Struggling social gaming outfit Zynga is prepping the launch of real-money gambling games on Facebook in the UK. The company made the announcement Wednesday at the World Gaming Executive Summit (WGES) in Barcelona. Earlier this year, Zynga launched ZyngaPlus real-money gambling sites for both casino and poker games as part of its tie-up with pan-European online gambling operator Bwin.party digital entertainment, but this would mark the first time Zynga has offered the real-money option via Facebook, the social network on which Zynga built its reputation (and to which Paddy Power plans to add the joys of real-money social sports betting). The news failed to light a real-money fire under Zynga stock, which closed out Wednesday’s trading up a mere 1.5% to $3.39 (although the stock had dipped as low as $3.18 on Tuesday).
While no specific launch date was provided, VentureBeat reported that Zynga’s plan is to present UK Facebook members with options to switch from traditional virtual-play versions of its popular Zynga Poker and casino products to the real-money version. Choosing this option will transfer the player to a separate application based on Bwin.party’s UK-licensed online gambling product. While the real-money app will retain Zynga’s social aspects, it will have a different visual interface in order to clearly distinguish itself from the play-money version. Players will also have to deposit real-money with Bwin in order to play the real-money app.
The renewed real-money emphasis comes shortly after it was revealed that Zynga had lost its social game publishing crown to Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), whose Playtika and Buffalo Studios titles claimed 18.6% of the social game market while Zynga slipped to 15%. Now market researchers AppData have revealed that rival social game developers King have usurped Zynga’s spot atop Facebook’s monthly active user charts. In the most recent rankings, King boasted 150.2m users of games like Candy Crush Saga, narrowly edging out Zynga’s 149.9m tally. King’s conquest is all the more impressive considering it began life with a mobile focus and only began offering Facebook versions of its games two years ago. Zynga, meanwhile, is frantically playing catch-up in the mobile sphere.