Zynga Poker, it was once hoped, might single-handedly spawn a second poker boom. Around 2013 the social gaming giant seemed poised to enter the real money market, as poker players licked their lips at its 32 million registered play-money users (or, to put it another way, 0.5 percent of human life on Planet Earth).
The conversion of just a tiny percentage of these players to real-money could have flooded the online poker ecology with the recreational players needed to spark a huge resurgence in the game.
But now, the news that Zynga is to close its ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino operations in the UK, terminating its partnership with bwin.party in the process, would appear to signal the end for the company’s half-hearted flirtation with real-money gaming.
The partnership began with casino in April 2013, around the time Zynga announced it would not be pursuing a remote gambling license in the about-to-be-regulated US states.
Instead, it chose to observe its performance in the UK market, before choosing whether to take over the world.
Real Money Launches
ZyngaPlusPoker was launched for UK Facebook users in January 2014, but efforts to convert players to real-money gaming were under-marketed and proved to be spectacularly unsuccessful. Real-money players in the UK are now receiving notices advising them of the forthcoming closure and suggesting they cash out their balances.
“We are very sorry to announce that ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino will be closing shortly,” says the statement. “If you have a balance please log in to withdraw it. If you are having problems logging in you can reset your password or you can always contact us by calling FREE on 08003767968.”
It would appear that Zynga is gradually abandoning its attempts to diversify, instead reverting to concentrating on its core offerings. The company has been criticized recently for spreading itself too thin; recent quarterly results were disappointing and forecasts were no better, sending shares tumbling.
Struggle to Adapt
In a stinging research note entitled “Zynga Needs A New Leader – Time for Don Mattrick To Go,” BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield attacked the Zynga CEO.
“Your strategy appears to be all over the place,” said Greenfield. “Your core franchises have and continue to generate meaningful earnings, yet that is being completely offset by your attempts to find the next hit games in categories where Zynga has no underlying expertise.”
Mattrick replaced Zynga founder Mark Pincus in April 2014, and since then the company has struggled to adapt as social gaming continues to move away from Facebook and towards mobile gaming. A new version of Zynga Poker launched in 2014, but the company admitted it hadn’t done enough geographic and device-platform testing. The new platform failed to run on a lot of devices, and many players said they preferred the look and feel of its predecessor. Zynga was forced to bring back the older version.