Zynga brings CityVille to China without Facebook

Renamed Zynga City, the most popular Facebook app ever seeks wider audiences

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
July 27, 2011
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As the publisher tries to tighten its grip, the developer seeks wider, freer pastures.

Zynga is bringing CityVille, the most popular application on Facebook, to China. Already having captivated 80 million monthly active users the world over, CityVille could boost its userbase even more simply by breaking into China. But since Facebook has no presence there, Zynga has been forced to find a new publisher.

Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings will first make the game, renamed “Zynga City,” available on its Pengyou service. Availability on other platforms will soon follow.

The Zynga China studio has tweaked the game to include architecture and cultural cues that Chinese users will be able to identify with more, versus the generic CityVille aesthetic.

At this point, there’s no telling how revenue split will work between the two companies.

Meanwhile, Facebook is working towards controlling monetization of its own platform, with a report emerging today that the company is working on a way to help developers offer their services on mobile.

As of now, there’s no way for a user to play Facebook games or open other Facebook applications from either the mobile site,, or from the official apps on iOS, Android or otherwise. From a user standpoint, this is ridiculous: Facebook’s appeal for many people is its offering of games and apps. Without those present, mobile engagement drops drastically.

From the company’s financial standpoint, not having apps on mobile is even more absurd. With smartphones proliferating the world over and mobile usage always on the rise, Facebook is missing out on a ton of potential revenue every day. Developers on the platform that sell things like virtual goods must use Facebook Credits and 30 percent of all sales goes to Facebook--imagine if developers could sell on mobile as well as on the Web. That’s a lot of cash Facebook is missing out on.

Taking that revenue cut in mind from Zynga's perspective, however, it makes sense to see the company expanding onto other platforms. A developer should probably not rely on one single publisher, no matter how influential.

Zynga has filed to go public, and its IPO will be an exciting one. Once it's firmly situated in the public markets, however, the social gaming giant will have to demonstrate that it can grow by expanding to platforms besides Facebook. The move into China is one step toward that end.