Kara Swisher

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Yahoo Announces Deep Integration Partnership With Social Gaming Start-Up Zynga

Yahoo announced a partnership to weave Zynga throughout its service this morning.

BoomTown actually called Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and asked him specifically about this deal last week and he denied it completely, not even relying on a more appropriate “no comment.”

In fact, he noted expansively that Yahoo (YHOO) had completely missed the boat in social gaming and that such a deal was probably a good idea to keep the Silicon Valley icon relevant in the space.

Pincus (pictured here, in the mind of BoomTown) did say the pair had been in discussions “forever,” but that there was nothing pending because “it’s impossible to get anything done with that company.”

Guess not (and good luck with the partnership with Pinocchio, Yahoo!).

The move by the gaming start-up is an attempt, presumably, to increase distribution of its popular games, such as FarmVille, beyond Facebook.

Zynga and Facebook recently engaged in a noisy game of brinksmanship over a wide range of issues, including charges for virtual currency, which included empty threats by Zynga, leaked to the press, to leave the social networking site.

Until now and for the most part, Zynga has built its business on Facebook.

But Facebook, according to numerous sources, has been increasingly wary of Zynga despite recently signing a long-term deal with the company, especially due to its practice of aggressively sending what Facebook considers spam to users to spur gaming activity.

Now Zynga has a whole new audience–Yahoo’s huge base of 600 million monthly users–to market to.

In any case, the move is a good one for Yahoo. While it is strong in casual gaming, it is weaker in the fast-growing social arena.

By pulling in a wide range of social services, as it did with Facebook and Twitter recently, Yahoo is seeking to be the place where users can aggregate their social experiences.

Not surprisingly, Yahoo execs touted the deal at its investor day, which is taking place now.

Here’s the press release from Yahoo about the deal:


Partnership Weaves the Web’s Most Popular Social Games throughout Yahoo

SUNNYVALE, Calif., May 26, 2010–Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO), today announced a partnership with Zynga that will integrate Zynga’s popular social games through Yahoo!’s global network. The partnership enables Zynga games to reach more than 600 million people worldwide across Yahoo!, giving them access to new and deeper ways to engage with friends and make new ones.

Zynga’s game integration with Yahoo! is part of Yahoo!’s commitment to offer personally relevant experiences to people from across the Web. Zynga games are expected to roll out on the Yahoo! network in the coming months and will include:

Ability for people to play Zynga games and access their personal Zynga game updates across Yahoo!’s properties including the Homepage, Yahoo! Games, Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger and others.

Sharing of updates across multiple social experiences simultaneously while playing their favorite Zynga games on Yahoo!

Product integration of Zynga games with the Yahoo! Application Platform (YAP), Yahoo!’s OpenSocial container through which third-party developers can develop applications on Yahoo!

“Yahoo is focused on providing compelling, personally relevant experiences and social games are core to this experience,” said Hilary Schneider, executive vice president, Yahoo! Americas. “Zynga will bring top notch social game experiences to Yahoo!, including through our open platforms such as Yahoo! Application Platform and Yahoo! Updates. Yahoo! will also continue to work with other partners, developers and publishers to bring compelling innovations and experiences from across the web to our users.”

“With over 35 million unique users playing our games every single day, social games are fast becoming a leading source of entertainment worldwide surpassing most television shows,” said Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga. “Our partnership with Yahoo! gives millions of new users the ability to connect with friends and families through games.”

Today’s partnership along with Yahoo!’s recently announced Facebook and Twitter relationships brings together social experiences from across the web and extends Yahoo!’s social strategy by providing multiple places across Yahoo! for people to play social games, access and share information, and connect with the people that matter to them the most.

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google