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Mobile-Focused Zynga Hopes to Turn the Tide with Sports Games

Posted by Mark J. Miller on August 8, 2014 01:41 PM

Video game maker Zynga is trying to turn back the clock to get back to its gaming hayday, but its latest earnings report didn't provide much confidence. The brand reported a loss of $62.5 million in the quarter, and revenue was below expectations at $153.2 million. 

It's a time of transition for the brand that was at the top of its game for the past few years, riding on the wild success of Facebook-based games like FarmVille and Words With Friends before playing hours and sales started to slide. Now, the company plans to focus on mobile gaming over desktop. After all, as CEO Don Mattrick told analysts, “About 32 percent of time spend blended between smartphones and tablets is spent having fun.”

Just six weeks ago, Zynga released FarmVille 2: Country Escape, and Mattrick told shareholders that the company realized it missed a major opportunity to capitalize on the rise of mobile gaming back when it launched the original FarmVille—an opportunity that Mattrick vowed the company won't miss again.

"We’re cleaning up some of those misses and getting to a point of view on what categories are important and how to build great teams, great leaders and go after it in the mid-term but in a persistent way,” Mattrick said.

But the shift to mobile has been unfortunately slow, and a few hiccups in its latest games caused the company to push back launch dates, further hurting its quarterly results, the Wall Street Journal reports.

That doesn’t bode well for the next quarter, either. "2015 is a long way away," Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Securities analyst, to the Journal. "They are saying that growth will remain elusive, and the stock will be range-bound for at least the next three months."

Mattrick, of course, was spinning everything as positively as he could. “Entertainment blends the emotion of the consumer with the science of execution—and that takes time to perfect,” he told analysts in a conference call, according to VentureBeat. “We are purposefully competing, and while we would like to be further along, we believe that we are making the right decisions to grow our business and unlock long-term shareholder value.” 

Zynga hopes that one area that will provide long-term payoff is sports games. Picking up where he left off from his former post at Electronic Arts, Mattrick announced that Zynga has launched a new sports-themed division called Zynga Sports 365 and has partnered with the NFL. It'scurrently testing “NFL Showdown,” which will hopfully be ready to be released before the NFL season gets underway in a few weeks. It also has partnered with Tiger Woods, who will be featured in a game to be released next year. 

"Sports are evergreen," Mattrick said, according to USA Today. "People love it, and I think we can bring something unique to the party."

Beyond sports, the company has also partnered with Warner Bros. to use its Looney Tunes characters in a series of "runner" games, but the first of those won’t appear till next year.

• Connect with Mark on Twitter: @markjmill

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