When you think of FarmVille, you might have vague, fuzzy memories of an old game you used to play on your Facebook browser back in the day — or maybe you only remember your various family members trying to get you to help them with their farms.
But while the original game might be a fuzzy memory for those who don’t game on their phones, its creator, Zynga, has only grown more relevant and powerful since. Not only has it just released FarmVille 3, but it’s seen massive success on mobile over the years with games like Words With Friends, CSR Racing, and various other titles. It’s made numerous acquisitions in recent years too, picking up developers NaturalMotion, Echtra, Rollic, StarLark, ad monetization platform Chartboost, and now, IGN can reveal, three Turkey-based hypercasual studios: ByteTyper, Creasaur Entertainment, and Zerosum.
And now, Zynga’s preparing to take a step out of its mobile empire and venture forth into console gaming.
Its first outpost will be Star Wars: Hunters, a real time arena battler coming to iOS, Android, and Switch early next year sometime. It’s a big move for a studio that, for over 14 years, has made a powerful name for itself firmly in the realms of mobile and browser free-to-play games. And to do it, Zynga is putting resources and trust into its acquisitions, such as Hunters developer NaturalMotion and Torchlight developer Echtra, to make it happen.
“Cross platform is a big growth pillar for Zynga,” says Zynga president Bernard Kim, speaking to IGN. “So buying Echtra, [whose team have] built amazing games like Diablo and Torchlight […] You could picture something that could be really exciting that’s launching from that team under the Zynga publishing portfolio, and then diversifying us against just mobile alone.”
Kim affirms that Star Wars: Hunters is the beginning, but certainly not the end of Zynga’s cross-platform ambitions. It has other games in the works, unannounced for now, that Kim can’t talk about. But he is able to hint at some of what Zynga wants to do in the space. First, it wants to keep things cross-platform: it’s not developing games solely for consoles. The goal is to remain “mobile-first, “hence all the investment in hypercasual — a genre of simple, easy-to-play, short games that has skyrocketed to success on mobile — multiple new studios, and ad monetization platforms alongside cross-platform investment.
Second, it’s likely sticking with free-to-play. “We have nothing to announce, but […] our goal is to get as wide an audience base as possible, so free -to -play and mobile are actually key pillars in doing so,” Kim says. “I don’t think there’s going to be a change in that side.”
Third, while Hunters is only for Switch and mobile, other console platforms and even PC could potentially be in the cards down the line. It’s even looking back to its roots on social platforms, having just announced Disco Loco 3D as a game exclusive to TikTok.
And fourth, while Star Wars: Hunters is obviously involved with a very popular licensed intellectual property, Zynga isn’t only planning on doing licensed games as a part of its cross-platform ambitions.
“We have a whole portfolio of games that could perform quite well on a cross platform,” he suggests. “We have nothing to announce right now, but you can imagine. We have a leading Star Wars game, a leading driving game in the marketplace on mobile, incredible assets there. We have fantastic Match-3 experiences.”
One controversial, hazier element that may fit into all these ambitions is blockchain gaming, complete with NFTs. Zynga recently hired Matt Wolf as its VP of blockchain gaming, indicating a vested interest in the space alongside a number of other gaming companies such as Square Enix, Ubisoft, EA, and others.
Kim doesn’t have specifics yet on how these might play into Zynga games, mobile or otherwise, down the line, though he does reassure that they won’t be ubiquitous across the entire portfolio. He also acknowledges that they aren’t for everyone — but does believe they’ll be a “disruptor” in the games industry, though again there were no specifics given about exactly how, or how Zynga would be using them.
“We want to take a secure, inclusive, and eco-friendly approach,” he answers in response to questions about the harmful ecological impacts of blockchain technology and concerns about rampant scams. “And that’s part of why we want somebody that’s experienced in launching new product lines to be part of Zynga. Matt’s actually had a consulting firm that was focused specifically on this space to help companies think through that, and then now he’s going to do it here at Zynga.”
With or without NFTs, Zynga’s moves into the console space are coming sooner rather than later. Kim says Zynga is certainly planning on even more acquisitions going forward, including studios outside of the mobile space, like Echtra. And with its their mobile-first approach and embrace of hypercasual, it’s not hard to imagine what that could possibly look like. Mobile’s audience is massive, even if its games don’t often make it into the more traditional gaming mainstream, and the monetization tactics, gameplay styles, and genres that have thrived in that space have often proved tastemakers for what would succeed on console eventually. It’s not beyond imagining that our hazy memories of FarmVille on Facebook might one day be modernized in console 4K.
“We are bullish on cross platform gameplay, or we wouldn’t be doing it,” Kim concludes.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
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Author: Joe Skrebels