings are not huge, but enough diversification to gain new players and pull some old players back. I also wrote recently about Zynga's new deals away from gaming, including a partnership with American Express, licensing deal with Hasbro, and a new television show featuring Draw Something on CBS. The bullish case keeps building for Zynga shares and it won't be stuck below $6 forever.
Disclosure: I am long COOL.
Additional disclosure: I may initiate a long position in ZNGA shares in the next 72 hours.