FarmVille may have put Zynga (Nasdaq: ZNGA ) on the map, but it's time for a little Farm Aid.
The social gaming leader introduced FarmVille 2 on Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) yesterday.
It's a slick upgrade.
The graphics are richer with smooth 3-D animated characters. After kicking the tires through the introductory level I find it more engaging than the original. The big question -- for both Zynga and Facebook, which relies on Zynga's success for a sizable chunk of its non-advertising revenue -- is if gamers will put up with the relocation.
Zynga has learned that gamers can be fickle. Unlike Hollywood where sequels are as close to a slam dunk, there are no certainties in social gaming. Zynga thought that Mafia Wars players would love Mafia Wars 2. They didn't.
Mafia Wars 2 now has 460,000 active players. That may seem like a lot, but it's not. Stacking up Mafia Wars 2 to Zynga's larger games on Facebook shows FarmVille, CityVille, and Hidden Chronicles having 19 million, 18.6 million and 10.7 million players respectively. For comparison's sake, Electronic Arts' (Nasdaq: EA ) The Sims Social has 14.3 million monthly players on Facebook.
Yes, these games have more players than Activision Blizzard's (Nasdaq: ATVI ) World of Warcraft, but it's an entirely different business model.
Activision Blizzard make a ton of dough off software sales, subscriptions, and virtual items. In the free-to-play realm of social gaming, monetization basically comes down to selling virtual goodies that make the game easier and more enjoyable.
Zynga isn't going to abandon the original farmstead. FarmVille and FarmVille 2 will coexist, and investors may want to check up on Facebook from time to time to see how the active monthly users for both titles are holding up. As long as the sum of both games is above 20 million, the decision to upgrade the franchise will likely be a success.
Zynga and Facebook investors can use the hit, given the way that their respective stocks have cratered since going public.
It all starts with clearing the land and planting a seed.
Fox and the hound
It seems as if everybody wants to be Zynga, even though the social gaming pioneer appears to be unloved at the moment. A new premium report is available detailing Zynga's challenges and opportunities. Want more? The report includes a free year of updates. Check it out now.