Shares are down nearly 74% since its stock market debut. User engagement has dropped 53% in less than three years according to social game analytics firm dystillr. And its biggest bet -- the $183 million acquisition OMGPOP earlier this year -- proved a flop. But the company's biggest problem may simply be the games themselves.
Last year, I wrote about a serious addiction to the city simulation game CityVille, a lost month where I stole moments through the day -- even at work -- to virtually harvest crops, build businesses, and collect rent. I had become one of those obnoxious Facebook (FB) users who bombarded friends with notifications like "JP needs bird seed to feed pigeons!!"
The love affair was brief. Four weeks later, I felt like I had done all there was to do. In reality that wasn't really the case -- its team is always developing new missions -- but as a player, one who grew up playing traditional videogames, CityVille had become extremely repetitive and well, boring. After all, you can only harvest so many crops before you've had enough. And I wasn't alone in feeling that way. Over the last few months, I began to hear the same thing from people who briefly dug Zynga (ZNGA) properties but grew tired and moved on: The depth just wasn't there.
As many developers and gamers will tell you, that's an essential ingredient for a game's longevity. Some traditional games may offer you as little as 10 hours of gameplay before they're quickly exhausted; others will offer hundreds. Indeed, there are some games, like 2008's Grand Theft Auto IV that some will pick up years later. That's a testament to deep and satisfying gameplay. But with a game like CityVille the fun was fleeting.
Now, it's no surprise that Zynga is exploring what's being called "midcore" gaming, a category of gaming that promises more depth than your FarmVilles of the world, and one companies like Kixeye and Kabam have focused on from their outset. Last month, the company announced that it had acquired the midcore gaming startup, A Bit Lucky, all no doubt as part of its effort to seriously boost user engagement. Whether Zynga does that, and does so in time to raise its poorly performing stock, remains to be seen.
Much has been made of the working conditions at the surging game maker. So we spent the day at headquarters, working on CityVille.
FORTUNE -- For years, I've wanted to know what it's really like to work at one of the companies I write about. Silicon Valley, where the average software engineer pulls in $90,000 a year and where startup equity is doled out liberally, has been a bright spot in MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 13, 2012 12:32 PM ET
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"I'm no piracy king." -- Kim Dotcom, Megaupload's arrested founder. (3 News)
* Zynga (ZNGA) is launching Zynga.com (codenamed "Project Z"), an independent game-focuseed social network that will allow users to play games like CityVille, CastleVille, and Hidden Chronicles outside of Facebook. Also included: player profiles and live chat. See more here. (Zynga MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 2, 2012 8:38 AM ET
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* With just a 27% share of the U.S. search market, Reuters argues Microsoft should find a buyer for online search engine Bing. (Reuters via The New York Times)
* Google is revising its approach towards Google + users who for one reason or another don't use their full, real names MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 26, 2011 7:53 AM ET
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"If you invent frequently and are willing to fail, then you never get to that point where you really need to bet the whole company." - Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO (GeekWire)
* Bloomberg reports that Skype fired several high-ranking executives -- including vice presidents David Gurle, Christopher Dean, Russ Shaw, MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 20, 2011 6:30 AM ET
Why Zynga's casual gaming is minting money and hooking so many people -- including yours truly.
I'm taking a break.
Right about now, I take a few minutes to harvest crops, put up several small businesses, collect rent, and hire Facebook friends to work at community halls. That's because last month, I joined the legions on CityVille, the city-building simulation game from Zynga that annoys Facebook users with News Feed MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Mar 14, 2011 3:17 PM ET
Architect Yick Kai Chan once mapped out schools and banks. Now, Chan uses his skills for Zynga, to build CityVille's virtual communities one twee building at a time.
CityVille isn't just another city simulation game. As its 95 million monthly active users will attest, Zynga's latest ridiculously successful product for Facebook isn't just a hodge-podge of caricatured buildings or bobble-headed locals with emoticon bubbles -- it's an incubator for a self-sustaining MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Feb 28, 2011 1:17 PM ET
A curated selection of the weekend's most newsworthy tech stories from all over the Web.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop revealed over the weekend that Microsoft outbid Google and will pay Nokia "billions" for the right to have its recently-introduced Windows Phone 7 operating system run on the handset maker's devices. Elop also hinted the first Windows Phone 7 are likely to come out this year instead of next. (Computerworld)
CityVille-maker Zynga is in talks with MORE
Every day, the Fortune staff spends hours poring over tech stories, posts, and reviews from all over the Web to keep tabs on the companies that matter. We've assembled the day's most newsworthy bits below.
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