Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Zynga’s “Project Z” Revealed: Social Games on Its Own Web Site (Through Facebook, of Course)

Zynga is finally pulling back the curtain on “Project Z” to reveal a beta version of Zynga’s own social gaming platform on

The move is supposed to foster a more social gaming environment that’s focused just on games, without other social media updates getting in the way.

Zynga is also opening up its game platform — which consists of 240 million monthly active users and 54 million daily active users — so third-party developers can create their own Zynga games. Developers will have access to something called Zynga’s Active Social Network, or ASN, which will tell them not only how many people are playing their games but also measure engagement levels.

So what about Zynga and Facebook’s codependency? While it may initially seem as though Zynga is staking an independent claim, it’s still cozy with Facebook when it comes to its own gaming site.

Users will still have to log in to through Facebook Connect in order to play the games — which will include CastleVille, CityVille, and Zynga Poker. (And, for fans of the Words With Friends mobile app, it’s going to be available on, as well.)

Players can start a game on and then easily pick it up on Facebook, and vice versa. There are still the same sharing functionalities, in terms of sharing scores and progress.

In terms of revenue sharing, it’s unclear whether Facebook will glean revenue from ads on will launch with ads, a Zynga spokesperson confirmed, but said the company is not revealing financial details at this time.

However, while Facebook hasn’t been sharing revenue with Zynga from ads that appear on its own social network, there are agreements in place for Facebook in the future to sell advertising on a site hosted by Zynga, according to a story my AllThingsD colleague Tricia Duryee wrote.

There are some notable ways in which Zynga’s own gaming site differs from the experience of Zynga games on Facebook, though. offers a clutter-free news feed that’s only about gaming, unlike a Facebook feed dotted with Zynga game scores amid status updates and photos of food experiences and kids in Halloween costumes. There’s also a live chat box for real-time communication among game players, which, unlike Facebook’s IM box, keeps the game going while you’re chatting; and Zynga players can become “zFriends” with each other, without having to be Facebook friends.

“We know that our users, whether it’s for gaming or not, spend time on Facebook,” Manuel Bronstein, general manager of Zynga Direct, said. “They wake up in the morning, they check Facebook. And the reality is, we need to reach the players wherever they are.”

Bronstein stressed that the company wanted to keep gamers active by creating a truly social gaming portal and by adding more games from outside developers. In some cases, Zynga sees a big dropoff in engagement when a player is waiting days or longer for a friend to play their turn, or send a gift back. The company is hoping that, by creating more of a multiplayer environment, it can expedite the wait time in between plays and just keep people playing.

Zynga first unveiled its plans for “Project Z” back in October 2011, alongside 10 new games. The company said then it would still be a Facebook Connect-enabled platform, but also said it would be an environment tailored just for games.

As was pointed out at the time of the Zynga event, there were a few areas of gaming that Zynga had not yet entered, which had left opportunities for competitors to succeed on Facebook. With Zynga’s new games and the plans for “Project Z,” the gaps narrowed.

In Facebook’s recent S-1 filing, the social networking giant revealed just how dependent it was on Zynga, with Zynga accounting for around 12 percent of Facebook’s $3.7 billion in revenue last year. Facebook said social games are currently responsible for “substantially all of” its revenue generated from payments (outside of advertising revenue.)

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