Zynga are the company behind some of the run-away games hits of Facebook – Farmville, Petville, Mafia Wars, Frontierville etc.
Through a combination or addictive game-play and peer-pressure they have grown to be a significant player in the gaming space.
They have spread from their beginnings in Facebook to hosting games on Yahoo and MySpace and launched native iPhone (and iPad) versions – but in call cases “your” Farm is independent of the underlying social networking platform.
Now with Google’s $100 Million investment and rumors of a forthcoming Google Social Networking platform the logical conclusion is that they are preparing to land on yet another platform.
But … is there more to it than just spreading their gaming reach?
Facebook, Twitter, MSN, MySpace, LinkedIn and others are very proud of their ability to generate, leverage and monetize a “social graph” but essentially all of them only offer vertical integration – unless you’re a member of their “club” they don’t really know that much about you.
What Zynga are well on their way to delivering is something that only really email (and email centric solutions like Plaxo) have had before now – a cross domain social network, and by extension a more accurate social graph than any walled garden can offer.
Assuming that Zynga continue to maintain user data separately from the sign-in platform – isolating and abstracting the communication and sharing mechanisms from the core experience and allowing you to provide multiple credentials to communication with your Google, Facebook, iPhone, Email and Twitter friends seamlessly then they are the position of knowing more about who you are “friends” with than any of the individual services.
What they do with this data will be interesting. The obvious monetization path is to use the information to enable better and better advertising targeting (which makes a lot of sense with the Google tie-in) but I suspect there are other routes they might investigate … and with a potential audience as large as the sum of all their host networks they’ll have a huge audience to experiment with.
FaceBook Credits, Google Checkout and Paypal are all great “virtual currencies” but you don’t always want to maintain too high a balance anywhere just in case something goes wrong and you can’t spend your credit… but with Zynga Game Cash (or whatever they call it) you could not only buy virtual trinkets for your electronic pets you could move your balances around, make gifts (virtual purchases or cash balances) and – with Zynga acting as a broker – link into other mechanisms for individual transactions…
Who knows where else they could take their silo busting multi-player game platform…