原文作者：Dean Takahashi 译者：Megan shieh
本周，该公司连续公布了第二个季度的净利润，自2011年上市以来，Zynga还是第一次这么做。对于一个拥有1500多名员工的公司来说，这可不是一件容易的事情。另外，Zynga利用其部分现金缓冲，以一亿美元的价格收购了土耳其开发商Peak Games的几款休闲棋牌游戏。不仅如此，Zynga还为那些期待新特性的粉丝们推出了《Words With Friends 2》，同时也为那些想要继续游玩原作的粉丝们保留了原版。
Frank Gibeau: 我们度过了一个相当不错的季度，公司的情况也在逐渐好转。第三季度在收入和预订方面都有所突破。事实上，这是我们四年来最好的表现。我们已经取得了连续五个季度的预订增长，以及连续七个季度的EBITDA（税息折旧及摊销前利润）增长。自上市以来，Zynga首次连续两个季度实现了净利润，财务部门对此感到非常兴奋。该季度的现金流为3500万美元，同比增长1400万美元。在预订、盈利能力和现金生成方面，Zynga的表现确实与大众舆论背道而驰，我们对这一势头感到非常高兴。
值得强调的一点是Zynga的移动业务出现了巨大的增长，同比增长了33%。以我们目前的总收入计算，移动业务占比87%。这就意味着Zynga即将实现进军移动领域全面转型。此外，我们的玩家基数增长了近20%，DAU（每日活跃用户数量）达到了1900万；移动用户的付费收入达到了历史新高，同比增长了20%。在我们的移动业务范围内，这种强劲的势头一直在持续，主要是由《Zynga扑克》，《CSR赛车2》和《Word with Friends》推动的。
《Words with Friends》上线至今已经有八年了。今年上半年，我们在广告业务方面表现得有些松懈，虽然取得了良好的参与度和玩家指标，但是从盈利的角度来看，还是比较温和的。现在，一切都在开始往好的方向发展了。业务收入连续增长了9%，移动预订量增加了10%。这一切都要归功于我们近期新推出的一本社交词典，其中包含了5万个新单词。自从引入这本词典以来，它已经被游玩了3300万次了。这本词典的发布对玩家参与产生了十分积极的影响。
我们将在本周发布填字游戏《Word with Friends 2》，一部完整的续作，在原作的基础上增添了新的模式和玩法。根据大量玩家的反馈，我们增加了一个单人挑战模式，允许玩家通过一系列的任务挑战来对付AI（人工智能）；在等待朋友出手的同时，玩家可以玩几把单人挑战模式来消磨时间。我们还增加了一个团队对战模式“lightning round”，喜欢挑战高难度词汇的铁杆玩家可以在这个模式中一决高下。
慢慢地，玩家们会迁移到《Word with Friends 2》。有些人对原作的功能非常满意，但是他们终究会被新的特性吸引。我们认为这是制作手游续作的正确方式，而不是突然间掐掉人们目前满意的东西。
下一个消息是我们已经与Peak Games达成协议，准备收购他们的棋牌类游戏产品，就像我们收购了《Solitaire》一样。我们在休闲类棋牌手游中看到了一个很好的机遇。这些都是国际性的游戏，它们是会长青的。几个世纪以来，人们一直都在玩这些游戏。世界上有很多人都在玩《Spades Plus》、《Gin Rummy Plus》、《Solitaire》和《Zynga 扑克》。鉴于我们在棋牌游戏领域的优势，我们认为和Peak Games合作，将他们的作品引入到我们的产品线中是一个非常好的主意。
这次收购的游戏中，包括了该工作室的《Spades Plus》——世界上规模最大的黑桃纸牌游戏；还有《Gin Rummy Plus》——也是最大的拉米纸牌游戏；还有一款名为《Okey Plus》的棋牌游戏——在他们所在的地区属于最为热门的游戏之一。Peak Games的总部建立在伊斯坦布尔，他们成立至今已经有7年了，7年间创造出了许多高质量的游戏体验。我们认为，将他们的产品引入到我们的棋牌产品线中能为我们带来长期的收益。我们在棋牌手游领域看到了巨大的潜力，收购《Gin Rummy Plus》和《Spades Plus》等游戏的这一举动能够为我们的公司增加总收入。从经济角度上来看，这对我们是非常有利的。这笔交易预计将在今年的第四季度末完成。
GamesBeat: Peak Games将会作为一家独立的公司继续运营其他两款游戏？
Gibeau: 没错。这家公司的创始人Sidar Sahin将会带着《Toy Blast》和《Toon Blast》继续前行。而我们则会带走他们的棋牌类产品，他的搭档也将会随之加入Zynga。
第二，我们想要在这些线上运营的基础上增添新的游戏，就比如《Words with Friends 2》。此外，我们也将在2018年下半年发布一些新的游戏，包括行动策略以及休闲类别。再过不久，你将会看到这个管理团队从零开始建立起的新游戏。我们将会引入新的IP，重振Zynga品牌，并且引入全新的IP战略。我们对此感到十分兴奋。
Gibeau: 是的，它们存在于休闲游戏和社交博彩游戏之间。尽管比起博彩类别，Peak Games的所有游戏都比较偏向休闲类别。但是你可以看到，《Zynga Poker》（博彩类游戏）、《Spades Plus》和《Gin Rummy Plus》的玩家是有交集的。玩《Words with Friends》和《Crosswords with Friends》系列游戏的玩家，有的也喜欢玩棋牌类游戏，《Solitaire》在这些玩家中也非常的受欢迎。
Zynga hit its peak in stock price and revenues a while ago. But the San Francisco company is still a force in mobile and social gaming. Under the leadership of Frank Gibeau, a former Electronic Arts executive, Zynga has begun to turn the corner.
This week, the company reported its second consecutive quarter of net income, the first time it has done so since going public in 2011. That’s no easy task for a company that has more than 1,500 employees. Zynga also used part of its big cash cushion to acquire the casual mobile card games of Turkey’s Peak Games for $100 million. And Zynga also launched its Words With Friends 2 game for fans who want to take advantage of new features, all the while keeping the original for fans who want to keep playing that one.
Overall, that’s a pretty good week. I spoke with Gibeau this week about Zynga’s progress, its deal with Peak Games, its continuing investment in games like Dawn of Titans, and the company’s growing interest in emerging platforms such as messenger games and augmented reality.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
Frank Gibeau: We had a pretty good quarter. The turnaround is chugging along. We had a good Q3. We beat on revenues and bookings. In fact, it was our best performance in four years. Our fifth consecutive quarter of growth across bookings, seventh consecutive quarter of EBITDA growth. The finance department was really excited that for the first time since going public, Zynga has delivered two consecutive quarters of net income. We’re seeing strong cash generation. Cash flow was $35 million for the quarter, up $14 million year over year. On a bookings, profitability, and cash generation standpoint, we did really well against consensus. We feel good about the momentum.
In particular, mobile was way up. It was up 33 percent year over year. In terms of our total take, it’s now 87 percent. We’re closing in on becoming purely mobile, which is good. Audience was up almost 20 percent at 19 million DAU. We hit an all-time high in terms of our mobile user pay, which was up 20 percent year over year. The momentum keeps going in our mobile business. It’s largely driven by Zynga Poker, CSR 2, and Words with Friends.
Poker had its highest quarterly mobile performance in the history of the franchise. Revenue was 78 percent up year over year. Bookings were up 81 percent year over year. The challenges and leagues–we keep adding features to those two beats, and they’re really working well. We’ve just introduced jackpots as another feature in the mix. We’re pleased with the performance on Zynga Poker so far.
CSR 2 had a great quarter. We launched it a year ago that quarter, and we’re starting to see it grow. Mobile revenues were up eight percent. Mobile bookings were up 12 percent.
Performance was driven by the business we’ve been doing with Fast and Furious. We released the Dodge Demon in the quarter, a really popular car for our fans. We did a 70th anniversary event with Ferrari where we put about six of their cars in the game. It was huge in terms of engagement and reactivation.
Words with Friends had its eighth anniversary in September. It was up nine percent sequentially. The first part of the year, we had a little softness in the ad business. We had good engagement and player metrics, but from a monetization standpoint it was softer. That’s starting to bounce back. It’s up nine percent sequentially and up 10 percent in mobile bookings.
One thing that drove that is we released a social dictionary, which includes 50,000 new words. They’ve been played 33 million times since we introduced them. It had a really positive impact on player engagement.
If you look at the story of the quarter, it was the continued performance of our forever franchises, strong momentum in mobile, and then beating consensus and guidance. We’re very excited about where we’re at. We do have some additional news. We’re actively trying to grow the company, and we’re pushing live ops really hard. We’re also introducing new games.
This week we’re excited to announce that we’re releasing Words with Friends 2, a full sequel. It’s adding new modes and new ways to play. We’ve added a single-player challenge mode that allows to take on AI through a series of quest challenges. It’s a chance to continue to play the game while you’re waiting for your friends to make their moves, which was a big part of player feedback. We’ve also added a new team versus team mode, where two players can take on two other players in a kind of lightning round. It appeals to the really hardcore players that are looking for the ultimate challenge there.
You’ll still be able to play the original game. One thing that I’m very much making clear to the teams it that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. There’s a lot in the sequel that will feel familiar to our fans, but feel improved. The game offers a new user interface that we’ve modernized. We’ve increased the accessibility of it. We’ve made sure that people that are playing new Words with Friends will be able to play people in Words with Friends 2. It’s like backwards compatibility on console. The games are compatible and that allows us to keep the community intact.
Slowly, people will migrate over to the new game. Some of those folks that are really happy with the current one, they’ll see the new features. We feel like that’s the right way to sequel in mobile, as opposed to being too abrupt or shutting off what people are currently happy with. We think we have the right strategy there.
The next piece of news is we’ve entered into an agreement with Peak Games to acquire their card and board game group. It’s part of our strategy that you’ve seen us do with poker and solitaire. We see a real opportunity in casual card-based games on mobile. These are global franchises. They’re evergreen. People have been playing these games for centuries. As you look at how they cross over and how the audience works, there’s a lot of people that play spades and rummy as well as solitaire and poker. Given the strengths we’ve seen with our poker and solitaire titles, we felt like there was an opportunity to work with Peak to bring their products into our portfolio.
We’ve bought the spades game they have, the largest spades game in the world, as well as rummy, which is also the largest rummy game. They also have a franchise called Okey, which is a top franchise in their part of the world. The team is based in Istanbul. They’ve been together for seven years. They make high quality experiences and we’re excited to bring them into the card-based division here with poker and solitaire. It gives us the world’s largest card-based game portfolio on mobile, which we think is a real opportunity in the long term.
GamesBeat: Do you think of this as a category, like casual mobile card games?
Gibeau: We do. When we look at crossover between solitaire players and some of other franchises with rummy and spades, we see an opportunity there. The acquisition is accretive, day one. From a financial standpoint it’s very positive for us. We expect to close the deal in late Q4.
GamesBeat: They’re staying as an independent company with two games they’re going to keep on making?
Gibeau: Right. Sidar Sahin, who founded the company, is going to move on with Toy Blast, and we’ll take the card and board game piece with his partner, who will join Zynga.
GamesBeat: In that respect, I guess you didn’t see the point of acquiring the whole company?
Gibeau: The opportunity was to acquire this piece of the company, so that’s how we looked at it. The third piece of news—as you know, we’ve been looking at platform transitions in mobile and new places to invest. We’ve been investing in chat-based games, as you know. But we’ve also been very intrigued by augmented reality, given the news out of Apple with ARKit and the stuff Google is doing with AR Core.
We’ve built, on ARKit, a new bold beat in CSR 2, which will come out later this quarter. That allows you to take the cars you’ve collected in the game and then put them in real-world environments. When I was over at NaturalMotion we went out to Trafalgar Square, pulled out our phones, and dropped a McLaren right in the middle of the square. We walked around, got in it, looked at it. It was really fun. It’s just the earliest ideas we have in this category, but long term, we’re intrigued by the excitement people have for AR globally. We think it can be a killer app for mobile gaming.
GamesBeat: On earnings, did employment stay stable in the quarter?
Gibeau: In terms of the work force numbers, our headcount is down to 1,524, which is down a bit over the quarter. It’s significantly tighter over last year.
GamesBeat: This improvement is more through the growth that’s happening, then, as opposed to cutting?
Gibeau: We’re going to constantly be sharpening the operating model, which is how our CFO likes to discuss it. We continually see improvements there. But really, our orientation is to grow the company in four ways. First, continue to drive our live operations. The approach we take there with bold beats, the combination of art and science, we’re continually fleshing out our capabilities there. That’s been driving the company’s success over these last seven or so quarters, that focus on live ops.
The second piece—those live ops will generate recurring profitable revenues. Now we want to layer in new games on top of it, like Words with Friends 2. But we’ll also be releasing some new games in the second half of 2018 in action strategy as well as the casual categories. You’re going to start to see new games this management team has built from scratch. It’ll be a combination of new IP, Zynga brands we’ve revitalized, and new strategic licenses we’ll add to our portfolio. That new game component, we’re really excited about it and investing in it hard.
The third piece is to invest in those new platforms, like chat and augmented reality, and invest in new business models. The final piece is—look, mobile is really dynamic. We’re always on the hunt for talented teams and franchises we can add to Zynga. We’ll use our balance sheet to go out and acquire opportunities, much like we did with Peak Games. If you look at our opportunity going forward, look at those four avenues of growth, we’re bullish about Zynga.
GamesBeat: What’s your view of Dawn of Titans now? I’m still playing, but there aren’t too many people around me.
Gibeau: The way I describe Dawn of Titans, we’re committed to that franchise. We have active development underway on a more robust set of features that we believe can build the audience again. We believe in the alliance versus alliance PvP. It just needs more depth and more features. That’s what the team is actively building right now, in conjunction with the fans. We’re constantly testing ideas with the fan base.
The good news about mobile is that a game can come out, have some level of success, maybe fall back a bit, but you can invest in new features, new content, new ways to play, and it can come roaring back. There are lots of examples of that in mobile. We’re committed to Dawn of Titans. We believe that in the long term, we will make that a forever franchise for us. It just needs more time to get the right set of features.
GamesBeat: That category of games, is that what you are targeting with some of the games that are coming in the future?
Gibeau: NaturalMotion is the place that’s building our action strategy games. That includes CSR 2 as well as Dawn of Titans. That category of games, we consider those together. On that front, we’re encouraged by the performance of CSR 2. As we look at those games, they’re on the same floor in the same building. There’s a lot of sharing and brainstorming about how we can get Dawn of Titans more to that level of performance. That’s why we’re optimistic.
GamesBeat: Is there some crossover between the casual titles you’re picking up and the casino titles? They’re all card games, but some are categorized under casino and some aren’t.
Gibeau: It actually occupies a space between casual games and social casino to a degree. Any of the Peak games are more casual than casino-oriented. But you see crossover between poker players and spades and rummy. You do see crossover with our Words with Friends and Crosswords with Friends into the card-based area. Solitaire is a big feeder of players into these other franchises as well.
GamesBeat: Do you think you’re picking up games that have more new audiences for you? Or are they games your audience is already playing?
Gibeau: We believe it’s new. The acquisition will actually add several million DAU to our overall mobile business. A lot of those will be incrementally new. （Source：venturebeat.com ）