Zynga set to launch social network called Project Z

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Social gaming giant Zynga is set to launch its own social gaming network in a bid to reduce its dependency on Facebook.

The new venture, entitled “Project Z” is envisioned as an online community where people can play the company’s popular titles without having to go on Facebook.

“For two years we have been building out products that we hope will enable a platform for direct relationships with consumers,” Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus said during the first press event at the startup’s new San Francisco offices.

“Whether on the Web or on mobile, we can give you a whole sandbox and create socialness around the games and not just in the games,” he continued in reference to a platform informally referred to as Zynga Direct.

More than 232-million play Zynga games every month. The majority of these players are on Facebook, although a slew of Zynga games were recently launched on Google+ — the world’s fastest growing social network.

Although the online community will operate as a distinct entity, Zynga does plan on using the existing relationships it has with social networks to its advantage.

“When it launches, it will be the most connected social gaming site in the world,” said Zynga chief operating officer John Schappert, who was a top executive at videogame titan Electronics Arts before joining Zynga this year.

“You can start a game on Facebook and continue it on Project Z, or vice versa,” he continued.

Users will also be required to use their Facebook accounts to log in to Project Z.

Zynga also showed off a host of new social games, including a Mafia 2 title and a CastleVille addition to the franchise of games which includes the wildly popular FarmVille and CityVille.

Zynga also introduced an Internet Age version of Bingo and a Hidden Chronicles game that invites friends to work together to solve puzzles and hunt for hidden objects.

Zynga’s business model of allowing users to play games for free but making them pay virtual in-game goods and serving up advertising has proved immensely profitable.

According to its SEC filing, Zynga enjoyed US$235.4-million in revenue in the first three months of the year, compared to just US$100.9-million in the same period of 2010.

The company turned profitable last year, with a net income of US$27.9-million on total annual revenues of $597.5 million.

Zynga filed paperwork in July for an initial public offering aiming to raise about $1-billion from the markets.

The company has around 2 000 employees and boasts more than 250 million players per month.

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