Zynga’s CityVille Breaks Into Mainland China With the Help of Tencent

Without access to Facebook in China, Zynga’s ability to launch social games there has been fairly limited.

But tonight it is announcing that it has partnered with Tencent, a massive Internet company in China, to roll out a beta version of CityVille, which will launch under the name Zynga City.

The partnership is important for the largest social games developer on Facebook, which is looking to diversify by expanding the number of partners it works with and by entering new markets.

Zynga first entered the Chinese market in May 2010 by acquiring XPD Media, a company developing social games. Since then, Zynga says the office has become one of its largest internationally and that it continues to grow. To date, it has launched games in Hong Kong and Taiwan — but not mainland China, where Facebook is blocked.

Zynga City will operate on Tencent’s Open Platform as a beta and then will be more widely launched on several Tencent platforms down the road.

Zynga City will look and behave a lot like the CityVille game, which is played by more than 80 million users a month and is the most popular app on Facebook.

Users will build up their city by adding homes, businesses and government buildings, but this version will be localized to make the game play more fitting for a Chinese audience, ranging from special decorations and architecture to being able to send street peddlers to their friends’ cities.

Zynga has agreed to several game title exclusives with Facebook, and while CityVille is not listed as one of them, it’s unclear whether this would be considered breaking the agreement because the name has changed, along with several of the game elements.

It’s hard to tell if any of Zynga’s other games, like FarmVille or Mafia Wars, will also launch on the Tencent platform.


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— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus