Zynga adds FarmVille 2-themed slot to Hit It Rich!

FarmVille 2 slots

New farming simulation slot becomes Zynga’s first game “reimagined” for its social casino business

Zynga has announced the launch of a new slots game on Hit It Rich! based on its popular farming simulation title FarmVille 2.

Also called Farmville 2, the new 5X3 reel slot features the same crops and animals from the original game which marks the first time FarmVille 2 has been “reimagined” for Zynga’s social casino business.

According to data analytics website metricsmonk, FarmVille 2 is currently Zynga’s second most popular app after Zynga Poker with an estimated 26m monthly active users on Facebook.

The FarmVille 2-themed slot joins a range of branded titles including the Wizard of Oz, The Terminator and the newly released Ted.

Zynga launched the Spooky Cool Labs-developed Hit It Rich! app in September, which was the first release since it acquired the game studio in June 2013.

The addition of Ted to Hit it Rich! follows a recent announcement that Zynga plans to introduce a new mobile-optimised version of Zynga Poker by the end of Q2.

The new Zynga Poker app comprises an overhauled design, increased personalisation and new social elements including a new technology that measures a player’s skill level and places them at corresponding tables.

“I am pleased with the progress we have made so far this year against our strategic frame of growing and sustaining our franchises, creating new hits and driving efficiencies,” Zynga CEO Don Mattrick said.

“The year is off to a solid start and our teams have created a strong base for growth throughout 2014,” Mattrick added.

Zynga released Farmville 2 slots on the same day the company announced the departure of Mark Vranesh as CFO and CAO.

Vranesh is to be replaced by David Lee who joins Zynga from Best Buy where he worked as senior vice president of enterprise finance for 18 months.

Zynga adds latest branded slot to Hit it Rich!

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Ted, based on the American comedy film, joins the Wizard of Oz and The Terminator in the app’s portfolio of branded games 

Social gaming publisher Zynga has today announced the addition of its latest branded title, Ted, to Hit it Rich! on Facebook.

The 5X4 reel slots game, which is based on the 2012 comedy movie, is also set to be released on mobile in the near future and joins a range of other branded slot games including the Wizard of Oz, The Terminator and Sex and the City.

Ted starred actor Mark Whalberg and is one of the highest grossing R-rated original comedy movies of all time.

Zynga launched the Spooky Cool Labs-developed Hit It Rich! app in September, which was the first release since it acquired the game studio in June 2013. According to the Hit it Rich! lobby page, Zynga is also planning to release a slots version of its popular Farmville 2 app.

The addition of Ted to Hit it Rich! follows a recent announcement that Zynga plans to introduce a new mobile-optimised version of Zynga Poker by the end of Q2.

The new Zynga Poker app comprises an overhauled design, increased personalisation and new social elements including a new technology that measures a player’s skill level and places them at corresponding tables.

Referring to poker as “the game that started it all for Zynga”, Downie said player feedback had played an integral part in the development of the mobile-first poker game with fast gameplay considered a priority.

Five casino titles in Facebook’s Games of the Year

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DoubleDown Casino and Slotomania among social network’s picks for top social games in 2013

Facebook has named five social casino applications in its list for the Games of the Year 2013 including IGT’s DoubleDown Casino and Caesars Interactive’s Slotomania.

Social casino titles accounted for over a fifth of the 23 games on Facebook’s select list, which according to the social network were selected on the basis of “user ratings, Facebook implementation, growth, and overall quality”.

DoubleDown Casino and Playtika/Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment (CIE) developed Slotomania made up half of this year’s Hall of Fame category which also included two of the most popular social games on the market -  Candy Crush Saga and Farmville 2.

This year has seen both CIE and IGT cement their position as the two largest social casino game companies with an estimated 15% and 14% market share respectively, according to boutique research firm Eilers Research.

Heart of Vegas by Product Madness/Aristrocrat and Hit It Rich! Slots by Zynga were both recognised in the category of Best New Games 2013 joining the likes of Jelly Splash by Wooga and Farm Heroes Saga by King.

DoubleU Casino, which was launched in mid-2012 by AFewGoodSoft, was the only social casino title to feature in the category for Staff Favourites.

However, no casino app was able to win the prize for overall Game of the Year 2013 which was awarded to hidden object game Criminal Case by Pretty Simple.

Full list of social casino apps:

Best New Games 2013

Heart of Vegas – Product Madness/Aristocrat

Hit It Rich! Slots – Zynga

Staff Favourites

DoubleU Casino – AfewGoodSoft

2013 Hall of Fame

DoubleDown Casino – DoubleDown Interactive/IGT

Slotomania – Playtika/Caesar’s Interactive

Eilers Research: Social Casino Tracker

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Adam Krejcik from boutique research firm Eilers Research looks at Zynga’s recent downfall and finds some reasons to be cheerful

Much has been made over Zynga’s recent downfall, including its precipitous decline in the social casino game market. In fact, we have pointed out this falloff in the last two issues of our “Social Casino Tracker”, noting most recently that Zynga had been surpassed by both Caesars Interactive (owns Playtika & Buffalo Studios) and IGT (owns DoubleDown) in terms of revenue generation.

While Zynga still faces a number of near-term challenges and longer-term structural issues, our latest round of channel checks indicate some signs of stabilisation within its core Poker franchise and we note Hit It Rich! Casino Slots (developed by Spooky Cool) could very well be the company’s best new game launch on Facebook this calendar year.

Zynga’s decline in the social casino game sector is largely attributable to attrition in Zynga Poker (both Facebook and mobile version), which we estimate still accounts for nearly 80% of its social casino game business. Additionally, increased competition especially from companies with ties to the real-money gaming industry and a lack of traction with new social casino titles (i.e. Zynga Slots, Zynga Bingo), has also played a role. That being said, we are encouraged by two recent events 1) stabilisation in Zynga’s Poker franchise and 2) impressive user growth in Hit It Rich!Casino Slots.

In terms of Poker, DAUs for the Facebook version of Texas Hold’Em Poker are flat q/q and player stickiness (DAU/MAU ratio) has improved in Q4, indicating a more engaged and active user base. While the iOS version of Zynga Poker continues to show weakness the rate of decline also appears to be decelerating.

Reasons to be cheerful
Our checks indicate Hit It Rich!Casino Slots (developed by Spooky Cool) has got off to a strong start, despite fairly limited customer acquisition spend. Unlike Zynga Slots, we believe the mechanics and gameplay of Hit It Rich!Slots are much more aligned to  traditional land-based slot machines and real-money online casino games. We note these types of social casino apps have proven to be very successful as demonstrated by IGT/DoubleDown, WMS/Jackpot Party Casino, and High 5 Games/High 5 Casino, which are now among the top-grossing apps on Facebook. Additionally, we note Hit It Rich!incorporates a number of third party licenses such as Sex in the City, The Terminator, Wizard of Oz and Elvira.

We believe Joe Kaminkow (Spooky Cool founder), who is notorious for aggressively licensing third-party content for land-based casino slot machines likely played a major role in this strategy. While licensing content will negatively impact margins, it can also serve as a key differentiating factor and help in terms of discoverability, which is crucial in the highly competitive social casino game market. We suspect more and more publishers are going to be negotiating for third-party content in the coming months.

Hit it rich
In terms of revenue potential, we estimate Hit It Rich! could generate upwards of $5m in gross revenues on Facebook alone this quarter and could eventually exceed $10m/qtr if monetisation levels can be improved. Our checks indicate ARPU levels for Hit It Rich!still trail other well-known social casino apps such as DoubleDown, Jackpot Party, and High 5 Casino; however given the game play mechanics and Spooky Cool team (staffed with a number of ex real-money gaming executives from companies like IGT, Aristocrat, and WMS), we expect monetisation levels to improve.

While Zynga still has a long way to go before it catches up to the likes of IGT/DoubleDown and Caesars Interactive, we believe things are finally beginning to turnaround. Moreover, following a long string of bad M&A decisions (i.e. OMGPOP); Zynga’s acquisition of Spooky Cool in 2Q13 may turn into one of its best investments yet. All this has not been lost on this investment community either with shares trading near 52-week highs and up +46% in the last three months.

Zynga adds new branded themes to Hit It Rich!

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New Spooky Cool Labs-developed content includes Elvira, Mistress of the Dark and Sex and the City games

Social gaming company Zynga has announced the addition of new branded slots themes to its recently launched social casino title Hit It Rich!.

New themes added to the app include Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, with plans to release Duck Dynasty and Sex and the City themed games in November to join current branded content such as The Wizard of Oz and The Terminator.

Zynga launched the Spooky Cool Labs-developed Hit It Rich! app in September and was the first release since it acquired the game studio last year.

“Hit It Rich! is a new kind of online social casino experience that blends iconic entertainment with the excitement of slots game-play to deliver players the most fun and engaging casino games,” Joe Kaminkow, chief game designer of Hit It Rich!, said.

Zynga’s latest slots game is currently only available on Facebook but the San Francisco-based company has outlined plans to release the game on mobile devices in the near future.

The new additions to its social casino game come just days after Zynga released its third quarter financial results which showed it had beaten market expectations after reducing its net losses to US$68,000. However, revenues continued to slide after falling 36% year-on-year from $317m to $203m in Q3 2013, and MAU declined 57% year-on-year to 97 million.

In addition to releasing its Q3 2013 results, Zynga announced the appointment of Clive Downie as its new chief operating officer following the departure of David Ko in August.

Analysis: Can Zynga return to growth?

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CEO Mattrick predicts profitable 2013 and says growth will return next year

After Zynga released its third quarter 2013 financials last week, a brief skim through the results would suggest a company that had a successful three months. The social gaming firm certainly had reasons to be cheerful, with the most impressive news being a substantial fall in GAAP net losses from $52.7m in Q3 2012 to $68,000 in Q3 2013.

It was also able to boast beating market, as well as its own, expectations on certain financial indicators. Analysts had predicted revenues of $190m but the numbers only fell 36% year-on-year from $317m to $203m. Adjusted EBITDA also declined from $16m in Q3 2012 to $7m, but beat a guidance range of negative $30m.

But while Zynga may have exceeded the expectations of investors, and not announced any further job losses, the fact that these results were treated with such positivity shows just how far the company has fallen in recent times.

This, after all, is the company which saw revenues fall substantially from $311m in Q4 2012 to $264 million back in Q1 of this year. In 2013, just becoming profitable once more is the real goal. Chief executive Don Mattrick said he expected the company to return to profit by the end of the year and would soon return to growth.

“I am confident that Zynga is rewiring itself in a meaningful way that will strengthen the core of our business and put us back on track to achieve significant long term growth and profits,” he said.

Mattrick went on to say that the company was poised for growth as early as 2014. But with a shrinking customer base and revenues continuing to fall, where is this growth going to come from?

Shortly before releasing its results, Zynga announced it had appointed Clive Downie to take up the position of chief operating officer. Looking at Downie’s CV, the reasons for his appointment appear quite obvious as Zynga’s difficulty with transitioning to the stronger monetising platform, mobile, is no secret and Downie has a wealth of experience in this area.

He joins from Tokyo-based mobile software company DeNA where he led its American and European operations and will have been pleased to see mobile bookings only fell from $50m to $46m quarter-on-quarter, exceeding earlier market predictions.

But one of Zynga’s main problems lies in its rapidly declining customer base. DAU fell 49% year-on-year to 30 million (web DAU fell 7 million quarter-on-quarter to 16 million, mobile DAU by 2 million to 14 million) and MAU decreased 29% quarter-on-quarter and 57% year-on-year to 133 million.

Zynga is still licking its wounds from its over-reliance on Facebook, with a change in the social network’s algorithms thought to be a big factor in the fall in player numbers. Compare this to King which launched an incredibly addictive game with cross-platform features on Facebook and shortly followed by a launch on mobile devices, and it looks as if Zynga finds itself continuing to play catch-up with its competitors.

However, the San Francisco-based company has gone on the front foot since Mattrick took the reigns and launched two new games in Q3 2013: Hit It Rich! Slots on the web and CastleVille Legends on mobile. Initial reaction to Hit It Rich! has been particularly positive due to its strong user growth on Facebook with limited marketing spend and a planned release of the game on mobile in the near future.

But Zynga is still falling behind in the race. According to boutique research firm Eilers Research, it is now only the third largest social casino company after a strong performance from DoubleDown boosted IGT into second place following a 5% revenue increase in Q3. In comparison, Zynga recorded double-digit revenue decline with its Texas Hold’Em Poker product losing more market share.

And despite some promising signs for mobile and its new games, Zynga is currently still far too focused on Facebook and is over reliant on its two flagship products Farmville and Zynga Poker. Until it gets mobile right and develops new unique products which attract new players, the game publisher will continue to face an uphill battle to really turn things around.

Zynga launches first Spooky Cool Labs app

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Hit It Rich! app is Zynga’s first since announcing plans to focus on free-to-play games

Zynga has released a new Spooky Cool Labs-developed social casino app on Facebook, the first since it acquired the game studio three months ago.

Hit it Rich! Casino Slots, which includes games based on The Wizard of Oz and comic strips Beetle Bailey and Blondie, is currently in beta testing on the social network  and the game developer has plans to roll it out on to mobile in the near future.

According to AppData, Hit it Rich! currently ranks as the 519th and 943rd most popular app by DAU and MAU respectively. The launch follows the recent announcement that Zynga was no longer seeking to obtain a US real-money gaming licence, but would instead focus its attention on free-to-play and social casino games.

“Our commitment to free-to-play, social casino is the reason that we acquired Spooky Cool in Q2, a developer of free to play social slots games,” former Zynga COO David Ko said after the announcement. “We will continue to evaluate all of our priorities against the growing market opportunity in free social gaming including the social casino offerings.”

Game studio Spooky Cool Labs, founded by Aristocrat’s senior vice president of game design Joe Kaminkow, was acquired by Zynga in June for $18m. The buy-out was described at the time by Barry Cottle, Zynga’s chief revenue officer, as aimed at “widening [its] social casino offerings”.