Data & Research

Why Zynga Poker’s success is the tail wagging the Zynga dog

Frank Gibeau on the road ahead

Why Zynga Poker’s success is the tail wagging the Zynga dog

It’s not the full story, but Zynga Poker’s performance over the past year is a pretty good mirror of what’s been going on at Zynga itself.

Almost ten years old, the game looked it like was in terminal decline, hitting a nadir of $23 million of quarterly bookings in late-2015.

Fast-forward 18 months, though, and Zynga Poker’s bookings are up 51 percent to $35 million, a level not seen since 2014.

Good news

Unsurprisingly Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau - who become chief executive 15 months ago - declares he’s “feeling really good”.

“The quarter was great. We beat all measures, but we’re far from done,” he adds.

And he’s right on all counts. Zynga posted FY17 Q1 revenue up 2 percent quarter-on-quarter to $194 million, while operating expenses dropped 15 percent.

Yet the company remains lost-making to the tune of $9 million, although that’s a lot better than the $35 million loss it posted three months ago.

It predicts another loss next quarter, but given - despite year-on-year sales growth - Zynga hasn’t been profitable for six quarters, that’s not a great shock.

Zynga Poker's resurrection underpins the wider Zynga rebound

Not quite an oil tanker, but turning around Zynga will take more time, and money, and what Gibeau says is a long term focus on live operations on the company’s existing games.

“Launching a new mobile game into the top 25 is really hard. Live ops is hard too but if you have a dollar to invest, re-engaging existing players is the place to spend it.”

This is demonstrated by Zynga Poker, where the addition of daily and weekly challenges, combined with smoother UX and an enhanced VIP program, has driven engagement and monetisation.

Rinse and repeat

And where Zynga Poker - and CSR Racing 2, which is now Zynga’s #2 top grossing game - go today, so will the rest of the portfolio tomorrow.

Gibeau says he hasn’t given up Dawn of Titans. Despite a slow start, he says he’s committed to improving it.

“You release a game and then you see what’s working,” he explains.

“We need to improve the PVP, Alliances, grow the elder game but we’re sticking with it. It’s just taking longer than CSR Racing 2.”

A similar approach has even been applied to the once-moribund FarmVille: Country Escape with strong results.

“We’re fixing the fundamentals,” Gibeau ends. With plenty more still to do, at least the foundations now appear to be firmly in place.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.