Social game maker Zynga is announcing today that it is launching its popular Words with Friends word game on free mobile messaging service Tango.

That may get some fans excited, but it carries some strategic significance. Tango recently raised a whopping $280 million from China’s Alibaba and other investors in the hope that it can compete against Facebook, which acquired Tango’s rival WhatsApp for $16 billion. These are valuable as the next-generation messaging networks that are replacing text messages.

In Asia, mobile messaging networks such as Line, Kakao, and WeChat are generating a lot of activity from games. Tango wants to duplicate or exceed that kind of engagement in the West.

With Zynga’s Words with Friends, Tango has gotten its biggest game yet. There are 55 million matches of Words with Friends being played at any given moment. Launched in 2009, Words with Friends is the No. 1 free game of all time on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

“This game engages users on the communications side, letting your friends know that you’re interacting with them during the day,” Richard Rabbat, a former Zynga general manager who is now vice president of platform and advertising at Tango, told GamesBeat.

Tango has more than 200 million monthly active users. The Zynga game could scale to millions of players, Rabbat said.

“With Zynga, we’re going to explore even better social engagement with our messaging app,” Rabbat said. “We want to take this game to new audiences.”

Tango has dozens of games available right now, and the activity is growing, said Rabbat. With Words with Friends, Tango and Zynga are making it easy for players to search their Tango friends so they can play the game together. From the “start a game” screen, players can choose “Tango Friends,” select a person to invite, and then play.

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