Brace yourself for a barrage of new games from social gaming giant Zynga — including the latest addition to its famed line-up of "Ville" games.
The company that brought us "FarmVille" and "Mafia Wars" is preparing for an initial public offering, and on Tuesday it announced a slate of nine new games as well as a new gaming network called Zynga Direct (aka Project Z).
Chief Executive Mark Pincus unveiled the new games during a press event at the company's San Francisco headquarters. They are: "Zynga Bingo," a bingo game set in Las Vegas that will be part of a larger "Zynga Casino" setting; the seek-and-find game "Hidden Chronicles"; an exotic animal-collecting game called "Dream Zoo" slated to arrive in Apple's App Store, the mobile game "Mafia Wars ShakeDown" along with three games for Facebook’s new mobile apps site: "Zynga Poker Mobile Web," "Words With Friends HTML5" and "FarmVille Express."
But it's "CastleVille" — the company's latest in a series of "Ville" games — that sounds the most intriguing.
Zynga's forthcoming iOS mobile game "Dream Zoo" will let players collect exotic animals like this ... zebra?
"CastleVille" joins "FarmVille," "FrontierVille and "CityVille — the latter being the No. 1 app on Facebook at the moment. According to Zynga, "CastleVille" will be the "most beautiful" game they've ever made thanks to the bright scenery and animation and the lively characters found within. It will also feature music from a 75-piece live orchestra — a first in social gaming.
"CastleVille" will be set in a medieval fantasy world. "The characters you meet and the decisions you make in 'CastleVille' affect the mysterious locations you discover, and the rare items you reveal," according to the game's description.
On Tuesday Bill Jackson, the game's creative director, said players will be able to build castles and entire Kingdoms as well as craft armor and potions, suggesting it was a step toward a deep online game like "World of Warcraft."
"Zynga is bringing massively multiplayer role playing games to the mass market," he said.
As for the Zynga Direct/Project Z game platform, there are not a lot of details available yet except that it will be a direct-to-consumer platform that, in part, bypasses Facebook. According to a post on the Zynga blog it is "coming to a browser near you very soon" and will be enabled by Facebook Connect.
Zynga chief operating officer John Schappert said that gamers will be able to go directly to the Project Z website to play Zynga games rather than playing them on Facebook.
"You can start a game on Facebook and can continue it on Project Z or vice versa, never losing your progress and continuing wherever you drop off," he said.
Until it launches later this year, Zynga is encouraging gamers to go to its site here and reserve their gamer identity tags — or zTags — by which they'll be identified across the games on the new network.
"You'll own your own zTag and it will travel with you between games on the Project Z services," according to a post on the Zynga blog.
Project Z took two years to develop, Pincus said Tuesday. And many observers are calling it the company's big bid to decrease its dependence on Facebook. After all, Zynga has found itself at the losing end of the social network's changes and whims in the past.
Speaking of venturing beyond the Facebook confines, Zynga also announced Tuesday that its recently launched sequel to its hit "Mafia Wars" game — "Mafia Wars 2" — will be available on the Google+ social network as well as Facebook. This follows Zynga's recent launch of "CityVille" on Google+.
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