Live-Blogging the Zynga Unleashed Press Event: 10 New Products
We’re here at Zynga headquarters in San Francisco for the Zynga Unleashed press event.
The highlights include the launch of major new or sequel titles on Facebook, HTML5 games that use Facebook’s new mobile platform, and the introduction of Project Z, aka Zynga Direct, formerly known as Zynga Live — a Facebook Connect-based gaming platform that has been in the works for two years.
The following is a lightly-paraphrased transcript of the presentations.
The Live Blog
After a promotional video about Zynga games, Mark Pincus has taken the stage.
10:38 We started a few blocks from here. Tells story about growing from there.
Tells story about the new office — it had been the Sega building back in the 80s. Now it’s getting remodeled.
Zynga launching ten new products, that have been in development for over a year.
Before we show you the products I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about what we’re trying to do. What’s in all these games that we have now. How do you string it all together, tie it back to our mission that we’ve been pursuing for the last five years.
We challenge ourselves every day with the question “how do we get you guys to play.” You don’t have time to sit and play games, yet we really think that play is this macro theme activity that we all need to fit back into our lives. Everything behind the products we’re creating is our mission to build what we think of as a platform for play.
We’re not trying to be the company that makes the next hit game — although we want to do that too. We want to do something broader. Make up a platform for play. We’re going to talk about the technology, infrastructure, behind all that we’re doing to create socialness. To help and inspire you to many more friend connections. In any given session, we’re measuring and tracking how well our teams do with the content. To inspire you to connect with more people in meaningful ways.
We’re trying to design the games — we have some design principles. The First Time User Experience. The FTUE. We believe in those first moments, those first three clicks, why you want it, why you want to check out more of it. It’s kind of a three-click deal — we sold you or we didn’t.
We can’t ask for more than 15 minutes of your time. We don’t want to ask you to change your day. Just like a good show (I’ve been addicted to Breaking Bad lately). Like a good show, if you do like our games, we hope to give you enough depth that you can keep playing for three months or a year.
We hope to enable a platform for direct relationships. Wether on the web or mobile. We hope to create socialness around the game.
Friends from Facebook (corp) are here. We’re excited to be a launch platform for their mobile platform. We’ll be showing you 3 HTML5 versions of our games I think launching today. We’ll start unveiling pieces of Zynga Direct. We hope you’ll see that it’s the deepest integration with FB Connect of any service on the web or mobile.
In terms of the games we’re showing today, including one that launched last night…. with every game we hope it moves the genre, answers the question “how is this more social.”
They took this component of the game — clan fighting — and brought it front and center.
We think that’s going to be a new spin on social crime-fighting. We’re going to show you CastleVille. That game is built by a team in Dallas that has a long track record building Triple-A PC titles like Age of Empires. We think the art and graphics are really beautiful. The design, the user-driven story line, character development, new ways to collaborate and get ahead through partnering with other players in the game.
We’re going to show you another casual game category called Hidden Chronicles. A first for us in the hidden objects and puzzle category, a long established category in the download market. We hope to show a more social spin on it, let people collaborate and compete to do puzzles.
David Ko is going to show you a bunch of mobile titles now and in the next few weeks. We’ve really ramped up our mobile game offering, worked to deliver mobile in social context. With our FB Connect integration, and a lot more firsts for mobile social gaming.
10:50 After going through the first few games in mobile, we’re going to introduce our Zynga Direct offering, which has been two years in development. The first of many many releases that you’ll see in the coming weeks and months.
I really hope you get the chance after this to touch and play the games.
I’m going to turn this over to Cadir Lee (CTO). We’ve worked together since he was 22, when he was in his first job. We both learned product development at the same time. Lucky to have him come back and build out the tech.
I wanted to talk to you a little bit about the tech. Over half the Zynga employees are engineers, and are hard at work making the games better.
I wanted to share some of the highlights. The gaming engine itself: can display thousands of objects in a world, make the world come alive, show animations. All of our game engines focus on making it easy to build game, and enhance game. We’re also hard at work on new capabilities with Flash 11.
We think there’s a lot more to come. We also talk a lot about infrastructure; we’re long-time public and private cloud users. We have our own, Z-Cloud. Worst thing is if you can’t play one of our games. We try to make sure they’re available all the time. We’ve been known to deploy 1,000 servers to meet a game launch. Elasticity of key, makes play always available.
One of the things I want to share with you today.
Analytics — long been known as an analytics company. Not what to build, but how the things we build are working. How to match up with the right somebody across the street, across the country, across the world. We’re trying to make sure it’s not the data that comes in but the personalization that comes out. How do you make sure the right player with the right skill-set can have a fun and challenging game.
I’d like to introduce you to Roy Sehgal, vice president and general manager.
Today, I’m pleased to unveil a new game genre for Zynga. Hidden object games. Our first game in this new genre: Hidden Chronicles. A new journey for our players, and one we’re excited to share today.
And now for the first time ever, let’s take a sneak peek at the game.
The game is about mystery, discovery, social competition. Use skills to find thousands of hidden objects within beautiful scenes. Begin at Ramsey Manor. Here, you’re going to explore, build, discover, customize, the self expression we know our players love.
Hours of play within a single scene. I’m proud of our team. Unique sound, animatics — make you feel like you’re underwater. Deep, rich, engaging. A new and unique art style for Zynga.
Mafia Wars 2.
Easiest the edgiest game we’ve had: Franchise, feel, friends and fighting. Mafia Wars launched in 2008. Great honor to work with veterans of Mafia Wars team to create sequel. But even greater to give back to our players from the first game. All about rising up, getting revenge and kicking ass with your friends.
11:00 Epic missions with your friends. Example: blowing up casino and getting stacks of cash. Happened asynchronously, but shared social experience. Moment that’ll continue through the game.
Also bosses: very important story points in the game. A don is sending thugs to take cash — won’t stop until I fight back. Use power-ups and defense, call friends. Also hit boss on my game board. First boss. Took him out. Future bosses are super tough, have lots of tactics to defeat.
Fighting: bone yard, any weapons. Any guns. Shotguns, rocket launchers, even chainsaws to cut people up. Lots of sophisticated matching. Lots of fun rewards.
[Our review here.]
Go to others houses. Take their cash, products. Then they call their friends and come fight you. Friend bars. But we built a rival bar — keep track of the friends you hate. Keep these cycles going. That’s a little taste of Mafia Wars 2.
Before I go. We also just went live on Google+ with Mafia Wars 2.
Here to talk about Zynga Poker, our first social game. Launched in July 2007. Still the world’s largest and most social social game. While the game is traditional Texas Hold’Em poker, we have social features — fantastic presence across Facebook, Google+, Android and special interface for iPhone and iPad. We realized we could broaden our scope and go beyond.
We’re launching a new franchise. Zynga Casino. We’re bringing fans the full Monte Carlo experience with the launch of Zynga Casino. You can’t always take your friends on a plane to Vegas. But you can on Zynga poker tables and other rooms.
Joining the franchise: Zynga Bingo. This is the first new game in the Zynga Casino Franchise. It was created by our talented New York team with our poker studio.
Zynga Bingo features a number of themed rooms. The Zynga ball shoots out of a Cadillac. Or a sweet shop. Or FarmVille background. Fun social twist — friends with benefits. More friends playing, more advantages in the game.
Launching on Facebook soon.
11:10 We’re bringing players a new way to play. Also on Zynga devices.
Bill Jackson, creative director from Zynga Dallas. Before we were Bonfire Studios — Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Halo Wars. Zynga was *the* company putting social in gaming. We’re very proud to be putting on the next “-Ville” game. CastleVille. FarmVille was about social expression, brought social games to mainstream like no other.
Frontierville was all about narrative. Then CityVille, fastest-growing of all time. Number one on Facebook.
CastleVille is latest, most beautiful to date. New level of social. Caste of characters: Giselle a singer, dragon-slayer Tom, Sonia the pirate, George the viking. Antonio the playboy woodsman.
We put a lot of love and attention to detail to our characters.
CastleVille: true manifestation of Zynga’s social magic. Improves upon each of the things of the games before. Build castle, craft art, armor, potions. Help friends with those, as we progress through the epic journey through the game.
Go through the free market to trade. Work with friends to defend against Beasties that lurk outside of the castle walls. New storytelling in a personal way. Players create their own story, own path through games. New locations, items, hidden characters. Your journey will be different from your friends. I might meet Antonio, you might meet Giselle. We learn the characters’ stories as we work our way through the games. Zynga is bringing massively multi-player role-playing games.
One more thing is music: orchestral arrangements.
Couldn’t show you without heart and soul that Dallas team puts into it.
I hope we’ve given you a taste, a flavor of where we’re taking the Ville franchise.
Mark is back on stage. Turns out there’s an open building space with five stories packed full of Zynga employees watching us cover the event. Sort of surprising.
11:20 Introducing John Schappert, new COO (until recently at EA).
[Video starts about players.]
People want to play everywhere. David Ko, chief mobile officer, now on stage.
Super excited to talk to you today about Mobile. Update you on many of the exciting initiatives that the team is working on. You’ve heard about Zynga equaling play. Delivering where our players are. Not just because I’m the mobile guy, although I may be biased.
Talks about Words With Friends going across platform.
Talking about HTML5 initiative. Launching three on the platform.
Words With Friends and Poker.
New game is FarmVille Express. Wanted to do some actions on the go. Harvest, plant, plough. That’s what we’re offering.
Fourth game, which I’m excited to talk to you about, is Mafia Shakedown. Here’s the gist of the game. The don of all dons has been killed. Bunch of things that you’ll do with requests, missions, gives you opportunity to become the next don. You can steal from your friends. This game will be coming shortly so stay tuned.
Lastly, this fifth game is called Dream Zoo. Zynga’s first game in zoo genre. You get to manage the dream zoo, no cages, the animals get to roam.
You can create all sorts of animals….
11:30 Schappert back on.
In addition to mobile and social. More than 60 million daily active players. We know that because we have great stats. We learn a lot more not just from stats but from talking to them. Yes they like our games, play them a lot. Playing our games with friends.
Sneak peek of something new: Project Z.
Centered on bringing players together, giving them what they want. Social environment just for games. Facebook Connect-enabled platform to play environment tailored just for games. Here’s a sneak peak.
Link is: Zynga.com/ztag
Can reserve own Zynga tag at Zynga.com. Having own alias. At work I’m “Jon” or probably other names. But online: SchappAttack.
Coming to you. Bringing back MarkPinc to close out the show.
We tried to share a lot with you guys. Hopefully in pretty quick order. More efficient way to share product launches. Even tried to share some things that are works in progress. Project Z, Z Tags, games that aren’t launching yet.
We really want to build a platform for Play. Committed to one vision, one mission, hasn’t changed since we founded the company. You should expect it won’t ever change in the future.
We want to be the biggest macro bet on social gaming. We believe in social gaming, we believe that how more than us in this building, how everyone in the world will embrace play in our lives. Everything we’re doing is an attempt to bring that to life. It’s early, it’s primitive. The game play and socialness is at an early point. We know that in the next couple years its going to come to life, be mobile. More of the WoW feeling, but packaged up in something you can understand and like in 3 clicks, and play in 10 to 15 minutes.
We hope we gave you some more of our flavor, our team, a bunch of our leaders.
[Zynga employee photo courtesy of Anthony Ha.]