Zynga Accounted for 15 Percent of Facebook’s Revenues in Q1, Down From Last Year

Zynga doesn’t report first-quarter earnings until Thursday, but Facebook let the cat out of the bag a little early today in an updated regulatory filing for its upcoming public offering.

Before you get too excited, Facebook didn’t disclose Zynga’s actual results, but it did provide an update on how much Zynga is contributing to its overall revenues.

Over the next three days, analysts will do their best to extrapolate what these numbers mean for Zynga.

In late afternoon trading, the market reacted somewhat positively. Earlier this morning, Zynga’s shares were down as much as 6.9 percent. But, after the filing was released, Zynga closed down only 2.4 percent and was trading at $9 a share.

In the first quarter, Facebook said Zynga made up 15 percent of the social network’s revenue, from both advertising and the sale of virtual goods. In comparison, Facebook estimated Zynga contributed 19 percent of its revenues for all of 2011.

As it stands today, the two companies are an inseparable pair. Zynga is Facebook’s largest partner and Facebook is where Zynga attracts most of its user base.

Facebook is able to generate revenue from Zynga three ways: Processing fees generated from the sale of virtual goods using Facebook Credits; third-party advertising on pages generated by Zynga’s games; and direct advertising from Zynga.

On the surface, it looks like Facebook is becoming less reliant upon Zynga. But Facebook did not explain why Zynga’s portion of the pie fell this quarter, and it’s hard to compare one quarter to a full year of results.

Facebook did warn that Zynga recently launched games on its own Web site, and that it could choose to try to migrate users from Facebook to its own platform. “We may fail to maintain good relations with Zynga or Zynga may decide to reduce or cease its investments in games on the Facebook Platform. If the use of Zynga games on our Platform declines for these or other reasons, our financial results may be adversely affected,” Facebook wrote in its update IPO filing.

Zynga is also investing more heavily in mobile, including its recent acquisition of OMGPOP, which leverages Facebook’s social graph, but does not profit from when companies only use the network for credentials on the mobile phone.

In addition to revealing how much revenue comes from Zynga, Facebook also broke down how much revenue came directly from the game maker compared to third-party advertisers. Facebook said direct revenues, including payments and advertising, made up 11 percent of its revenues in the first quarter, and an additional four percent of its revenues came from third-party advertisers displaying ads on Zynga’s pages. As previously disclosed, the same results from the year ended 2011 were 12 percent and seven percent, respectively.

But because Facebook lumps together both advertising and payment revenue when disclosing Zynga’s contribution to the company’s revenues, it’s nearly impossible to back-out Zynga’s revenues.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work