In a press release unleashed into the wild yesterday, Zynga head of platform partners Rob Dyer led the announcement that the social gaming giant will be flexing some of its (not inconsiderable) promotional muscle on behalf of partners using its growing Zynga.com platform.
Beginning with developer Row Sham Bow’s Woodland Heroes - which snagged a runner-up nod for our 2011 Facebook game of the year - Zynga will begin driving user traffic to third-party offerings by adding them to the “zBar,” previously reserved for directing eyeballs towards other Zynga IPs. In true “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” fashion, social gamers will also find the zBar sitting atop Woodland Heroes as well, helping complete the circle of life that is cross-promotion.
For his part, Dyer emphasized that the program is in its earliest seed stages, with this first pairing being used to “test promotions in ways that ensure the best experience for players and our partners.” Translation? See if it does as much for Zynga as it does for Row Sham Bow. With that said, if all goes according to plan, the company plans on rolling out an increasing suite of “traffic and revenue generating tools” for all their early partners.
With the big dog’s stock in a bit of a down-turn, it will be fascinating to see what type of effect partner promotion has on growth and diversification. On one hand, it’s a razor-sharp way for Zynga to leverage their already strong lead in the social space to entice developers on the fence into joining the “dark side.” As an indie struggling to find an audience in a crowded market, it’s hard to say no to a chance at millions in funnelled players - all with the added promise of a suite of tool’s meant to retain those players.
On the other side of the coin, however, Zynga’s been mum on exactly what these tools are, and is surely trying to rattle up mass support for the initiative to assuage investor concerns. If I were a developer, I’d wait to see feedback and statistics from the platform’s pilot partners before building my game with a revenue model of “get hosted on the Zynga platform.” What’s more, the idea of the company emerging as the gatekeeper to success in the social games space doesn’t exactly foreshadow... diversity in the types of games that will rise to the top.
In a dream world, it would be interesting to see independent developers band together to craft a browser and social promo network, giving game designers (and players) access to a wider spectrum of content. Opportunities like the one Zynga are offering are by no means negative for the industry - at least not until they’re the only opportunities.