Struggling social-game developer Zynga Inc. (Nasdaq: ZNGA) has acquired November Software LLC and its development team to work in-house on a so-called midcore mobile game called “Battlestone.”
Zynga announced the news Friday through a company blog post, which was written by November Software co-founder Szymon Swistun. While Swistun did not specify the terms of his company’s agreement with Zynga, he said his team has been working on “Battlestone” since joining Zynga several months ago.
“We realized we could accelerate game development by combining our team’s expertise building blockbuster console games and Zynga’s strength in building social games on a massive scale,” Swistun said in the blog post.
Swistun added he is working with the original development team for Zynga’s popular “Mafia Wars” to help learn “what makes midcore gaming truly fun and what it takes to build a social game at scale.”
Launched in 2009, “Mafia Wars” had more than 8 million monthly active users last year, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing by Zygna in July of that year. The comparable figure has since shrunk to 1.2 million on Facebook, according to the AppData count on Friday.
The midcore gaming market, although not yet clearly defined, rests between the market for hard-core console gamers who enjoy titles such as “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and the market for casual gamers who play “Angry Birds” or enjoy any of Zynga’s previous social games such as “FarmVille” or “Words with Friends.”
“Midcore is about games for people like me who used to be hardcore gamers but don’t have the time anymore,” Justin Cinicolo, the vice president of mobile at Zynga who oversees the November team, said in an interview with GamesBeat. “You can get a sense for depth and strategy in these games, but in five-minute chunks. I’d love to play 'Halo 4' with my buddies, but we just have no time.”
Like the online gambling ventures that Zynga has also begun to pursue, the midcore market therefore promises better monetization potential from users thanks to higher levels of engagement, something that the most casual free-to-play games commonly associated with Zynga famously struggle with, despite their massive user bases.
Zynga has been actively pursuing the midcore market ever since the company’s weak second-quarter earnings report shook investor confidence in the growth potential of its flagship casual games. In September, Zynga acquired another indie mobile-game studio, A Bit Lucky, to work on a similarly midcore title “Solstice Arena.” In June, when the company’s future growth was still unquestioned, Zynga also announced a “partners for mobile” program to begin publishing third-party midcore titles, the first of which, “Horn,” was released in August to positive reviews.
Despite the acquisitions, Zynga has continued to flounder internally and in the stock market. The company began losing many of its notable industry veterans and C-level executives immediately after its second-quarter earnings report, and it has continued to report layoffs and studio closures since then. Last month, the company reported heavy losses and a drop in revenue in the third quarter, as it adjusted its full-year outlook based on the weaker-than-expected performance of many of its most popular games.
“When we talk about midcore games, we’re really talking about making a deep game experience more accessible,” Swistun said in his blog post. “We know that players, like us, love a good action combat game, so we want to push the limits on social and mobile games, and at the same time create an experience that fits around their schedule.”
Zynga's share price, struggling to stay above $2.25 since the company's third-quarter performance was reported, closed down 4 cents, or 1.85 percent, to $2.12 Friday.