Zynga SVP of Mobile talks genres, acquisitions

Zynga’s new senior vice president of mobile Travis Boatman has seen the mobile gaming industry go through one seismic shift after another. He saw JAMDAT through its landmark $680 million acquisition to Electronic Arts back in 2005, then built up EA’s mobile business and oversaw its studios worldwide. Raised in Silicon Valley where he grew up on games like Bard’s Tale, he switched to gaming from earlier career ambitions in sports medicine.

Right now under Zynga, there are three main lines of mobile games. The “With Friends” brand grew out of Newtoy’s smash hit Words With Friends and then expanded to include Scramble With Friends and Hanging With Friends. “These are usually asynchronous and directly social,” Boatman said. Then there is a cohort of games that are more or less extensions of Zynga’s core Facebook franchises like Cityville Hometown.

Lastly, there’s the “Dream” line-up, which is new given the recent debuts of Dream Zoo and Dream PetHouse. Boatman says the “Dream” brand is more aspirational. “We like to say they’re about ‘vest’ and ‘express.’ They’re about growing and customizing, which is in line with our core tenants. All of these games have a similar look and feel.”

Like Pincus, Boatman brushed off recent criticism that Zynga’s titles are too similar to ones existing in the market. NimbleBit recently blasted Zynga for an unreleased title called Dream Heights because it was too similar to its app Tiny Tower, which won Apple’s game of the year. Dream Zoo and Dream PetHouse also seem reminiscent of Pocket Gems’ Tap Zoo and Tap Pet Hotel.

“These games are free and our players have the choice to play what they want to play,” he said. “If games were too similar to consumers and there was no clear value add, why would a consumer play it?”

Read the rest on our sister site, Inside Mobile Apps.