Zynga has just announced a few things from its H.Q in San Francisco. One of them was updates to the Zynga platform, which is powered by the company’s infrastructure and network. Kostadis Roussos, Zynga’s Chief Engineer presented the platform, which is based on the company’s proprietary infrastructure and network. It is clear that Zynga has built a terriffic platform to run its own games.
With it, Zynga can analyze data and release about 100 game updates every day. Zynga’s computer are a mix of its own hardware and public cloud computers from Amazon, Rackspace and others. Zynga says that the whole point of having their own infrastructure is that they can be much more efficient than public clouds. The company claims to be 3X more efficient.
The Zynga Platform
The Analytics part is also very interesting. Zynga says that when it changes game features, it can know within “minutes” if the public likes the new changes. The same analytics are behind the company’s ability to improve the social aspects of games.
Finally, there is the Zynga network, which counts millions of players. People registered to Zynga.com can be “matched” to other players and find new friends, which is very handy if your Facebook friends don’t play. But all of this was hard to build, maintain and required a lot of code. To fix this, Zynga created the Zynga API.
This effectively means that external developers can now leverage everything that Zynga has built for itself. In short they are releasing a social game engine. Zynga had previously invited a limited number of partners to use its APIs and a few more are now joining – the most famous of those being Konami.
Zynga has also announced Zynga Partners for Mobile, which is essentially the same type of development partnership, but for mobile. They have already enlisted some parters, and the best demo that we’ve seen is an adventure game called Horn. Developers can focus on their games and Zynga can provide a lot of exposure and infrastructure that smaller companies could never get by themselves.
Zynga is launching a Multiplayer feature to its platform. While Zynga games have been very successful, they are mostly single-player games were others could stop by and contribute on a turn-by-turn basis. With multiplayer, participants can now play at the same time which makes things more fun.
With the update of Zynga.com, the gaming company reinforces its social network aspect. This is critical because while people connect because they know each other in Facebook, it can be difficult to find like-minded players. Zynga.com effiectively solves this and allows you to find “gaming” friends outside of your normal social graph.
The players home screen has also been updated to be a “social lobby” where folks can have an easy access to alltheir games, friends, challenges, messages etc. This pushes the company’s website further into being a much better gaming place than Facebook.com when Zynga games are concerned. While playing with friends there, it is much easier to get rewards, points and other perks.
Zynga Elite Slots: this is a “social slot experience” where you can win points with your friends. The game happens in many different environment (western, vampires, etc…). The gameplay itself is like a very fancy slot machine based on themes. I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of slot machines, but for those who like the genre, the graphics and overall production value is quite high.
Zynga Arcade: arcades are where video games started, and Zynga says that “great arcade games can be great social games”. Ruby Blast is Zynga’s latest arcade game, which came out online last week. It is a very simple puzzle game which has a good production value, although not as cool as Zynga’s Bubble Safari in my opinion. Ruby blast is going mobile today for Android and iOS.
The Ville: the “ville” genre is one of the biggest success from Zynga, which you may have heard of because of Farmville. Castleville pushed graphics and storytelling much further than the rather basic Farmville, but today Zynga launched The Ville (moto: Build the home of your dreams) which looks like Zynga’s take on The Sims.
Here, players create an avatar and build a house. They can invite friends and interact with each other. It is also possible to check the players Facebook status, which is the connection to the real world. The house can be further expanded and the number of customizations is pretty impressive. By increasing the social interaction with other characters in the game, players unlock new possibilities. The Ville is completely integrated to the Zynga messageboard. This goes live tomorrow.
ChefVille: Finally a topic of genuine interest to me: food! In this game, the goal is to create a “dream restaurant” and make it prosper. This start by creating a dream kitchen, which involves a lot of cookware which is ideal for having a lot of items in the game. Additional items include the food ingredients themselves. We’ve seen this in CastleVille and this is a very efficient way to add game elements.
The gameplay is based on crafting and serving. To craft, the player will have to find the ingredient. This may involve going to friend’s restaurants to pick up ingredients. Serving is done by simply clicking on customers. When you master recipies, Zynga will send you actual recipes via email so that you can implement it in the real world. Again, the production value is quite high.
Although Zynga’s stock has been relatively capricious, the company is moving forward by leveraging its size and incredible engineering efforts. By opening the platform further, Zynga should start profiting from work done by other talented developers in exchang for providing services, players and overall clout.
Not all the new games will be blockbusters, but Zynga is leveraging its size and increasing production value to raise the barrier en entry for competitors. Those may not be a “Medal of Honor” type of game, but it’s fair to say that all the Zynga game shown today had a lot of “polish”, and will please their casual gaming crowd.
To wrap up the event, Zynga played a teaser of the upcoming FarmVille 2 game which is going to be much improved graphically. Stay tuned…
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