Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA)


So a creature-catching game app is gluing 21 million Americans to their smartphones daily — beating the 2013 record of Facebook’s candy-matching sensation — to be dubbed as the “biggest mobile game in the U.S.” within only a week from its launch. App stores trackers also claim the new game broke the record as the most installed app on Android smartphones while iPhone users are spending more time on it than on popular social media sites.

The story reminds of FarmVille, the most popular Facebook game from 2009 to 2011 with 10 million daily active users within six weeks of its debut. The farming simulation game may be down the game app ranking today but there is no lost glory for its maker, Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA). More than a billion people have played Zynga games online and on mobile devices, including FarmVilleZynga PokerWords With FriendsHit it Rich! Slots and CSR Racing. The games are as exciting to the San Francisco-based company for driving revenue generation.


More mobile game subscriptions


Zynga’s turnaround is underway, according to CEO and director Frank D. Gibeau.

Zynga shares had risen 23 percent for eight consecutive trading days and hitt a new 52-week high on July 8. The rally was fuelled by the rollout of CSR Racing 2 (CSR2) and game bookings that reached $182 million in the first quarter, up 54 percent from last year and up 5 percent sequentially.

Mobile subscriptions now represent 76 percent of total subscriptions with Apple becoming its largest platform, surpassing Facebook bookings. Mobile audience grew 7 percent sequentially. Words With Friends recorded its highest Q1 bookings performance in six years. Mobile bookings for the Scrabble-inspired game rose 60 percent year-over-year.

CSR2 sped onto mobile screens in June together with Match-3 adventure Ice Age: Arctic Blast, which was inspired by the movie of the same title. Puzzle game Wizard of Oz: Magic Match, Spin It Rich! Slots and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Slots were launched in May. The games are downloadable for free on the App Store for iPhone and iPad,  Google Play for Android devices, the Amazon Appstore for Kindle devices and Facebook..

Zynga is building momentum in its mobile foray as Gibeau knows there is more room to grow in that platform.


Focus on quality games


Zynga is building a world-class studio and bringing in additional creative developers. Gibeau is leading the teams of developers to deliver high-quality experience to gamers. He wants them to produce game designs and systems that keep players engaged for a very long time so Zynga can hold on to them.

The strategy is valid. Sustainable games “don’t get into the charts and then fall out, but actually get into the charts and stick,” said Gibeau in the May earnings call.

Competition in the $100-billion global games market is challenging with around 400,000 new mobile games released every year, according to Gibeau. But out of that number, only 100 matter of which 20 have long-term retention and engaging relationship with the player. He said the top 20 games in the world chart give players different things to do over long periods of sessions.

Gibeau not only knows his game. He plays it well, too.