While many PC and mobile game developers have been ruminating on how to best bring their work to the living room in the coming years, industry analysts probably didn’t expect Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) to be at the top of the list of companies jockeying for a television presence.
If the struggling social game developer couldn’t even manage to keep its players’ attention on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) or any given mobile device, would a bigger screen help attract more users?
Maybe not, but that’s not stopping the San Francisco-based company from trying -- or at least trying to squeeze the last merchandising dollars out of the "FarmVille" franchise before it loses another 50 million players in a single quarter. Deadline Hollywood reports that director Brett Ratner (of “Rush Hour” and “X-Men: The Last Stand" fame) is producing an animated TV show based on Zynga’s once-ubiquitous farming simulation game “FarmVille.”
Ratner will be working in partnership with the Canadian television production company Six Eleven Media to produce the show. Previously, he has worked on TV shows like “Prison Break,” “Chaos” and “Women’s Murder Club,” and even produced a documentary about Woody Allen for the PBS series “American Masters.” Ratner is listed as the executive producer on the "FarmVille" project, and other credits include Kirk Schenck, Charles Bishop and Nina Gelb.
“FarmVille is one of the most exciting brands out there today and its cross-platform opportunities are endless. I am thrilled to be expanding the brand with existing fans and also engaging a whole new audience,” Ratner said in a statement.
Despite losing droves of players in recent months, “FarmVille 2” (the original farming simulator’s successor) remains the most popular Facebook app in terms of monthly active users (MAUs) and fifth in terms of daily active users (DAUs), according to estimates provided by AppData. The company has lost many users to rival developers such as Kabam and King.com, whose social game properties have proven better able to maintain players’ interest, not to mention monetize their gameplay in ways deemed less manipulative or simply more fun for players than asking Facebook friends to donate virtual cows and sheep.
“God help us,” Ian Bogost, the Georgia Institute of Technology professor who notoriously pilloried social games with his Facebook game “Cow Clicker,” said when he heard the news.
Zynga stock rose 3.34 percent in Thursday trading, closing at $3.09 per share. Zynga shares had remained stubbornly below $2.5 for most of the end of last year following a weak second quarter earnings report, but recovered slightly this week after the company released better-than-expected fourth quarter results.