We’ve been hearing a ton of news lately, even on Fox News, about the potential for Zynga to leave Facebook and start its own site. Zynga would have good reason to do so, as their business is right now 100% dependent on Facebook’s application platform. For instance, if Facebook starts to charge mega-sized applications to live on Facebook, Zynga would incur a massive fee overnight. However, thinking about the problem always leads me to ask whether it’s even possible for Zynga to physically remove itself from Facebook.
The big issue here is that all of Zynga’s games are completely dependent on Facebook User IDs as the main registration point for their games. If they planned to take all their games off of Facebook onto “Zynga Live”, they would likely have to ask each of their users to sign in with Facebook and then create a new Zynga Live account. They could then ask those players to continue playing with their Zynga Live account. This raises a series of problems.
The first problem is that it’s probably a textbook definition of ‘poor user experience’. There is a large contingent of Zynga players on Facebook that probably don’t even really distinguish it as a “Zynga” game, and just enjoy jumping over to Farmville because they see it in their news feed. These players are used to a simple experience and are not going to take kindly to having to create a new account at some remote site just to play the game.
The second problem is the lack of trust. Related to the first point, many users trust the game because it lives on Facebook. Zuckerberg states often that his network is based on trust, and that certainly applies to the people who play games within the safe area of Facebook. A lot of these players aren’t looking to join gaming sites, they just want to play games as a distraction and enjoy clicking over to the application from within their home page news feed.
The third problem here is of course all the viral features and exposure that Zynga will lose. How are they supposed to continue growth without millions of players posting Farmville updates on their wall? I can’t imagine that Zynga actually believes that the social and viral Facebook engines that powered them to success can be easily replicated on their own site. Facebook has a lot to offer that keeps people clicking and checking their news feeds: it isn’t just the social features that make Facebook great, it’s the social features in the context of my huge social graph.
In any case, we’ll see how/if this Zynga Live service pans out. And if it does, I have serious doubts that it won’t use Facebook anyway.