CityVille’s new neighborhood: China


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Zynga Inc., whose social games already dominate traffic on Facebook, is expanding its reach to China.

The developer of Mafia Wars and other popular online titles on Monday said it has struck an agreement to bring a version of its CityVille game to Tencent, a Chinese Internet portal whose instant messaging service boasted 674.3 million active users as of March 31.


San Francisco-based Zynga, which has filed papers to sell its stock in an initial public offering, needs to show investors it can grow its audience beyond Facebook, where it already commands a significant share of traffic.

‘International and mobile represent two major areas where Zynga would need to go into in order to grow,’ said Justin Smith, founder of Inside Network, a market research firm in Palo Alto.

The game, renamed Zynga City, retains the major features of CityVille, played by 80.1 million people a month, according to The Chinese version will incorporate local architecture and quests designed to appeal to an Asian audience and is being developed by XPD Media, a Chinese game developer that Zynga acquired in May 2010.

The game will initially appear later this week on Tencent’s new social network, called Pengyou, which literally translates to ‘friend’ in Mandarin. The game will debut later this year on Tencent’s larger social network, Q Zone, which counted 504.8 million active users as of March. Pengyou had 101.4 million active accounts.

CityVille is already playable in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Indonesian and Turkish.

For Zynga, recruiting players for its games is just the first step because their games can be played for free. Zynga generally makes money when it can persuade those players to pony up actual dollars, or in this case Chinese yuan, to get special virtual items or to advance more quickly in the games. In the U.S., the percentage of players who pay for social games ranges from 2% to 4%, according to Parks Associates, a market research firm.


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-- Alex Pham