Zynga rides social wave with new CityVille game

Urban game joins Zynga's Facebook-based powerhouses Farmville, Mafia Wars and Zynga Poker

The world of social gaming just got a bit more urban.

Online gaming firm Zynga has made a name for itself by enabling Facebook users to grow crops, build criminal empires and clear frontierland. Now, the gaming company is expanding its portfolio with CityvVille, where users can run restaurants, manage businesses and build an entire city online.

"CityVille is where Monopoly meets Main Street," said Sean Kelly, a Zynga general manager, in a statement. "We are thrilled to bring the world our most social game to date. Instead of harvesting crops, you're harvesting your neighborhood. Instead of clearing your friend's frontier, you're working on a friend's franchise. We hope players from around the world have as much fun playing CityVille as we had building it."

Zynga announced Thursday that the new Facebook game, which will be released for beta testing in the "coming weeks," will include English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish on Facebook versions.

The online gaming company, founded in early 2007, is rising to prominence in Silicon Valley, claiming more than 225 million active users of its games, which include FarmVille, FrontierVille, Mafia Wars, Zynga Poker and YoVille.

In an appearance at the Web 2.0 Summit earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said social networks are changing the online gaming landscape.

"The games platform has been really interesting. Some really good gaming companies have been built on top of Facebook," Zuckerberg said. "It's a different modality of thinking. If you build an app and expect that people will be there with their friends, that's a great thing. Now you can design something and assume the vast majority of your users will be socially enabled."

Zynga has been sewing a lot of success off the social online gaming sphere.

Earlier this week, Yahoo announced that Zynga aficionados will be able to play the Mafia Wars and FishVille games on the on the Yahoo Games, Pulse, Messenger, MyYahoo and Toolbar sites.

And earlier this month, Zynga executives inked one of the biggest office lease deals that San Francisco has seen in the past five years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The deal includes 270,000 square feet of office space, which will help house the 863 people the company hired this year.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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