Why CEO Frank Gibeau sees augmented reality as a key long-term opportunity for Zynga

No gimmickry. Just creative integrity

Why CEO Frank Gibeau sees augmented reality as a key long-term opportunity for Zynga

You might think adding an iOS-only augmented reality mode to your game is just the sort of quick gimmicky update any developer would crunch out to catch a bit of good old fashioned App Store lovin’.

That’s not the case when it comes to the augmented reality viewing mode in Zynga’s CSR Racing 2, however.

Admittedly, the mode is only currently available for ARKit-supporting iOS devices, but that’s because the Android equivalent ARCore isn’t yet released.

And Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau is definitely not keen on the ‘g’ word when it comes to AR.

“I don’t think AR is a gimmick,” he says.

Comfortable feeling uncomfortable

Having spent the majority of his career EA before becoming Zynga CEO back in March 2016, Gibeau is definitely an adherent of its philosophy that you have to ‘make platform transition your friend’.

And, when he considers the dynamic state of the mobile ecosystem, Gibeau sees plenty of technological disruption for Zynga to turn into opportunity.

Virtual truck in the real-world

“Mobile is experiencing constant innovation, so we have to consider whether something is a gimmick or whether it’s an opportunity for us to materially change our business,” he enthuses.

We’ll put AR into our games where it can generate creative integrity.
Frank Gibeau

The three areas Zynga is currently looking to innovate around are chat/messaging systems, 5G networks and AR.

“Players really like AR,” Gibeau says.

Blurred lines

In the case of the AR mode which has been added into CSR Racing 2’s garage mode, Gibeau argues augmented reality enhances the game’s underlying showroom mechanic of having a collection of beautiful cars that would be prohibitively expensive for most people in real-life.

“It feels natural and it’s fun to crawl around inside the cars,” he says, adding: “but this is just the beginning.”

Gibeau suggests more AR components, and perhaps even gameplay modes, could be added to CSR 2 in future.

“It’s important to give players the opportunity to do whatever they want with your game,” he says.

In the case of CSR 2’s AR garage mode, making it easy to visualise and socially share your in-game car collection in real-world locations in either full-size or in toy-scale is one part of this.

But the wider emphasis is how the mode encourages players to continue playing - and perhaps paying - to expand their garage and get their hands on some of those high-end supercars.

And it’s the ability of AR to supercharge this existing in-game psychology that Gibeau considers its strongest advantage. It’s a synergy that won’t be limited to CSR Racing 2 either.

“We’ll put AR into our games where it can generate creative integrity,” he explains.

He’s not adverse to the idea of Zynga releasing a dedicated AR game, either.

“The potential is there for one,” he says. “AR is a very long-term opportunity.”

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.