Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

With New Zynga.com Rollout, the Gaming Giant Inches Further Away From Facebook

zynga_HQ_outdoorsZynga’s initial success in the casual gaming industry was also one of its biggest liabilities. The social gaming giant rose to prominence tied almost inextricably to Facebook, each platform feeding off of the other to drum up happy, FarmVille-loving customers.

But Zynga and Facebook are too close, and need distance from one another. If too large a part of their respective businesses continue to rely on the other, their fates rise and fall together.

That’s why next week, you’ll start to see a slightly different Zynga.com homepage. Instead of asking you to sign in to Zynga through Facebook, as has been customary, users will soon be able to start creating their own exclusive Zynga.com accounts, completely separate from Facebook.

“It’s a reflection of some changes that we made about a year ago to the site,” Zynga CTO Cadir Lee told AllThingsD. “We’re listening to players who want to bring in friends from other parts of their lives to play.”

zynga-facebook380This also marks the end of what Lee called an “experiment with Facebook that wasn’t working out,” referencing the two companies’ recently amended contract, which ended a number of exclusive agreements that bound them more tightly than many other game developers were with Facebook. That deal kept Zynga from hooking up with other social partners — like Twitter, or perhaps even Yahoo — making Facebook the exclusive social platform for users to authorize with Zynga.

It’s yet another step in the slow separation between Facebook and Zynga, both of which have admitted for a long time that, while each owes much of its financial success to the other, it is far too risky for both to sink or swim on the public market together. Facebook has made steps to embrace other game development studios on its platform, in the hope of diversifying its studio game offerings.

This isn’t a complete separation, mind you. Zynga games played on Facebook still account for an enormous amount of Zynga’s revenue, and Facebook gets a healthy cut of that. The two still want a good relationship. And users can obviously still connect with Facebook to play games with friends.

But if Zynga wants to make it on its own, it needs something that doesn’t lean so heavily on Facebook: A network. While Zynga gamers have social avenues to find one another inside of Zynga, the tight-knit network feel just isn’t there.

Next week’s new sign-up rollout is a step in that direction. I’d expect more in the months to come.

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