Zynga on the post-IDFA value of hypercasual mobile games

President of publishing Bernard Kim on market dynamics

Zynga on the post-IDFA value of hypercasual mobile games

What does a company that's spent $2 billion on M&A during the past two months do next?

It's an interesting question to ask Zynga, which - post its Peak and Rollic deals - remains figuratively and corporately in rude health.

Its stock price is up 60 percent from its early Covid nadir, and despite its switch to working-from-home, morale and productivity remain high.

Indeed, the final months of 2020 would appear to be even busier as Zynga prepares for the release of high profile games ranging from Harry Potter: Puzzles and Spells to the much anticipated FarmVille 3.

Its untitled Star Wars game also remains in development, due sometime in 2021 or 2022.

"We have a nice blend of titles in the works," agrees Zynga’s president of publishing Bernard Kim.

"Pre-registration for Harry Potter is now live and FarmVille 3 is doing well in soft launch.

"It's a game we need to get right. FarmVille is core to how many people still think about Zynga."

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It's a smart point to make about a game that was originally released in June 2009, kickstarting the entire social gaming phenomenon as players spammed their Facebook friends with in-game requests.

FarmVille's continued success was the launchpad for Zynga's IPO in late 2011 as well, despite Facebook having then already drastically reduced the ability of games and apps to grow through free viral sharing as opposed to paid advertising.

The long term result was that driven by highly targeted advertising revenue, Facebook has become a $750 billion market cap company, while Zynga's shares remain underwater; below its $10 IPO price.

That looks like it could be about to change, although at this stage of Zynga's recovery, it would be more of a symbolic than substantive transition.

The company's turnaround under CEO Frank Gibeau and other executives who, like Kim, cut their teeth at EA, has been underway since 2017, accelerating in 2020 thanks more to these deep roots than the Covid-19 stock bull-run.

In that context, the purchase of Peak and its two hit match-three games - Toon Blast and Toy Blast - and hypercasual outfit Rollic is a continuation of Zynga's existing aggressive strategy of building growth through accretive and synergistic acquisition.

We think that the mass audiences for hypercasual games will be less impacted by the changes arising from IDFA
Bernard Kim

"We've been analysing how the hypercasual genre is evolving and think it has a strong future," Kim says, of the Rollic deal.

"For example, Rollic's top games have IAPs, but we understand how our games perform in terms in-game advertising, and we believe we can help Rollic to monetise its games better as part of Zynga."

Kim also says that while changes to ad network efficiency such as Apple's new approach to its IDFA standard weren't a primary factor for the Rollic acquisition, having access to a large community of players for cross-promotion campaigns is now more valuable.

"There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty about what's going to happen with less player attribution," he comments.

"But we think that the mass audiences for hypercasual games will be less impacted by the changes arising from IDFA."

More generally, though, Kim says the mobile games sector is always changing, so Zynga's ability to connect to various large scale audiences using different business models means it's not reliant on just one way of making money.

"Fundamentally we want to be where the players are," he says.

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.