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Zynga gets more social, more violent

James Niccolai | Oct. 12, 2011
Zynga is making its games more social, but also more edgy, so players will be able to meet people more easily, then hack them to death with a chainsaw.

Zynga is making its games more social, but also more edgy, so players will be able to meet people more easily, then hack them to death with a chainsaw.

Zynga introduced several new games Tuesday, including a sequel to "Mafia Wars" that takes the company to a new level of violence, and a follow-on to "FarmVille" and "CityVille," called "CastleVille," that's set in a more tranquil, medieval fantasy world of dragons and maidens.

Zynga also announced that it's building a new "social games playground," code-named Project Z, that's basically a website for playing games and meeting other gamers.

"With every game, we ask the question, how can we make this more social?" founder and CEO Mark Pincus said during a launch event at Zynga's new office in a San Francisco warehouse district, summing up one of the day's big themes.

The other big theme was that Zynga is trying to make some of its games edgier and more "grown-up," so that they might appeal to more serious gamers. Both of the themes are evident in "Mafia Wars 2," which Zynga said will be launching "soon."

"Mafia Wars 2" is "easily the most edgy social game we've ever developed," said Erik Bethke, one of Zynga's general managers.

Like the first "Mafia Wars," players compete to build a powerful crime empire, but they can now engage in one-on-one combat using bats, knives, rocket launchers and even a chainsaw.

"It's a very dangerous world," said Bethke, who played a promo reel for the game that showed people being shot and someone about to have their face burned with a cigar. That's a far cry from "Words with Friends."

The new games are also more social. Clan rivalry in "Mafia Wars 2" is "much more front and center," Pincus said, and players can gang together to rob casinos and burn them down.

"CastleVille" is much calmer, but it too emphasizes the social. Friends can help each other to build armor or mix potions, and work together to keep "beasties" outside the castle walls.

It's more personal than "FarmVille" or "CityVille," Bethke said. Players create their own path through the game, discovering "mysterious locations" and hidden characters, he said.

Zynga also launched its first "hidden objects" game, called "Hidden Chronicles," in which players have to locate items buried in cluttered scenes depicting the inside of a railroad car or a Paris café. "Hidden Chronicles" will launch "soon" on Facebook, Zynga said.

The company also announced three new mobile games built with HTML 5 for Facebook's new mobile platform, announced Monday. The games are "FarmVille Express," "ZyngaPoker Mobile Web" and "Words with Friends HTML 5."

Another new mobile game, "Dream Zoo," where players collect exotic animals, will launch "soon" in the App Store, followed by the Android Market.

 

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