I admit it. I don’t play social games, especially those found on Facebook. You know the ones I’m talking about, all the “Villes” – Cityville, Farmville, YoVille, etc. – all created by game developer Zynga.

However, my lack of interest pales in comparison to the tens of millions who play Zynga games on a daily basis. I assume most are casual players who are quite content to use Facebook for social gaming as well as other forms of social networking. There are those superfans, however, who require more – and Zynga has delivered by creating its own platform dedicated solely to social gaming, Zynga.com.

Why this shift away from Facebook? Zynga cites three reasons:

  • To provide games players with more ways to connect with more people on a new destination dedicated to social games;
  • To speed up game progression;
  • Because super users asked them to.

Let’s look at each of these in greater detail.

Platform Dedicated to Play

According to the blog Inside Social Games, the new service is focused on games to the exclusion of almost all other social networking tools. It is a platform dedicated to one purpose, playing games.

It offers many features not available on the Facebook version such as a live Social Stream, which enables gamers to play in real time with their friends and find new ones. Indigenous player profiles let users check their friends’ “helpfulness score” to see who’s most likely to help them back. And players are able to chat and play live with friends and a community of players interested in the same games.

To date, Zynga is provisioning the platform with five of its most popular games: Words with Friends, CastleVille, Zynga Poker, Hidden Chronicles and CityVille.

Not only that, Zynga is offering an API that will allow other developers to create new games for the platform. They already have a first round of partners: MobScienceRow Sham Bow and Sava. I’m sure others will be soon to follow.

Faster Game Progression

With all the other stuff to do on Facebook getting back to games takes longer, which slows down play. The live components built into the new platform make play a more active environment. In fact, Zynga has a term for it – Active Social Network (ASN).

Requests from Users

Zynga listened to its army of super users and developed the platform to accomodate their needs for more access to the best social games and more people to play with.

“Zynga.com was created based on listening to players and understanding what they want and need to make their play time more fun and meaningful,” said Manuel Bronstein, general manager of Zynga.com. “We are excited to give players a way to connect with other people who love to play the same games in a destination that is all and only about games. We will continue to listen to player feedback and provide even better ways for them to connect and play together.”

Zynga and Facebook

Don’t interpret the development of this new platform to suggest that Zynga is in any way turning its back on Facebook. Nothing could be further from the truth. Quite to the contrary, Zynga has deepened its integration with Facebook so that players can move from one site to the other without loss of points, coins, or virtual goods (or all that other gaming stuff). Games run synchronously and seamlessly between the two sites.

“A CityVille player logging into Zynga.com today will find their city exactly as it appears on the Facebook canvas, with the same amount of virtual goods in their inventory and same amount of virtual currency in their e-wallet,” said Inside Social Games.

Zynga still relies on Facebook Credits for monetization and users must login with their Facebook credentials to access games.

Implications for Brands

While other brands and application developers are feverishly occupied with creating apps for Facebook’s new Timeline, both the profile and fan page versions, it might come as a surprise that Zynga took such a drastic step. And, what does that mean for other brands?

I think it is indicative of a trend toward a greater integration of Facebook’s Open Graph with third-party sites. Rather than being a “one stop shop” for everything social, Facebook has become the singular source for the long sought after ubiquitous portable social profile.

Open Graph enables brands to integrate with the social network at much deeper levels than before, something that allows them to continue to do what they do best, sell stuff, while, at the same time, taking advantage of the social connections provided by Facebook’s social and interest graphs. In that sense, what Zynga has done by creating its platform is consistent with that trend. The only difference is that, unlike other brands, Zynga started in Facebook.


I love the way Cynthia Boris, writer at the blog Marketing Pilgrim, creatively analogizes this move, so I’ll use her opening paragraph to conclude this post.

It’s a proud and a sad day for Facebook, as their little boy Zynga sets out on an adventure all his own. Armed with a degree in gamification, Zynga is taking on the world from his new digs, Zynga.com. But don’t think that means he’s leaving home for good. Oh no. Like most young adults, he’s keeping his old room back home just in case.

Zynga.com, a social platform for game players