Zynga to Roll out Unified Gaming Platform, Multiplayer Gaming

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Zynga announced Tuesday that it would build a social gaming network that provides a more unified gaming experience, whether players are on Facebook, iOS or Android devices.

Called Zynga with Friends, the network will allow people to play games against each other across the different platforms, even if one is on the Facebook website and the other on an iPhone, for instance.

They'll also have access to the same set of social features. They include group chat and the ability to find new friends -- or zFriends, as Zynga calls them -- and challenge them to play.

Outside developers will also be able to use the features with a new, streamlined set of APIs (application programming interfaces), Zynga's chief engineer Kostadis Roussos said, during Zynga's Unleashed event in San Francisco.

The company also announced a new crop of games, including two additions to its "ville" franchise that are coming soon: "The Ville," where players can build a home and host social activities, and "ChefVille," in which users set up and run their own restaurant.

It also launched "Matching With Friends," which is available for iOS devices Tuesday, and "Zynga Elite Slots," a casino game that's coming soon.

Zynga is also introducing multiplayer gaming, starting with the game Bubble Safari. It will extend the multiplayer feature to other games, including those outside developers host on the platform.

The Zynga With Friends network builds on early success of the gaming experience it has offered on Zynga.com since March, the company said. The features available to players on the Zynga.com website will now be expanded to players on Facebook or Android or iOS mobile apps. Developers will be able to access the features through the new Zynga API, the company said.

Zynga.com customized social streams for gaming, proposing new "zFriends," for example, based on similar gaming activity rather than shared social connections. The company says 70 percent of visitors to Zynga.com access the social stream it offers, which documents a user's gaming interactions. The stream will "soon" be available as part of Zynga With Friends, to game players on any device or platform, according to Manuel Bronstein, Zynga's general manager.

Zynga executive Rob Dyer, head of platform publishing, referred to a "separation of church and state" to assure developers that their ideas won't be poached. He also said Zynga is adopting a "very curated" approach for the platform, initially pursuing games that don't compete with its own offerings.

Roussos emphasized how technically difficult it is to deliver multiplayer gaming. At the busiest time of the day, Zynga games have as many active players as the city of Paris has residents, generating a million activities a second, Roussos said. Latency between server and client also presents a technical hurdle.

The company generates 8 terabytes of data a day, said Reed Shaffner, Zynga's director of product.

Zynga touts the value of its analytics to developers who use its platform. Analytics data and analysis show developers which features users like, so that they can continue to launch new experiences within the game, the company said.

The platform will launch with new developer partners 50 Cubes, Majesco and Portalarium as well as existing partners including Sava Transmedia, Mob Science and Row Sham Bow.

Asked for more details about when the platform would go live, Bronstein said, "You're going to see more like a progression than like this is the day that the platform became available."

Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.

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