Facebook game star Zynga opens online playground

Facebook games star Zynga on Monday opened an online playground where users can enjoy hit titles without having to visit the world's top social network.

Zynga.com launched with CastleVille, Words With Friends, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles and Zynga Poker, along with a promise of lots more social games by the San Francisco-based firm and outside developers.

"Zynga.com is designed to make it easier for you to play with friends," Zynga founder Mark Pincus said in a blog post.

"We've invested heavily to build a network and infrastructure tuned for delivering social gaming at scale."

Zynga played up its online games community as an expansion of its partnership with Facebook rather than a quest for more independence.

Zynga rose to success on the popularity of it titles at Facebook, where millions of users enlist friends in either collaborative or competitive online play ranging from poker to growing virtual crops or building cartoon cities.

Zynga.com is connected to the Facebook "social graph" so game play and the actions of friends involved will follow users between the online venues, Zynga general manager Manuel Bronstein told AFP.

"I see this as a great manifestation of our relationship with Facebook that goes deeper into gaming," Bronstein said.

"In the morning you may check your news or social feeds on Facebook and then play games, but late in the afternoon you might just want to play, so you go to Zynga.com."

Along with keeping people connected with Facebook play companions, the Zynga website features ways to speed up progress in games and find "zFriends" who share one's passion for certain titles.

Zynga.com was also crafted as a platform on which third-party developers could make titles available to the 240 million people who play the company's games each month.

Zynga jumped into the stock market with a billion-dollar listing in December.

Offering 100 million shares -- one seventh of the company's total -- at $10 each, the maker of Facebook games FarmVille, Mafia Wars and Words With Friends was valued at a whopping $7 billion.

Zynga's stock price rose slightly to $14 a share on the NASDAQ in after-hours trading that followed the launch of the online games community.

Zynga games are free to play but the company makes money by selling virtual in-game goods to players and serving up advertising. The company sees the potential for revenue to grow if players flock to zynga.com.

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