Zynga is finally getting its feet planted on mobile, and investors are optimistic about the results.
The social-gaming company finally released FarmVille 2: Country Escape on iOS and Android devices today. This is the first time its most lucrative brand has made an appearance on mobile, and it marks a visible turning point for a publisher that once put most of its resources into making products for Facebook. Wall Street seemed to like the idea of a free-to-play mobile version of FarmVille on iPhones and iPads, and Zynga’s stock price ended the trading day up 4 percent at $4.28.
The release of FarmVille 2 on mobile comes a week after Zynga chief executive officer Don Mattrick appointed a new chief financial officer to oversee the developer’s books. CFO David Lee took over the position on Thursday after years as Best Buy’s senior vice president of finance. Unsurprisingly, this appointment didn’t instill the kind of confidence that Mattrick himself did when he took over the CEO role from Mark Pincus 10 months ago.
Zynga is still slowly building back its value after its portfolio of Facebook games stopped performing extraordinarily well in 2012. The company once dominated the top-10 highest-grossing titles on the social network, but it now lags behind developers like King, which has three releases in the top 10 including Candy Crush Saga at No. 1. Zynga is not only losing the spotlight to other game makers, but many of the casual gamers that once spent the bulk of their time playing on Facebook have moved on to smartphones and tablets.
In addition to the new CEO, CFO, and FarmVille on mobile, Zynga has also made some other moves to get numbers moving in the right direction. The company acquired developer NaturalMotion for $527 million in large part to acquire its expertise in mobile racing games. The studio’s CSR Racing is one of the top free-to-play titles in that category. In March, Zynga also updated its popular Poker game for mobile. Poker and Words with Friends are the publishers only two consistently high-performing mobile games to date.
FarmVille 2 on mobile could represent the start of the earnings turnaround that Zynga brought in Mattrick to oversee. The company reports its quarterly earnings on Wednesday.