Between now and the end of the year, I will boldly make a series of predictions that will impact the world of casual games and everyday gamers.
Today’s crazy prediction: Zynga will launch Zynga Live by February 6 and announce it with a commercial during the Super Bowl.
Why I’m right about this: There is no doubt in my mind that Zynga is working on their own social games network right now. You don’t have 1200 members on staff and sign a lease for a new office building in San Francisco to accommodate 2000 employees if they are all going to be working on FarmVille.
It’s not a question of if Zynga will launch Zynga Live, it’s a matter of when. With a long term deal signed with Facebook, Zynga bought themselves time to work on Zynga Live and in the meantime, add in hooks in their current games to collect email addresses and encourage gamers to hand over their personal information to Zynga though lottery tickets, toolbars, and the like.
So when will it be? If it was me and money was no object, I’d go after the biggest bang for the buck possible. And the biggest stage for brands globally is the Super Bowl.
Buying an ad during the Super Bowl is not cheap, $1 million+ for 30 seconds. But, Zynga makes that much money in a day so they have money to spend. And, when you consider all the free promotion Zynga would get with a Super Bowl spot, the price tag ends up being relatively cheap.
Imagine this: Zynga buys an ad during the Super Bowl announcing the launch of Zynga launch. They hire a spokesperson like Betty White instead of Snoop Dog to introduce their new, friendlier, and more trustworthy brand to the American public. Finally, they promote a free virtual item offer exclusively through the commercial to try out the new Zynga Live service.
As the first social games company to buy a Super Bowl ad, Zynga will get millions of dollars in free press. Moreover, if they do a free offer tied to the game that get redeemed by millions, that story will get picked up by the media as well after the commercial airs.
Zynga’s big issue now is dependence on Facebook and a negative brand among some game players. A fun, friendly, and free game offering would be both a direct marketing and branding win for the company.
Why I may be wrong? It ain’t easy building Zynga Live. If service is not ready in time, buying ad time during the Super Bowl may be risky. It’d be a branding issue if a Super Bowl ad crashed the service. A way around that is to release Zynga Live in beta beforehand and then do the official release around a Super Bowl ad.
Another reason they may not do this is because it may be too traditional an idea for their marketing team. Zynga marketers are brilliant when it comes to viral marketing and creating street buzz. I’m honestly impressed by their viral chops. But they don’t get brand marketing, yet.
If there is one thing that watching Mad Men has taught me, it is that brand marketing still matters. It may not be as “hip” as hiring Snoop Dog to blow up a van, but a traditional branding campaign would be revolutionary in the casual and social games space. There is no bigger showcase in the world for a brand marketing campaign than the Super Bowl.
For that reason, I believe my prediction will be correct. If you see a Zynga ad during the Super Bowl, remember you read it first here on Gamezebo!