Mentez to launch Zynga prepaid cards in Latin America

Latin America isn’t a great place to get social game players to pay for goods with credit cards. But gamers there are avid fans of social games and are willing to pay with prepaid cards.

That’s why social game maker Zynga is partnering with Mentez, a leading social game publisher in Brazil that also has a way to sell prepaid cards at more than a million locations in Brazil and the rest of Latin America. The deal represents a way to expand Zynga’s distribution into a fast-growing market for social games. It also recognizes the growing importance of the region as a hub for gaming where you can make money if know how to reach the players.

Zynga has more than 275 million users on Facebook playing games such as CityVille and FarmVille. And a growing number of fans are playing in Latin America. Miami-based Mentez runs the Paymentez network, where users can go to a retail store or internet cafe and buy a PIN number that they can use to purchase virtual goods in a social game online. Zynga Game Cards will be available in Brazil at Mentez locations starting today, followed by Mexico and other Latin American countries soon.

Juan Franco, chief executive of Mentez, said in an interview that very few players use credit cards in Latin America, with fewer than 1 credit card in circulation per person. (In the U.S., the number is 2.5 credit cards per person, according to the International Trade Administration.) But they do buy prepaid cards, especially if they are available in small currency values. Users can pay for PIN numbers on Paymentez using cash, bank transfers, and local online credit cards.

“We’ve got huge coverage in every major city,” Franco said.

Mentez launched the Paymentez platform in November, 2009, and the platform now has 4 million active users, Franco said. The network handles 650 transactions a second, and Paymentez has processed more than 8 million transactions to date. Market researcher comScore says there are 73 million Facebook and 32 million Orkut users in Latin America on a monthly unique basis. If half of those users played games, then the Latin American social game market could have 42 to 52 million users.

Zynga has already released CityVille in Portuguese and Spanish.

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