BY TRILBY BERESFORD | HollywoodReporter.Com
The mobile gaming giant’s CEO Frank Gibeau tells The Hollywood Reporter that the company saw a drop in audience from some of the most recent players who joined as COVID-19 restrictions began to be lifted this year.
Mobile gaming company Zynga reported $720 million in revenue for the second quarter of 2021, up from $680 million in the prior quarter.
Growth was driven by performances from franchises including Words With Friends — which was recently updated with new Solo Challenge content — and the casino-themed Zynga Poker; along with hypercasual games in Rollic’s portfolio.
“Zynga really wrapped up a pretty strong first half of the year,” the company’s CEO Frank Gibeau tells The Hollywood Reporter. Pointing to specific trends in the period, Gibeau brings attention to some shifts in audience numbers. “In late May and early July, as COVID restrictions lifted and people were starting to be able to go out, what we started to see was a drop in audience from some of the most recent players that joined. He clarifies that core players, and those who joined early on in the COVID-19 pandemic are still playing regularly.
“Some of the folks that came around to it towards the beginning of 2021 — as soon as the great reopening happened — we started to see that they were playing less. That put a little bit of choppiness in our audience numbers.” Gibeau goes on to say that Zynga is still up 23 percent over last year with high levels of engagement, and user trends are improving going into the month of August.
Games such as Hair Challenge, which features among the hypercasual portfolio — mainly accessible titles that are easy and quick to play — of the Zynga-acquired Turkish developer Rollic, also drove high growth. Gibeau notes that Rollic hit a billion installs this quarter, with “fun, whimsical” games that players can easily pop in and out of, including High Heels.
“Before we bought Rollic, we were nowhere in the hypercasual business,” Gibeau explains, adding that now, Zynga is the fastest growing hypercasual game company in the world. “It’s great because it really drives massive monthly active users,” he says, noting that a lot of players play an assortment of games beyond the hypercasual genre.
A very recent acquisition of Zynga includes Chartboost, which is a San Francisco-based advertising platform. “One of the things that makes Zynga valuable and successful is our publishing platform; we can take a mobile game from a studio and we can really generate huge audiences [and] scale it. Part of that is the advertising business model.” He notes that Zynga saw an opportunity with Chartboost to gain more leverage and control on this side of the business.
Zynga also acquired Starlark, based in Beijing — home to high-end, free to play games — which makes Golf Rival. Gibeau describes the title as a social, player-based game, akin to fantasy golf, where golf is played volcanoes and on horses, with a host of unique characters. “We think that they’re going to be a great addition to our studio,” Gibeau says, of the deal announced Thursday that is worth over $500 million.
The company is in active development in multiple games, including Star Wars: Hunters, which is currently in testing status. “We’re going to add some features and modes, because we think the potential for the title is really high,” says Gibeau. The game will be launching on iOs, Android and Nintendo Switch upon its launch. Gibeau emphasizes that Zynga is committed to cross-platform play across mobile, consoles and PC, as one of its core growth strategies alongside hypercasual, new games, international expansion and more.
Additional upcoming releases include the simulation game Farmville 3, which will drop in Q4. CityVille is in active development for release later in 2022, with several more games that are unannounced in the pipeline.
“We live in unprecedented times with different variants and grand re-openings, we’re doing our best to navigate a dynamic marketplace,” says Gibeau, adding that the Zynga teams are still in work-from-home mode and will be until things settle further amid the pandemic.
The San Francisco-based company also includes forever franchise CSR Racing 2 and Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells in its portfolio. Another recent acquisition from last year includes Turkish developers Peak, known for puzzle games Toy Blast and Toon Blast.
Zynga was founded in 2007 and maintains headquarters in the U.S., with offices in Canada, Ireland, India, Turkey and Finland.
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