Zynga announced three new partners for its social games platform today at the Game Developers Conference, two of which come from the console games industry. A source with knowledge of the publishing agreements tells Inside Social Games that the revenue share for all Zynga partners is 70 percent of whatever is leftover after Facebook takes its 30 percent cut of Credits transactions.
Rob Dyer, head of publishing at Zynga, declined to comment publicly on the revenue split. He did say, however, “I want to provide a level playing field.”
That apparently extends beyond the money and into the game developer community. With the three new developers announced today — Playdemic, Konami and Rebellion — Zynga’s six partners represent both established social game developers and first-time indie developers. Dyer’s statement could also apply to game genres, as the Playdemic partnership brings Café World competitor Gourmet Ranch under Zynga’s umbrella.
“If I had my druthers, I would pick games that aren’t in genres Zynga develops,” Dyer admits. “If you look at Playdemic, they’re direct competitors — Gourmet Ranch and Crossword Buddies are [like] games we have in our wheelhouse. I purposely went after them to show people that we’re serious about publishing.”
Zynga’s nascent games platform, Zynga.com, faces a dual challenge: it must present a stable future to developers and investors, and it needs to update Zynga’s image as a money-hungry machine that clones games it can’t buy to out-perform the competition. Signing partners to its platform can address both needs, depending on the partners Zynga chooses. The first three developers announced for the platform — MobScience, Sava Transmedia and Row Sham Bow — are smaller studios with little to lose if Zynga decides to copy their games or change the revenue share split at a moment’s notice. Playdemic could also be put in that box, given the rough 2011 it had with publisher RockYou that started with an acquisition and ended with them being sold back to the founders.
Konami and Rebellion also make for strange bedfellows as both developers have little to no experience in social games. Konami at least has successful mobile social titles in Japan on both GREE and DeNA’s Mobage platform; in its Q2 FY2012 earnings report, the developer said social games revenues were nearly equal to its revenues from console video game sales, as reported by GameSpot. Two years ago, however, Konami had a rough experience in porting its Castlevania franchise to Facebook — that app appears to have been removed. Rebellion, meanwhile, hasn’t ever made a social game and its primary experience is in licensed intellectual property video games like Aliens vs. Predator and The Simpsons.
The Zynga.com platform currently hosts five of Zynga’s top-performing games — CastleVille, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles, Words With Friends and Zynga Poker — each of which runs synchronously on Facebook. All transactions on the platform are currently conducted in Facebook Credits, which takes a 30 percent transaction fee of in-game purchases. The key features of the platform include social discovery of potential “games only” friends, a games activity live ticker that speeds progression in collaborative gameplay, a chat window and a sort of leaderboard that tracks how many times a Zynga.com player answers other player requests in specific games.
Dyer tells us that platform partners are expected to provide consistent gameplay experiences between titles. Additionally, Zynga says it will provide analytics and back end technology to partners that provides scalability. Beyond Playdemic’s Gourmet Ranch and Crossword Buddies and Row Sham Bow’s Woodland Heroes, no other partner games have been announced.
As for when we can expect to see the games on Zynga.com, Dyer says, “When products are ready, they’re going to ship.”