Zynga’s Own Game Network Will Still Have Facebook Everywhere

Zynga unveiled a new game platform today at its “Unleashed” event in San Francisco that will compete directly with players’ time now spent on Facebook.

The platform, which will launch sometime soon, is code-named “Project Z,” and will be hosted on Zynga’s own site. But in reality, the leading social games company won’t be gaining much distance or independence from the social network at all.

Project Z was one of 10 announcements made today, including five new mobile games and Facebook games, too. The event marks the first time Zynga hosted a major press conference, which is notable given that it is preparing for a $1 billion IPO.

There are not many details currently available about the Project Z platform, but from what I am hearing so far, it looks like Facebook’s influence will be noticeable everywhere.

For instance, Zynga will use Facebook Connect to enable game players to log in and play the games seamlessly between Facebook and Project Z. In other words, as players switch from platform to platform, they won’t lose their accomplishments or game play.

But Facebook also has agreements in place with Zynga to sell any advertising on a site hosted by Zynga, according to a previous story I wrote about disclosures made in Zynga’s IPO filing.

In that story, I wrote:

“If Zynga launched its own game center, or site, where visitors come to play games, Facebook may sell the ads for that network and share a portion of the proceeds with Zynga. The language in the contract is not clear on whether or not this is an exclusive arrangement.”

At the time, a Facebook spokesperson explained it was not currently selling ads on behalf of Zynga on Facebook, and was not sharing any advertising found on Facebook’s canvas.

“We did agree with Zynga to work together in the future on providing ads on their properties beyond Facebook, but we have no current timeline for when we might start working on that,” Facebook had said.

It is not known at this time whether Facebook will actually provide ads on Project Z, although it seems contractually possible.

There’s no word on how soon Project Z, also sometimes referred to as Zynga Direct, will launch, but Zynga is currently asking players to sign up for their gamer name online. The gamer names are called zTags.

One reason why players may want to go to Zynga instead of Facebook is because it will be a designated game network. Oftentimes on Facebook, people are reluctant to post game accomplishments into their feeds where all of their friends will see them. In Project Z, the game play could be more anonymous.


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— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald