June 26, 2012 at 6:50 PM ET
Thecompany behind "FarmVille," revealed Tuesday thata sequel to its enormously popular Facebook game is in the works andthat it is creating a social network of its very own to bring gamers together.
In San Francisco during an event at Zynga's headquarters, the company unveiled a host of new games and also took the wraps off its Zynga With Friends network, which it describes as "a unified experience that will connect all players on any platform."
The event comes at a time when the company's stock has slid well below its December 2011 $10 IPO price and as its Facebook user numbers have been declining.
But during Tuesday's "Zynga Unleashed" event, Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga, said the company would show off "the products and technology that represent the next generation of Zynga."
"Our pipeline of new games represents more genres of play that expand our audience, more mobile ways to play and more dimensions of play that will deliver the next generation of fun and social," he said.
The most important news from Tuesday's event was Zynga's revelation that it is trying to spread its wings and fly the Facebook coop — to a degree. Zynga said it is working on its own Zynga With Friends network — an attempt to bring all its players together under one umbrella, as well as reduce its dependence on the social network behemoth.
The company said the Zynga With Friends network will connect gamers playing on Facebook, iOS, Android, Zynga.com and elsewhere. It's not clear when the network will officially launch, but officials said Zynga with Friends will include a virtual lobby where you can see what your friends are playing, the ability to live chat with other players, the ability to go head-to-head in multiplayer matches, and a live "Social Stream" where you can get access items you need to advance your games.
New social network or not, the San Francisco company is still well tied to Facebook — the place where hits like "FarmVille," "Texas HoldEm Poker" and "Mafia Wars" have taken off ... and where most people and players reside. Meanwhile, Zynga announced that it is bringing a variety of new games to Facebook.
Zynga didn't reveal much about "FarmVille 2" other than to say it was "coming soon." But it is big news, considering that the first "FarmVille" launched back in 2009 and skyrocketed to popularity on Facebook. With age, however, it has bled users. According to AppData, it currently boasts 21.7 million monthly active users, down from some 60 million monthly active users at its peak.
On the heels of "FarmVille's" success, Zynga has kept a fresh flow of "Ville"-themed games coming — i.e. "CityVille" and "CastleVille." And on Tuesday the company outlined two more games coming to the franchise. One is called simply "The Ville," and the other is called "ChefVille."
Zynga calls "The Ville" its "most social game to-date." According to a press release, "The Ville" will have players build the (virtual) home of their dreams. The release explains: "The more people you interact with the more happiness you obtain in the game. As you level up in the game you unlock new objects for your home, and by building relationships with other avatars you unlock new interactions."
That probably sounds familiar to anyone who has played one of the games from Electronic Arts' long-running "Sims" franchise. But we'll see for sure Wednesday, when "The Ville" launches on Facebook (it's also coming "soon" to Zynga.com).
Meanwhile, in "ChefVille" players will create personalized kitchens and cook up a variety of dishes (pizza, steak Florentine, orange chicken, etc.). When you master a virtual dish, you'll be sent an email containing the recipe so you can cook it in your real-world kitchen. Zynga says "ChefVille" is coming soon to both Facebook and Zynga.com.
But the Ville franchise wasn't the only one to get new games. Zynga also announced that its fifth game in the "With Friends" series (think "Words with Friends") has launched on iOS devices today. The latest game is called "Matching With Friends," and is a social puzzle game in which players match color blocks on a game board (see trailer above).
Unfortunately for Zynga, the Unleashed event did not unleash a stock rally for the company. Zynga shares closed 5 percent lower on Tuesday.
Winda Benedetti writes about video games for msnbc.com. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti and you follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.