It may owe its fortunes to Facebook, but the word is that social-gaming giant Zynga is getting ready to launch its own site in a bid to wean itself from its dependency on the popular social network.
According to TechCrunch, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus hosted a company meeting Thursday afternoon in which he asserted that hit games like Farmville, Mafia Wars, Cafe World and others might soon appear on their own social games site called Zynga Live.
"'Pincus announced at a 5 p.m. meeting yesterday at Zynga that Zynga was going to launch a social game network called Zynga Live,'" TechCrunch wrote, quoting from an anonymous insider e-mail.
The theory here is that Zynga and Facebook are clashing over the percentage that the social gaming giant might have to pay to use Facebook Credits, the social network's nascent currency platform.
"'Facebook and Zynga [have] been negotiating on Facebook Credits and the talks turned for the worst,'" TechCrunch quoted the e-mail as saying. "'In the negotiation process, Facebook shut off Zynga's feeds and threatened to shut down games. Zynga, in the process, threatened to completely leave Facebook and prepared to do so in the previous upcoming weeks."
If this is all true, I find it hard to believe that either side will actually pull the plug on a relationship that has generated most of the top-10 most popular applications on Facebook. Without Facebook, Zynga could lose easy access to millions of its most regular users, and without Zynga, Facebook would lose several of the applications that keep its users coming back to the site so often.
But as VentureBeat put it, a Zynga Live site could allow the social-gaming leader to provide users with the same games they already know and are addicted to, and easily cross-promote them. "On this site, it can use its own virtual currency," VentureBeat wrote. "It won't have to use Facebook Credits, and thus it won't have to pay the 30 percent fee to Facebook. And when Zynga advertises the Zynga Live site, the money won't go directly into Facebook's pocket."
Even if Zynga does decide to end its marriage with Facebook, it's likely such a thing wouldn't happen overnight. But it would seem that there is simply too much money and too many user hours at stake for the two companies to walk away from each other. More likely, it seems to me, is that they will make all kinds of public and not-so-public indications that they are looking to see other people, and then will kiss and make up.
Then again, that doesn't mean that Zynga Live won't happen or that it won't siphon off some percentage of the users who play the company's games on Facebook.