BUSINESS

Zynga’s success has UK game developers King.com dreaming of IPO payday

TAGs: 50 cent, Game Show Network, king.com, social games, Winster Inc, Zynga

king-com-social-gameAdding weight to IBISWorld’s recent claim that social game development is the seventh fastest-growing industry in the US, rapper 50 Cent is teaming up with the Game Show Network ‘s interactive offshoot on a social blackjack game for Facebook. The (ahem) imaginatively titled 50 Cent’s Blackjack marks the hip hop icon’s first foray into the social gaming sector. GSN Digital says a mobile version is expected to debut in coming months.

British social gaming firm King.com actually predates Facebook but only made the move to the social network last year. Despite being late to the party, King.com recently passed Electronic Arts in terms of Facebook popularity. Market measuring service AppData now puts King.com’s 10.26m daily active users neck and neck with Berlin-based Wooga’s 10.17m. King.com’s top game Bubble Witch Saga now has more daily users than even Zynga’s signature game Farmville.

That said, Zynga still holds a commanding lead in terms of overall users, controlling twice as much market share than its next three competitors combined. But Zacconi told the Wall Street Journal that he was “not focused on passing Zynga. My target is to build a company that is leading in casual and social games.” If the distinction was lost on you, Zacconi apparently doesn’t include games like poker, blackjack and slots in his definition of social games.

Anyway, Gamebrief CEO Nicholas Lovell says it’s a moot point. “The Facebook battle has been won by Zynga. Mobile is the battleground of the future.” Zacconi told Reuters that King.com’s own mobile offering is readying on the launch pad. “It can be in a couple of weeks, it can be in three weeks. It’s close, quite close, but we launch the game when it’s ready. It’s launched when it’s perfect.”

There is one aspect of Zynga’s battle plan that King.com may be keen to imitate, in that Zacconi says King.com is contemplating its own initial public offering next year. “The market is changing very fast. There will be consolidation and we want to have a war chest. We are preparing the company.” Early investors Apax Partners and Index Ventures may also be seeking a long-awaited return on their investment. But nothing is certain, including whether or not King.com will participate in Zynga’s standalone platform. “Zynga is going from being a games developer, a competitor, to being a platform. There are many things we need to understand regarding this move.”

Just so long as Zacconi doesn’t dither too long on this issue. Social game outfit Winster Inc., which began life around the same time as King.com, has announced it will cease operations on May 31. Despite a base of 3m users, the company told SeattlePI.com that it simply lacks the resources to keep the lights on. Winster, whose games included Slot Social and Poker Pals, catered to a significantly older clientele than most social game outfits, dubbing itself ‘Club Penguin for older adults’. Guess Winster was the one unlucky bird in March of the Penguins that got eaten by that seal.

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