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Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of Zynga.

A resurgent Zynga is much more than the company that got everyone playing "Farmville" on Facebook many years ago, company president Bernard Kim tells Axios.

Why it matters: One of the best-known social gaming companies has transformed itself into a mobile giant and is also setting its sights on consoles.

  • "I don't think we are a team that likes to dabble," Kim said. "If we're going to go into something, we're going in to win."

Between the lines: Thanks to aggressive acquisitions in recent years and a prolific publishing slate of more than 100 active games, Zynga’s mobile presence is huge, but somewhat obscured.

  • The company runs a range of top iOS and Android games, including "Words with Friends," "Zynga Poker," and "Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells."
  • Its top-performing game, "Empire & Puzzles," isn’t even branded to Zynga (it's listed under its developer Small Giant, which Zynga bought 80% of for more than $560 million in late 2018).
  • Its Rollic Games division (acquired for over $200 million last October) manages dozens of popular, so-called hyper-casual games, including "Hair Challenge." That one was the second most downloaded game in the world from April to June, according to App Annie.

As with many popular mobile games, Zynga's releases are short-session experiences that are offered for free as players are nudged to pay to advance faster or unlock better rewards.

  • Many Zynga games can be played in short bursts or while multitasking.
  • Zynga's more "casual" games are loaded with interstitial video ads that players can pay to skip, though marketing persists.
  • Rollic's popular "High Heels" game challenges players to walk in increasingly tall heels while walking past logos for Progressive insurance.
"Hair Challenge" and "High Heels," two hit games from Zynga's Rollic division. Image: Zynga/Rollic

The big picture: As many big console game makers are moving into mobile, heavyweights like Zynga are now eyeing consoles.

  • Zynga's upcoming "Star Wars Hunters," developed by the BossAlien studio behind its popular CSR Racing games, will be an arena battler set in the time period of "The Mandalorian" show on Disney+. It is set for release on phones and, crucially, Nintendo Switch. It's part of a multi-game Star Wars deal with Disney, Kim said.
  • Zynga also recently bought Echtra Games, which has pedigree in "Diablo" and similar games on console and PC, to help Zynga "into cross-platform and potentially work on a very large, unannounced intellectual property," Kim said.
  • Zynga will remain mobile first, but with its free-to-play social gaming approach, Kim said, "we believe we can be disrupters in the console space."

What's next: Zynga's 2021 slate includes a wider release of "Farmville 3," which has been slowly rolling out since mid-2019.

Go deeper

"Smash Bros" adds "Kingdom Hearts" hero Sora

Image: Nintendo

Nintendo’s mighty crossover game, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” capped off three years of ambitious expansion with the announcement that “Kingdom Hearts” hero Sora will be added to the Switch fighting game’s roster on Oct. 18.

Why it matters: This wasn’t just the addition of a character that had secretly topped Nintendo’s official fan request poll six years ago. It was a stream watched by more than 500,000 people that demonstrated the convergence of some of the industry’s major trends.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.