Zynga brings Slingo to Facebook, edges closer to real money gambling partnerships

Slingo, a popular slots-and-bingo hybrid from the developer of the same name, is coming to Facebook today by way of Zynga in a licensed game called Zynga Slingo.

Slingo may be familiar to web game connoisseurs, given the game’s 15-year history on its own site and portals like Yahoo Games. Players spend balls on individual spins of a number-generating slot machine attached to a bingo card above. Once the numbers appear, the player must select as many of their tiles as correspond to the numbers, hoping to complete rows, columns or specific patterns to score points. Special joker cards and other powerups alter the dynamic of the game, allowing players to select corresponding numbers faster or gain better odds each spin. More advanced players have access to larger cards with more numbers.

Where Slingo becomes a Zynga experience is in the energy mechanic and the social features. The game is organized into five worlds with nine levels in each world. Players must spend different increments of energy to access different levels, with higher difficultly levels costing more. At launch, social features will be limited to friends-only leaderboards, gifting energy or powerups. Zynga tells us, however, that it is testing a multiplayer feature where players can challenge one another to beat their high score on individual levels. Primary monetization comes from the sale of powerups and energy refills.

As to why Zynga and Slingo partnered on this game when Zynga already developed its own games for the Zynga Casino franchise, both companies say the move made sense given Zynga’s experience in social games and Slingo’s experience in i-gaming — internet gambling. Though Zynga hasn’t entered the i-gaming word quite yet, it’s well-positioned to do so with Zynga Poker on Facebook and mobile and potentially with its other casino franchise games. Last month, the developer told AllThingsD it was looking for partners in i-gaming — this month, COO John Schappert told investors on its Q4 earnings call that Zynga saw i-gaming as a “very interesting opportunity.”

The licensing partnership with Slingo moves Zynga that much closer to seizing the opportunity. Slingo already has strong ties to real casinos via gaming machine supplier IGT — which acquired social game developer DoubleDown Interactive earlier this year — and it has a firm grasp on how i-gaming revenue compares to what social games are seeing.

“It’s 10-times plus, how much people will spend on some of the games out there,” Slingo CEO Rich Roberts tells Inside Social Games. “Remember you’re not buying items, you’re at a slot game online. There are numbers on one operator where certain operators are driving seven figures in profit on one game in one operator. When these numbers start coming out, once [i-gaming] becomes legal in the U.S., you’ll see more and more developers seeing this as the next opportunity.”

As to why Slingo went with Zynga, Roberts explains that it was the strongest possible partnership opportunity to make the classic game social. As a company, Slingo has developed along two paths for the past decade and a half: its online presence and its for wager presence in real life bingo games and slot machines at casinos. “For online, it’s our website, our past history with AOL and our future social game with Zynga,” Roberts says. “We look at i-gaming as a mix of both worlds of us — that’s our future, down the road. Today, it’s how we’re going to build our brand overall with our partners — including our new partner, Zynga.”

Update: A Zynga spokesperson says Zynga Slingo will not be a part of the Zynga Casino franchise. This contradicts what Rich Roberts told ISG.

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