Today in Social

Zynga isn’t the only social gaming company that’s struggling. It’s a tough business. Electronic Arts, that is managing its evolution into digital distribution and extension into social/casual games at least as well as any of the big videogame companies, had to whack some heads at its PopCap unit. And Goko, that was crowing about creating a network of HTML5 games, took itself back into beta after finding it couldn’t scale. For all the hype, social gaming hasn’t really opened up a new market. Casual gaming has worked for 25 percent of the online adult population since the dawn of the consumer web. PopCap runs Bejeweled, remember? Mobile gaming is also pretty well established, though Goko faces the additional hurdle of reaching a critical mass of users before its game cross-promotion will be effective.

Today in Connected Consumer

You would be hard-pressed to find a set of relationships more fraught right now than those between major social platform providers and third-party developers trying to build businesses on them. After a series of controversial changes to Twitter’s API policy, developers are now casting a wary eye on the microblogging platform as they try to figure out where they stand in the new ecosystem. Social game developers, meanwhile, are growing increasingly leery of doing business with Facebook due to what many developers see as excessive demands and fees imposed by the social network. While currently fraught, the relationship between social platforms and developers is also critical. Ultimately, getting it right is the key both to a healthy ecosystem and to the monetization of social platforms. So stay tuned.

A social gaming manifesto

Zynga is in turmoil. Since its IPO, Zynga stock has cratered, and it lost its COO. Its emerging mobile strategy has failed to impress. With increasing competition, it’s worth understanding whether Zynga’s troubles are unique to the company, or whether it is social gaming itself that is struggling.

Amazon launches social gaming studio, kicks Zynga when it’s down

Amazon enters the social gaming market with its key incumbent in Nasdaq free-fall. Does it really want to compete in a business with unproven monetization, or does it just want to make some games for Kindle owners to play? The unit’s first game launched Monday.

Today in Social

It has passed into conventional wisdom that both Facebook and Zynga have mobile “issues.” Today’s Wall Street Journal rehashes Zynga’s mobile woes. The most interesting bit has Zynga execs acknowledge that they’re considering charging for mobile apps, rather than count on the virtual-goods-buying “whales” they tap on the web. I’m not sure why the user ratios would be different, but it’s a healthy debate. Our GigaOM Pro spring consumer survey showed that 22 percent of online adults with mobile phones regularly play games, and that figure doubles for smartphone owners. That’s pretty consistent with casual web gaming participation since the dawn of the Internet. Of course, not all mobile is “mobile.” My GigaOM colleague Kevin Tofel points at a survey done by Keynote Systems where consumers self-report their behavior on phones versus tablets. I’m a little surprised the differences aren’t more pronounced. More puzzling: I don’t understand why the survey shows only single-digit gaming on either device. Caveat emptor.

Today in Connected Consumer

The Facebook-Zynga relationship has become deeply unhealthy. Shares of Zynga were falling through the floor in mid-morning trading today after it posted disastrous second-quarter earnings Wednesday. The online game developer was hit hard by tweaks Facebook made to its platform that favor newer games over Zynga’s established brands like FarmVille and CityVille. Now, Zynga is returning the favor by turning into a significant drag on Facebook shares ahead of the social network’s first quarterly earnings report as a public company later today. Time for couples’ therapy?

Betable allows social games to add real money gambling

Betable, a UK-based startup, is introducing a platform that allows developers to easily add real-money gaming into their apps. The company is announcing a private beta developer program and plans to open the platform to all developers before the end of this year.

“Unleashed” Zynga shows steady progress

It’s been less than nine months since Zynga started to hint at the strategy that would launch its next stage of growth and reduce some of its dependency on Facebook. In fact, the company is showing steady progress in implementing that vision. Third-party developers and Zynga competitors would be wise not to discount Zynga’s momentum.

Facebook should be worried about Wooga’s HTML5 exit

The reasons cited by games factory Wooga when it pulled out of developing mobile browser-based games for Facebook’s platform are not going to be fixed anytime soon – and that fact should be cause for concern in the social network’s quest to conquer mobile.