Zynga, the company behind Farmville and Words With Friends, is planning to launch three new versions of popular games in March — a move that could hit the “reset” button on the company’s recent struggles.
Two games, Zynga Poker and Words With Friends, will be getting major updates, while the company’s bread-and-butter, FarmVille, will finally get a proper iOS and Android release with FarmVille 2: Country Escape.
(A previous attempt to port the Facebook game to the iPhone was scrapped after it was released in 2010. This is the first FarmVille game designed specifically for mobile.)
Back in 2009, FarmVille became a cash cow for Zynga, with Facebook users spending real money for virtual goods. Other browser-based games like Mafia Wars the soon-to-be-shuttered YoVille also became hits for the company.
Recently, however, the trend away from social media games towards mobile games had investors questioning whether Zynga was moving in the right direction.
The latest move from chief executive Don Mattrick, who moved to Zynga seven months ago from Microsoft’s Xbox division, indicates that mobile games will be a priority for Zynga in the future.
FarmVille already has stiff competition. Supercell, the Finnish company behind the popular Clash of Clans strategy game, already has a mobile farming hit in Hay Day. FarmVille 2: Country Escape will try to capitalize on the game's popularity on Facebook by letting people transfer resources between their web and mobile farms. It will also be playable offline, a first for the franchise.
“I hope these games will show you that Zynga is more committed than ever to testing, listening and evolving our games – brand new and enduring – as a result of your feedback,” Zynga COO Clive Downie wrote in a statement on Monday.
If all else fails, Zynga could just do what it always does: buy mobile games that are already popular. The company has already acquired 20 studios in its brief existence, including Words With Friends creator Newtoy in 2011 for $53.3 million, and OMGPOP, maker of the ill-fated Draw Something, in 2012 for $180 million.