Zynga has introduced their new Zynga games platform, located at Zynga.com, and you can try it out (in beta form) here. The new service is a standalone games site that lets you play Zynga games off of Facebook. This isn’t the first time Zynga has promised this service, although the “Zynga Live” initiative seemed to fizzle like a damp firecracker.
So what does the new service offer? According to our sister site, Inside Social Games, “the platform is launching with just five Zynga games: CityVille, CastleVille, Hidden Chronicles, Words With Friends and Zynga Poker. When entering any of these games from the platform, the user is prompted to connect with Facebook. A quick tutorial walks new players through platform features regardless of which game a new user enters.”
I gave Words with Friends a shot and was immediately surprised by the “stream” bar on the right side of the page and the concept of “zFriends”. I’m not exactly sure what a zFriend is but obviously this is Zynga attempting to build their own brand loyalty and get players used to the idea of playing a Zynga game with their zFriends rather than a Facebook game with their fFriends (or just friends for you old fashioned types).
As soon as you log in, you notice your zFriends list is populated with Facebook friends and a quick stream shows you what a bunch of players are doing in the games. Big, clear icons guide you to the games, and the games load fast. In Words with Friends (a Scrabble clone), you also have the option to invite a random friend, which invites them to play on the Zynga network.
While this new frame for the game seems to be only a minor cosmetic change, I feel this is a great first step for Zynga to attempt to wean themselves away from dependence on Facebook. Will you play here rather than Facebook?