Zynga founder Mark Pincus opened the company’s second "Unleashed" press event Tuesday by tipping his hat to the hundreds of employees who lined the rafters of the five-story headquarters in San Francisco.
But the faces behind the world’s largest social gaming platform were gone almost as quickly as they appeared, and for good reason. Zynga turns out about 100 game updates a day and 1,000 new features per week, Pincus told the audience of reporters.
Today was a big day for updates.
New game announcements came from all areas of the Zynga franchise: Zynga Arcade, Zynga Casino, and Zynga Mobile. But the most notable announcement was one that Pincus hopes will be a game-changer for the 5-year-old company: Zynga With Friends.
Just a few days after the Zynga’s announcement that it will feature Facebook ads on its site (the first site other than Facebook to do so), the company communicated Tuesday that it aims to rely less and less on the social network. Zynga plans to focus its attention on the social aspect of its gaming franchise. The goal of Zynga With Friends, said Chief Mobile Officer David Ko, is to “make Zynga available wherever players are.”
Zynga With Friends will give players a central platform to play games in real-time with friends and meet new "virtual neighbors." A Matchmaker feature will connect players with similar gaming interests and allow them to play together. More importantly, however, Zynga With Friends has been designed to serve as an active social network for players to chat, message, create personal profiles, play multi-player games, and add zFriends. This network isn't limited to Facebook--it will link users across multiple sites and on mobile devices.
The Zynga With Friends network is a clear signal that the company aims to grow beyond the Facebook platform that offered its initial base of users. Indeed--Pincus was eager to jab Facebook at the event, calling Zynga With Friends “a poke with a purpose.”
To help increase its number of games, the company also announced a partners program and an API so that third-party game developers can tap into the gaming network.