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Zynga boss looks to new games and reliable hits to replenish its audience

Zynga boss looks to new games and reliable hits to replenish its audience

Zynga generated $174.7 million in bookings during Q2 2016, which is about even from the same period in 2015. But that is better than the company’s high-end guidance, and chief executive officer Frank Gibeau explained to GamesBeat that its core hits are fueling its efforts to return to high profits.

“We’re continuing to make progress in our turnaround,” Gibeau told GamesBeat. “Our bookings and our [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization] were above our high-end guidance. We feel good about our performance.”

The CEO noted that Words With Friends, Zynga Poker, and Social Slots — long-established apps from the company — all experienced growth through the 30-day period ending June 30.

“[We saw a] great performance from Words With Friends,” said the executive. “It had its strongest Q2 quarter in its six-year history. And our Poker and Slots businesses really had strong performances. Poker’s been around for nine years now, so it’s incredible to see products that long into their life cycle still generate innovation and growth.”

But while those games form a strong backbone, Zynga is still losing monthly active and daily active players.

“In Q2, our audience went backward a little bit,” said Gibeau. “Mobile DAUs declined to around 15 million, but that was primarily driven by Looney Tunes and Empire & Allies, and Clumsy Ninja. These are legacy, older games that we’re not working on right now. But we also saw a seasonal dip following Christmas and that early Q1 bump that you usually get.”

Those 15 million mobile DAUs were down from 17 million during the same period in 2017. And even games like Words With Friends lost some players — although Gibeau noted that decline is part of a season trend and wasn’t as harsh as his team was expecting. But Zynga isn’t planning to sit back on its heels and cling to the gamers that are coming to its existing hits. The company’s current strategy is to build games that people want to play. That starts with the releases like driving game CSR Racing 2 from Zynga developer NaturalMotion. That debuted during the last quarter, and it is starting to gain traction.

“I started looking at 2016, 2017, and 2018 first,” said Gibeau. “I was looking at all the products we have in front of us and where we have gaps and where we have strengths. I really believe that Zynga is going to grow because we’re going to make some breakout hits. We’re going to innovate. We’re going to do things in our products that other people aren’t doing.”

The CEO pointed to the recent megahit Pokémon Go is evidence that the marketplace has a thirst for unique social games, and it wants to attack that space.

“I’m totally inspired by Pokémon Go,” said Gibeau. “I go out to play the game on the weekends with my kids. I love the game. I know some of the guys who made it. And I’ve been in the game business since I was right out of college. Whether it was the Sega Genesis, the PC, or whatever — whenever people write that the charts aren’t going to change, they change. That’s what I love about this business.”

And because those charts can change, Zynga sees an opportunity, and Gibeau is aiming his team right at it.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Gibeau. “We don’t feel like we’ve really proven anything yet on what we’re going to be able to do with social gaming. So far; so good. But we’re not declaring victory here. We still have some work to do.”

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Zynga Inc. is the world’s largest social game developer with more than 232 million monthly active users playing their games which include CityVille, FarmVille, FrontierVille, Words With Frie… All Zynga news »

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Mr. Frank D. Gibeau has been the President of EA Label at Electronic Arts Inc., since August 4, 2011 and served as its President of EA Games Label from June 2007 to August 2011. Mr. Gibeau s… All Frank Gibeau news »

Track Frank Gibeau’s Landscape to stay on top of the industry. Access the entire ecosystem, track innovation & deals. Learn more.

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