Zynga Debuts 'CastleVille' on Facebook After Dismal Quarter

Social-game giant Zynga debuted "CastleVille" today, the latest entry in the wildly popular series of multiplayer Facebook games.

Users create their own intricate avatars, and then they meet a variety of characters, complete quests and explore different parts of the world. The game’s storyline develops as users meet new characters and evolves as people interact with the characters.

“We’ve added more depth and life to the characters and focused a lot of time on making them as real as possible,” said Bill Jackson, creative director of Zynga Dallas. “We’re bringing the game closer to the design for a massively multiplayer role playing game for the mass market. The idea is to have a world full of things to uncover and uncover together with friends.”

Additional features, like crop irrigation and use of "Reputation” as currencies, were also evident, but not as attention grabbing in the first session of play, according to reviewers.

“All in all, the first play session of CastleVille is pretty standard for role-playing game tutorials on the Facebook platform, which incidentally were standardized by FarmVille and FrontierVille,” said reviewer AJ Glasser of Inside Social Games. “The CastleVille-specific features that stood out most for us during this time, however, were the detailed animations in chopping down trees, the orchestral music, and the search and organization functions in the Market.”

Nevertheless, some market analysts said the success or failure of the new release is essential to the health and survival of Zynga.

“Hate to say I told you so, but it’s becoming clear that Farmville’s days are numbered. Once the premiere social game on the internet, the title has experienced a steady decline in users and is now being surpassed by newer, fresher titles on the market,” said Paul Tassi in Forbes.

Forbes reported that SEC filings for the fourth quarter reveal that year-on-year, Zynga’s profits are down 95 percent, going from $27.2 million to $1.3 million.

“While the company was one of the hottest growth stories in tech for the last few years, it has been flat lining over the last few quarters,” said Business Insider’s Matt Lynley. “Zynga is placing a huge bet that CastleVille will help it recover some of the users it has lost and jump-start its growth.”