Above: Clive Downie left DeNA West to become COO at Zynga.
Image Credit: Zynga
Clive Downie, chief operating officer for the past three months, described the categories that Zynga will focus upon.
“Today, we have three franchises all providing something fundamental and evergreen for players. People have an innate interest in growing and building which is why our leadership in the farm category is important. People have the desire to take chances against others which is our casino franchise. And, we know people have always been — and will always be — fascinated with language and smart word play, and that’s our Words With Friends franchise.
We expect these franchises to grow and sustain audiences over time, and on a parallel path, we are creating new hits that will appeal to additional and adjacent, broad consumer audiences. As we see it, we have an opportunity to create for the many ways people love to be entertained and play – be it nurturing, risk-taking, learning competing or socializing. I’m really pleased with the progress we are making to focus our creative teams and deliver more new games for more people.
To that end, the NaturalMotion acquisition expands our leadership position in two more, high potential consumer categories, bolstering our opportunity to reach and delight more consumers. I would like to highlight the global franchise potential we see for racing and people where we now have hit products in CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja.”
On the racing category, Downie said, “The console business is one directional indicator we are using to underscore the consumer heat around racing as well as the addressable market size in mobile. Both Don and I have spent considerable time working in this category and have lead blockbuster franchises such as Test Drive and Need for Speed.
We are big believers in the consumer potential of this market and view the racing category on mobile as under indexed and ripe with opportunity. While the racing category on console is a predictable and repeatable hit business taking a dependable share of time and revenues, the mobile market is underdeveloped, with racing in a nascent stage as measured by the number of consumers we see participating.
We believe that we are taking the right steps to build category leadership in Racing so that we are best positioned to benefit from that future growth. Using their cutting edge technology, NaturalMotion pioneered a breakthrough racing experience with CSR in 2012 and showed us all what was possible on a mobile screen. We will continue innovating to create the most jaw-dropping visuals combined with engaging-mobile-specific-game-design that maximizes the available moments of time consumers have on smart phones and tablets.”
Above: Clumsy Ninja doesn’t talk, but he waves at you.
Image Credit: Natural Motion
And with regard to the people category, Downie said, “Moving to the people category, some of the largest gaming brands of our time demonstrate the power of people simulations to captivate large audiences. What we see in Clumsy Ninja represents a credible building block towards the future of what’s possible in the People simulation category on mobile. NaturalMotion has spent the last decade inventing, building, tuning, and proving their Euphoria technology and unlocking it for the game and movie industry.
Let me paint a picture of how this technology actually changes the consumer experience. I’d like to preface it by saying that I’ve been in the games industry for more than 20 years and the touch, first time use, and immersion in Clumsy Ninja – all powered by Euphoria technology – is one of the most delightful things I’ve ever seen.
Born out of the Oxford University academic community, NaturalMotion has been able to leverage their background to create the Euphoria tech. The technology mirrors the muscular system of the human body to pioneer truly believable movement and central nervous system behaviors. At its core the tech is delivering high fidelity visuals, artificial intelligence, physics and biomechanics that respond to real-time engagements during the game.
What this means for consumers is that you see unique movements — not repeated animations — as a character adapts behavior personalized to game play. All of this creates a richer emotional connection, more immersive experience, and delightful repeatable engagement. And, as Don mentioned, we own the exclusive, proprietary rights for mobile, to develop this breakthrough technology and apply it to any of our existing and future intellectual property.”
Regarding cost cutting, Downie said, “Today’s changes focus our product pipeline, reduce our central teams and streamline our infrastructure.
First, we have assessed our product pipeline using our content strategy lens. This resulted in us removing and redeploying game making teams in order to go after the existing and new product opportunities where we see the biggest potential for us and our consumers.
Secondly, we assessed how our game makers can best be supported and as a result, made decisions to reduce the size of our central support teams. These changes remove layers and support more nimble production cycles and quicker testing.
Thirdly, we have increased efficiency by streamlining our data center footprint to meet the different demands that mobile games place on our infrastructure. These changes resulted in a 50 percent reduction of servers in use and smaller central teams required to manage these systems. We also have seen significant reductions in cost, power, and equipment while at the same time allowing us to serve our players with more responsive game experiences.”
On Zynga and NaturalMotion together, Downie said, “NaturalMotion’s strengths lie in the breakthrough technologies used to create delightful hit mobile games. Zynga’s strengths are our ability to develop breakthrough social features while sustaining live games over time.
Let me tell you what I mean by that. Our experience has taught us that the social dynamics of a game will directly influence the engagement, retention and long-term sustainability of the audience. Our teams have spent years tuning this expertise and marrying it with richer levels of data and analytics in order to create a more sustainable game over time. Both CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja are early days in their social development and we look forward to working with the NaturalMotion team to leverage our unique skillset.
In addition to the social benefit, we are committed to nurturing and growing CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja and believe we can create even stronger consumer traction by leveraging another of Zynga’s greatest strengths — live game operations at scale.
Our teams, more than any in our industry, have proven their ability to sustain hit games not just for a few quarters but for years. Our anchor games in the FarmVille, Words With Friends and Casino franchises — have all been sustaining brands for more than five years each. I look forward to applying this tremendous expertise of managing live games at scale to NaturalMotion’s products.”