Zynga’s new CEO is confident that he can get the company into the mobile future, or at the very least, to the present. But what mobile gamers can expect first are some offerings very much rooted in past successes.
Former Xbox chief and EA executive Don Mattrick is that CEO, and he’s ready to face Wall Street types today for the first time. He also gave an exclusive interview to the San Francisco Chronicle that detailed what the company has up its sleeve over the next few months as it finally launches a concentrated assault on the mobile market after floundering in its efforts for quite some time.
Initially, Zynga is banking on a long overdue mobile-first FarmVille game called FarmVille 2: Country Escape. Unlike previous, half-hearted efforts to bring the brand to smartphones and tablets, this one is a full-featured game that has the company saying all the right things. Most notably, it can be played offline, and it won’t require you to spam friends to advance (wait, can it really be FarmVille then?).
Mattrick acknowledges Zynga pretty much ceded the mobile farming crowd to Supercell’s Hay Day a while back. Noted video game analyst Michael Pachter seems to think they can still get it back, citing the continuing successes Zynga has had with Words With Friends and Zynga Poker. Both of those titles are getting updates, including a rebuild of Poker in Unity.
For truly new ideas, we might have to wait to see what the NaturalMotion team is cooking up. Bought by Zynga in January, the studio that brought us CSR Racing should be given free rein to think a little more outside the box – particularly since one of the company’s previous acquisitions was responsible for Solstice Arena, possibly the least stereotypically Zynga game to date.
That’s meant as a compliment, by the way. It would be a mistake to ever underestimate the mobile/social crowd’s appetite for farming, but even if Country Escape is a gem, Zynga can only mine that genre for so long. To convince everyone that the former giant is “back,” Mattrick and his team are going to have to eventually score big with something new, and he seems to know it.
“You’ve got to keep innovating,” he said to the Chronicle. We’ll see if he means it.