Can Real Money Poker Save Zynga from Extinction?

zyngaZynga was the largest and most prominent gaming company to have ever graced the Facebook platform. A few years ago, the company was running at its peak. With its repertoire of hugely popular games such as YoVille, Mafia Wars, FarmVille, and Cafe World, the company instantly became the darling of social gamers on Facebook. It was a common occurrence way back in 2009 for friends to send out requests to help out in their “mafia” or to be a neighbor on their “farm.”

But now, Zynga seems to be struggling to keep up with the times. As the demography of Facebook slowly ages, the players are steadily outgrowing the games they once loved. As the stock value of Zynga (ZNGA) dropped, so did the number of people who play the company’s games. For example, YoVille, whose monthly userbase once reached around 20 million active players at its peak, now has only about 300,000 users playing on a regular basis. In fact, YoVille is set to be discontinued in March 31 this year.

Now, the only way for the company to regain its losses is for it to take a chance at real money gambling. Zynga is not a stranger to gambling games- one of the first few games that it released was Texas HoldEM Poker (now renamed as Zynga Poker) which used to have the nearly the same amount of fanfare as other popular titles such as FarmVille
This January, Zynga released a new real-money poker game on Facebook. In partnership with the PartyPoker network, the game will be initially available to Facebook users from the UK. It still remains to be seen if Zynga will have the gumption to pursue the necessary licenses to have the game released in the US (where online gambling is allowed only in selected states).

So, will this move have an overall effect on Zynga’s finances? If their history with online real-money gaming is to be analyzed, the future seems bleak. It is to be noted that Zynga, in partnership with online gaming company Bwin.Party, already has released a stand-alone real-money app in 2012 called ZyngaPlusPoker to lukewarm acclaim.

Critics say that this was due to the fact that the game was not hosted on Facebook (thereby alienating some of Zynga’s loyal fans who were on the social networking site) and was merely a clone of other poker games on Bwin.Party’s PartyGaming network. Zynga has also recently released a statement that they have no plans on pursuing the real-money gaming market in the US, preferring instead to focus on developing new casual games.

Only time will tell if the UK market is enough to keep Zynga afloat. Currently, ZyngaPlusPoker accounts for nearly 21% of the gaming company’s total revenue- it brings in more money than FarmVille (which stands at 20%) and other games. If the company would focus most of their resources in developing the ZyngaPlusPoker game, then it could spell the second return of this once great company. Zynga fans, it’s best to keep your fingers crossed.

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