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Zynga have been pushing more ‘social slots’ in a move away from core poker products

There was news recently that social gaming – or if you live the UK, real money too – pioneers Zynga have launched a portfolio of new slot games on Facebook. The slots have been packaged under the ‘Hit it Rich’ tag, and if you live in the US at any rate, you’ll be doing something very far away from hitting it rich, as your winnings are non-redeemable.

With Zynga making something of a U-turn in the US with regards to its proposed move into real-money gaming, the Facebook-based company is ploughing on with more social games to further establish its place at the forefront of fun gaming.

The Hit It Rich package contains games Pretty Kitty, Oz – Over the Rainbow (based on The Wizard of Oz, complete with some authentic images from the classic film), New York Minute, and their own take on the Unicorns ‘n Magic genre, Mystic Maidens. In early November 2013, players got to play another big-name tie-in with their own Sex and the City slot. What’s more, the games will be available soon on mobile smartphones.

But can it work?
Recent figures suggested Zynga will still make a loss this year, even though its social games like Zynga Poker, Words With Friends and Farmville attract millions of players. Zynga’s flirtation with online poker makes sense, especially given the movements in the United States to legalize and regulate the game over recent months. But Zynga is still light years behind industry leaders like PokerStars and PartyPoker, who have wasted no time in partnering up with big land-based casinos like the Trump Taj Mahal for online poker, which got the green light in 2013.

Casino games are a different beast, and despite its popularity, Zynga falls well behind other casinos and poker rooms in being able to rival them for real-money games.

There’s no doubting Zynga’s new slots games look great and play well in the instant-play format, but part of the problem with Zynga is that they’re so tied to Facebook. Surely more profits – and longevity – could be assured by buddying-up with an established slots developer or online casino to boost both partners’ profile online?

Zynga relies on Facebook for much of its revenue but Facebook takes a cut of any revenue Zynga makes off Facebook’s platform. But that’s the dilemma. Ditch Facebook and you risk alienating a loyal user base too, and with Zynga reaching a billion online players that could be a decision too far.

Possible Solutions
One solution to Zynga’s dilemma is to become almost like a super-affiliate, “selling” its members to another casino operator to enter real money games. Failing that, they could merely sell their very healthy database of customers to an existing online casino (a la reborn poker site, Full Tilt) and call it a day?

With its Hit it Rich portfolio, and the upcoming Sex and the City slot, Zynga are obviously serious about mobile and online slots, but are they serious enough to make the push into a crowded real money casino market? And if America goes legal, will they have what it takes to make it in the newly regulated online gaming market? Initial signs are not looking great, having had their ex-chief Maytal Olsha left to join a start-up back in September. There have also been regulatory issues and restrictions on advertising that have also made life difficult for Zynga Slots, so time will tell if Zynga will sink or swim in the casino slots market.

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