Today Zynga announced the acquisition of the Austin-based Challenge Games. Normally, news about one company gobbling up another isn't terribly exciting for the average consumer, but this purchase means that Zynga might soon be adding some interesting new games to its roster.
Specifically, the tongue-in-cheek Facebook game, Ponzi Inc. The tycoon game, which was released while Robert Madoff was still making headlines, puts you at the head of your own Ponzi scheme. You upgrade your office, perform jobs and get fellow players involved in your pyramid scheme so you can skim off their earnings. Ponzi, Inc. is easily one of the most underrated games on Facebook, so when a Zynga rep told me that the FarmVille publisher plans to give this original game some much-needed promotion, a celebratory fist-pump was in order.
Challenge Games also owns Facebook football game Gridiron Live. If you recall, Zynga launched a pigskin game called Football Wars then sidelined it later. That, plus the fact that there's mounting competition in the social sports game space from EA/Playfish and now ESPN/Playdom, getting a sports game up and running seems like a good move for the house that built FarmVille. There's also Warstorm a fantasy-themed card game, which will appeal to the Magic the Gathering set. Zynga just shut down its fantasy game Dragon Wars on MySpace, so this new acquisition might help fill the void left behind.
All three of these games will also be a great way for Zynga to reach out to a different kind of social gamer. If you look at the majority of Zynga games -- FarmVille, Cafe World, PetVille -- they all appeal to the casual gamer, a majority of which are female. A football game and a fantasy-themed card game just might be the ticket to getting a more diversified audience, which will be important as we see all big social games, even FarmVille, continue to lose players month over month.
But, back to Ponzi, the real reason to celebrate this corporate union. If you haven't played this Facebook game yet, I recommend you do so post-haste. It's the one pyramid scheme you won't mind getting mixed up with.
Play Ponzi Inc on Facebook >
See the official acquisition press release below:
Zynga Acquires Challenge Games
San Francisco – June 3, 2010 – Zynga today announced the acquisition of Austin-based social game company Challenge Games. Effective immediately, the Challenge Games office will become Zynga Austin, a game studio focused on product development. Today's announcement expands Zynga's studio operations adding to locations already in San Francisco, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Bangalore, and Beijing. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
"Austin is an ideal location to extend our studio operations with its rich talent in the games business," said Mike Verdu, senior vice president of Games at Zynga. "We look forward to building out our Zynga Austin studio with the best and brightest in the industry as we continue to bring social games to more users worldwide."
Challenge Games' Co-Founder CEO, Andrew Busey, will become Zynga's general manager and vice president of the Austin studio. The Challenge Games team of 35 employees will be immediately integrated into Zynga's workforce.
Challenge Games, backed by Sequoia Capital and Globespan Capital Partners, launched in 2007 to focus on immersive Web game development built on a virtual goods business model. Two of the company's most popular games, Warstorm, a collectible card game set in a fantasy universe, and Ponzi, a tycoon game, will be further developed by the Zynga team.
Today's acquisition along with Zynga's recently announced partnerships with Facebook and Yahoo! continues to extend the company's footprint worldwide, creating more opportunities for Zynga to connect the world through games. Recently, the company announced a promotion with 7-Eleven where stores across the United States and Canada are offering special promotional game gifts with Slurpees® and other items.
Zynga has over 230 million monthly active users playing its games. These games include FarmVille, Treasure Isle, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Café World, FishVille and PetVille. Zynga games are available on Facebook, MySpace and the iPhone. Through Zynga.org, Zynga players have raised over $3 million for world social causes. Zynga is headquartered in Potrero Hill in San Francisco. For more information, visit www.Zynga.com or www.Zynga.org.