Zynga Q&A: Gambling, Facebook, Sinking Share Price (Update 1)

Updated from 10:14 a.m. EST to provide correction on Mike Gupta's title and clarification of comment regarding sharing on the second page.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Zynga's ( ZNGA) headquarters are nothing short of amazing, with lights all over, a variety of video games as far as the eye can see, and engineers all working on the latest from the San Francisco-based social gaming company.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Mike Gupta, Zynga's Vice President Finance and Treasurer, to discuss a wide array of initiatives, including gambling, the company's relationship with Facebook ( FB), console gaming, and Zynga's sinking share price.

Chris Ciaccia: What's Zynga's future as it relates to online gambling? Is that something the company is exploring?

Mike Gupta: It is something we're exploring. We think it's an interesting adjacency to what we do in our core business. We also think we have an interesting asset in Zynga Poker, which is the world's largest online game, with over 30 million monthly average users, or players. We think we have an interesting asset, we are exploring the space, but at this time, we don't have anything specific to announce.

Ciaccia: If that online gambling is something that does happen, and the federal government does regulate online gambling, are there any potential partners that Zynga would work with? Whether it be a casino operator or an online betting company?

Gupta: We're talking to a variety of folks within the industry, and again, I think, given our asset, we're uniquely positioned. I think ultimately who we partner with will be somewhat driven by how the legislation gets written and what's required, so stay tuned.

Ciaccia: Facebook generates 12% of its revenue from Zynga, as stated in their S-1. Obviously the relationship between Facebook and Zynga is very complex, and it's a major one for both partners. What kind of plans does Zynga have outside of the Zynga.com platform to diversify away from Facebook?

Gupta: Facebook, great partner, it's a strong partnership that we have with them. As they disclosed in their prospectus, there's roughly 900 million MAU's (monthly average users). It's a great platform on which Zynga can operate. Our goal is always to be where the users are, where the players are. Having said that, we have thought about it and are thinking about other platforms. The beauty of our games is that we have the ability to go across different platforms. We've done that with Google ( GOOG) Plus, we've done that with Tencent. Today, we announced Draw Something will be on Sina ( SINA) Weibo, which is a local network there which will allow folks to connect off of Facebook in China, so we think that's a great thing. And mobile, is another big play, which allows us to diversify off Facebook.

Ciaccia: What about plans for console gaming? Are there any plans for that or is everything going to stay on mobile platform or Web?

Gupta: No plans for console. We're focused on both Web and mobile at this point.

Ciaccia: Acquisitions. The latest one was OMGPop a few months ago. Social gaming companies are seemingly popping up overnight. Does Zynga have any plans to continue adding companies as they see fit, or is growth going to become organic at this point?

Gupta: So we are always looking at and evaluating opportunities that will span the spectrum of IP-related acquisitions, talent related acquisitions, and technology related acquisitions. The fair majority of them have been talent related acquisitions. OMGPop, which was our most recent acquisition, was an acquisition we did around a specific franchise, which has a strong team behind it, and other games. But for the most part, they've been talent related. Going forward, we'll evaluate opportunities, but we'll do so with strong financial discipline.

Ciaccia: That brings me to my next question. The rumored price point for OMGPop was somewhere around $200 million and was at the height of the popularity of Draw Something. Draw Something's popularity has come down. Does that signify financial discipline, or is that something that in retrospect, was "buying at the top?"

Gupta: So, Draw Something, or OMGPop is the second acquisition where we actually acquired IP or a franchise, with Words With Friends being the first one a couple of years ago. We take a long-term view on these things. In OMGPop, we saw an interesting brand and franchise in Draw Something and the team behind that. With Draw Something, they had some interesting turn-based mechanics and the player generated content with the drawings that were being shared virally. I think that's also another interesting aspect of social gaming. So again, we take a long-term view shortly after buying Draw Something. We have a joint release with some of the folks here at Zynga, which improved some of the sharing across. We've recently now launched Draw Something in multiple languages. I think we added something like 12 additional languages and we have the release on Sina Weibo. We think about this much more long-term. We think this is a game and a franchise of which we can build upon.

Ciaccia: Let's talk about the share price. Shares were hit on a Cowen report that said mobile usage was down and mobile usage is not as profitable for Zynga as Web platforms are. What's your response to that?

Gupta: We are absolutely focused on mobile. What I would tell you is mobile monetization varies by game and by genre, and we see some games where mobile monetization is comparable to Web monetization. We think mobile is an important part of Zynga's growth and we want to be where the players want to be. We want to give them the availability, the accessibility they need for social games. We think mobile's important and we're focused on monetization in mobile. Not just ad-supported, but user paid as well.

Ciaccia: Have you seen any negative feedback from users on the paid apps, versus the ad-supported ones?

Gupta: We have not. We have seen strong mobile growth across all of our games. Many of our games are available on a free or a paid version, and there's the user paid in games as well.

Ciaccia: Why would I pay for the app when I can get it for free and it's supported by ads?

Gupta: I think some people do it for the convenience of not having ads in the game experience. In some cases, we give small incentives, maybe some sort of power-ups or some coins and things like that in the paid version.

Ciaccia: Do you feel like the fallout that we've seen from Facebook's IPO has negatively affected social media stocks in general? Do you think that this is something that will blow over in the next few weeks? Or do you think this is something that investors are saying, 'Perhaps the business model's really aren't all that they are cracked up to be?'

Gupta: So I can't comment specifically on Facebook and where they're trading. What I would say for us is we're focused on delivering long-term shareholder value. We think the best way for us to do that is to execute against our mission of building games. One of the best ways to do that is building and developing the most fun and accessible social games. We as a company, think that's the best way to focus our efforts.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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