Zynga hopes to change its image with a 3D mobile action game
Among the complaints analyst and investors have been lobbying at Zynga over the past year or so are two big ones: that it hasn't expanded its audience much beyond traditional social game players, and that it's behind the trend in transitioning away from the web and onto mobile devices.
The company that FarmVille built is hoping to alleviate both of these concerns with one big acquisition. On Friday, it announced that it acquired November Software, the Mill Valley-based developer formed in 2011 by console game developers from LucasArts and EA.
With the buyout, Zynga acquires not only November's talent, but also a high-performance cross-platform 3D engine (November claims it pushes 60 frames-per-second on mobile devices) and the first game to show it off: Battlestone, a free-to-play action game that is a much closer resemblance to a console game than something you'd traditionally see Zynga's name attached to.
Expanding social and free-to-play games to reach more traditional video game players is rapidly becoming an arms race for most companies in the space. In a blog post that says "mid-core" four times, November Software's Szymon Swistun said of the announcement that "We know that players, like us, love a good action combat game, so we want to push the limits on social and mobile games, and at the same time create an experience that fits around their schedule."
A trailer for November and Zynga's Battlestone, from its pre-Zynga days when it was called Golden Arrow.
The move comes at a crucial juncture for Zynga, which has been losing players at a rapid clip lately, causing a significant round of layoffs, studio closures, and its shares to dip to an all-time low.
"We didn't create enough new heat for our players by innovating on content and features," CEO Mark Pincus told investors during a conference call last month, explaining why its quarterly financials were below expectations.