It’s taken nearly 11 years, but Zynga may finally be bouncing back from its rocky start. So far in 2020, shares of Zynga ($ZNGA) are up nearly 50%.
Back in December 2011 when its IPO debuted, the mobile gaming giant’s biggest titles like Farmville, Words With Friends and Mafia Wars were inextricably tied to Facebook. Only a few short months later, Facebook’s IPO disaster helped drag down Zynga’s shares to a low from which it would take years to recover.
But now, shelter-in-place has mobile gaming is on the rise again, and Zynga has reclaimed its position as a powerhouse. The question is if that success is built to last.
In a shocker of a first quarter, Zynga announced a 52% increase in revenue and a 72% increase in user-pay revenue year-over-year, in its May 6 earnings call. This is largely due to the success of four games: Empire and Puzzles, Merge Magic!, Game Of Thrones Slots Casino, and Merge Dragons!
App Store ratings for those four titles have boomed since January, increasing as much as 129% for Merge Magic! and 22% for the most popular of the four, Merge Dragons! Each earned a rating higher than 4.5-out-of.5, as of the last tally in the Apple Store.
The app gaming company's recent share price peak also came following Zynga’s acquisition of Peak Games, a Turkish developer which owns two of the top-performing mobile games in the world in Toon Blast and Toy Blast.
Zynga’s hiring has stayed relatively steady throughout the year despite its growth. It peaked at 146 open positions on April 15 but has since dropped down to 109, just a handful fewer than it started the year at. But there’s not a lot of need to hire en masse when you’re absorbing an entire company and its 100-person team.
However, Zynga’s success doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not like mobile gaming is doing better than everyone else; gaming overall is on the rise. While Zynga’s shares got some momentum in mid-March when quarantine began as investors bet gaming would boom in popularity, so did everyone else’s. Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Sony, and others are all enjoying their highest prices in years as people turn to gaming to fill time.
Zynga historically just isn’t a very well-liked company but its success may not be fleeting. A lot of new customers are likely to stick around for a long time given how many of Zynga's games rely on microtransactions and other tricks to keep players glued to their phones and stuck to their games. Mobile gaming might not be the console-destroyer people thought it would be back in 2012, but it’s certainly here to stay.
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