How Can Zynga Expand Its Horizons?

How Can Zynga Expand Its Horizons?

It looks like Zynga’s getting a little tired of milking cows, and looking to find ways to do the same with new video game franchises. The creator behind the FarmVille Facebook phenomenon is opening a new studio in L.A. in hopes of mining the vein of digital talent that resides in the area. After all, rumor has it that this new Zynga studio won’t be improving on the nuances of FarmVille; instead, it will roll whole new ideas and products that may well be distant from the realm of the profit-hog that is social gaming, and Facebook in particular.

The thing is, Zynga has built up its success and reputation around Facebook and hit social games like Mafia Wars and FrontierVille. Love them or hate them, everybody knows Zynga and what it does. How might it inch away from its reputation as “That annoying company that makes all my friends send me all their damn lost cows?”

Opening a studio dedicated to fresh new projects is a good start. In fact, Zynga might choose to publish a game for retail. After all, Zynga has been cited (and blamed) as one of the primary catalysts in the recent push for online social gaming. It would be interesting to gauge the industry’s reaction–and to see what Zynga is capable of when it’s pressured to get a game perfect the first time instead of applying the constant upgrades and fixes that Facebook affords.

It’s a little more realistic to assume that if Zynga does in fact break away from Facebook, it can take social gaming to PlayStation Network, WiiWare, Xbox Live Arcade, or Steam. If Zynga wants to make a quick profit, it might even decide to re-launch its best-known games as console-based downloadables. If it wants to expand its image, however, it should consider a fresh new start in every regard.

That’s not to say Zynga has to kill and bury FarmVille (it never would). But FrontierVille proved that Zynga is capable of expanding upon a fruitful idea. There are lots of opportunities to make the world of FarmVille your very own; FrontierVille amplifies that considerably with structure-building, bear-fighting, and the always popular art of family-making. What will Zynga’s next big hit be?

It could strike oil if it decided to experiment with an MMORPG. Mafia Wars proves that the company isn’t entirely about harvesting your neighbor’s corn. What if Zynga tried something a little gritty, a little realistic on a downloadable service? Something that would let players gather their friends online for a fight against a monster–or each other?

Zynga has proven over and over that it knows how to get people to simultaneously cooperate and compete. If it’s really seeking to get away from its niche, it might not be long before people can refer to the company without automatically thinking about doe-eyed wandering cows.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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