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Zynga's De Loayza Talks Facebook Saturation, Clones

Zynga's De Loayza Talks Facebook Saturation, Clones

November 4, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

November 4, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander
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The social gaming space is shaping up to be the industry's most major growth area in 2009, and Zynga is one of the space's frontrunners, operating some of the most popular games on Facebook.

Viral game mechanics that leverage the functionality of social networks are what drive the success of games like Zynga's FarmVille, Cafe World and Mafia Wars, which are currently the top three Facebook games for monthly active users. Cafe World alone has reached 28 million active users, 3 million of those in its first six days.

But the prevalence of social, viral games -- many of them thematically and functionally similar -- has industry-watchers concerned about market saturation. In today's Gamasutra feature, Zynga business development VP Hugh de Loayza addresses the issue.

"I'm sure that the audience reaches some degree of saturation. We all do, if we're spending a lot of time on there," he explains. "The trick for us is understanding new mechanisms that will inspire them to do that. It's also about good gameplay, right? That is a part of the gameplay, but it's also about building experiences that they want to share with others through the communication channels."

Companies like Zynga rival Playfish often criticize automatic-invite games that force users to send invitations and notifications to their friends, sometimes without prompting for consent.

When asked about this, De Loayza says user response speaks for itself."If 18 million people are playing FarmVille, it's a game that they want to share with their friends, and it's an experience that they want to provide," he says. "There are other opportunities for farm games, including [Playfish's] Country Story. It's a good experience."

In fact, Facebook gaming has solidified its own genres of gaming -- the "farm genre" among them. Many rival companies have similar but competing products, as with FarmVille versus Country Story. Given that these kinds of games are becoming so visible and so viral, is the similarity a problem?

"Our games are pretty distinctively different from the traditional Asian farm games. A shooter is a shooter, so a harvest mechanic is a harvest mechanic," De Loayza suggests. "But the story you wrap around it is different. The other thing to pay attention to is that you've got a service that you're running."

"The value is in that service, for the users," he continues. "If it's something that's constantly changing, you're in the same sandbox, but at the same time, it's a widely different experience all the time. It's the difference between Half-Life, which is basically a shooter, to Combat Arms, or whatever. It's the same shooting mechanism, it's just different services around it."

The full Gamasutra feature offers a thorough perspective from De Loayza on the burgeoning social gaming space and Zynga's position therein.

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