After six months of limited geographic beta tests, Zynga is finally launching its New Words with Friends mobile game on a global basis.
The old Words with Friends has remained one of the most popular mobile games of all time, with 55 million matches being played at any given moment even though that version of the game is 5 years old. But this new version represents Zynga’s attempt to double down on well-crafted mobile games under the leadership of new chief executive Don Mattrick.
Zynga has a lot to gain or lose on this one as it is the No. 1 free game of all time on Apple’s App Store and the older version is played for 7.5 billion minutes each month. Zynga has more than 100 million monthly active users altogether across all of its games, but it has had a hard time growing and making money in the past couple of years. That’s why the company has taken its time with this title.
“This is the most significant update that has ever been made to the game,” said Jonathan Knight, the vice president of games at Zynga, in an interview with GamesBeat. “We kept the core game the same. There was nothing broken about it. But we’ve added new features that fans have requested.”
The game board hasn’t changed much, but the area around it is simpler to navigate. Zynga’s designers say the game has a more modern design befitting a mobile app, and it has several new things that players will immediately recognize as new.
Those features include a dictionary, which helps players learn new words while they’re playing through features like Word of the Day. The dictionary has 170,000 words. If you look up the word “sty,” you’ll see how frequently it is used by players. You can also listen to the word being spoken so you can learn how to pronounce it. And you’ll also see how strong or weak a word is compared to other words that could be played on your current game board. The dictionary is powered by Dictionary.com.
Mobile developer or publisher?
Learn how the most successful developers get better users for less money.
Profile pictures are bigger, making the app feel more social, said Vaibhav Sahgal, the general manager of Words with Friends, in an interview.
During testing, the team found that more than 20 percent more words were being played each week as a result of the new features. That bodes well for adoption.
The title also has a Tinder-like feature, where you can look at players in the “community match” section and swipe to the left if you want to play them or swipe right to reject them. You can pick a player based on how tough the person is or, based on viewing a picture, how cute they are.
You can also instantly play another player with a multiplayer feature dubbed Smart Match, which will suggest a player that is a good match for you.
Zynga unveiled the new version of the game back in March, and it has been testing in limited markets such as Ireland, Singapore, and Australia.
You can also now play the game offline in a solo mode, allowing you to keep your mind sharp and practice while you’re on an airplane or waiting for friends.
“This is really huge for us,” Sahgal said. “It’s been requested by our players for a long time.”
Lastly, it’s now easy to check out your profile and stats. You can track your all-time playing history for numbers such as high score, number of games completed, and your average word score. Analytics has always been a strong point for Zynga, and now it is sharing more of that data with players.
The new app debuts today around the world on iOS and Google Play.
“This is a beloved brand, and we want to make sure it works really well for our fans,” Knight said.
Words with Friends is a true social game, with more than a million players chatting in the game each day. About 60 percent of players say they play the game to stay connected with friends and family. Over five years, 58 billion words have been played. The longest winning streak by one player: 9,678 games. And there are 5,478 words that have only been played once. The top five words: qi, it, he, re, and jo.
“Words with Friends has been such a big part of my daily life these past years, and it’s both the sense of connection to a wider community combined with the skillful challenge and fun that keeps me playing,” said Megan Lawless of Chicago, an avid Words with Friends player who was the first known to have made a love connection through the game to a random opponent in Amsterdam.
“It never occurred to me that people from all over the world were playing Word with Friends, and I loved the idea of making a new friend from 4,000 miles away — who would’ve thought it would be my future husband that I’d meet as a Smart Match opponent! Words with Friends is truly a great way to challenge your mind, and you never know what types of connections you’ll make.”