FarmVille Developer Creating Its Own Gaming Platform

As reported on Monday, FarmVille developer Zynga held an "Unleashed" press event at its San Francisco headquarters on Tuesday to reveal what was originally thought to be new games. And while the studio did offer up new titles, the big news was the announcement of its own independent social networking game platform (playground) called Zynga Direct, or Project Z. This platform will allow fans to play Zynga games without having to load up Facebook first, but will still require users to login using Facebook Connect.

According to reports, Zynga Direct is part of the developer's "direct to consumer" strategy to build out a platform for both mobile and Web-based use supporting this personal relationship over the next two years. The first component launched on Tuesday, allowing gamers to reserve their gamertag, or "zTag." Other reports indicate that the sign-on aspect will launch later this year.

"We are going to build a whole sandbox around the games and not just in the games," Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus said. Players will be able to chat, share and form instant communities worldwide. They'll even be able to start a game on Zynga Direct and then continue on Facebook and vice versa.

"We really want to build a platform for play," Pincus added. "We haven’t changed our vision since starting. We want to be the biggest macro bet on social gaming. We believe in social gaming. We believe that everyone around the world will embrace play, so everything we are doing is an attempt to bring that to life. There’s going to be a World of Warcraft feeling, but something you can understand in five minutes."

As for new Zynga games, the developer announced four for Facebook including Hidden Chronicles, Mafia Wars 2, Zynga Casino's Zynga Bingo and CastleVille, and the three HTML5-based games revealed yesterday: Words With Friends, Zynga Poker Mobile Web and FarmVille Express -- these three will go live on Wednesday. A fourth HTML5 game, Mafia Shakedown, will be arriving soon as well as a fifth game called DreamZoo (Twitter).

To read the full live blog from Zynga's press event, head here.