Zynga Bets the FarmVille on Slots

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Fans of Zynga's (ZNGA) FarmVille 2 and Hit It Rich! games will be happy to know the online game maker and social platform dominator Facebook (FB) have combined the two games into FarmVille 2 Slots.

The latest country-style version of Hit It Rich! is exclusive to Facebook users. Inducing pink pigs to dizzily spin on a wheel is as much fun as popping bubble wrap after your second Friday afternoon cocktail.

I unloaded my virtual coins quickly -- apparently maximum bet equals minimum time -- and received a friendly pop-up enabling me to buy more coins. Steven Hawking has a better chance of making the starting lineup of an NBA team than Zynga gaining my credit card number to purchase tokens. However, it doesn't detract from the positive realignment happening right now to take the company into profitability. I haven't always been optimistic on its future.

I was counted as one of Zynga's biggest skeptics, even calling the company Facebook's outside dog. Rightfully so -- Zynga was trading for over $6 and proceeded to shed over 60% of its value before finding support near $2. The price was only a few virtual seed purchases above cash on hand. Things were disastrous, and dependence on Facebook effectively created a no win situation.

It wasn't until August last year that I regained confidence and began alerted investors that dipping a big toe into the water offered a reasonable risk/reward. Don Mattrick became CEO and he updated the doghouse with a new chief operating officer, chief technology officer, senior vice president of games and chief people officer. Unquestionably a fantastic start, albeit it's only part of the story.

Shareholders' ace in the hole came from a surprising place. While the analysts and market pundits obsessed over declining daily active users (DAU) for FarmVille, YoVille and other freemium games, Zynga built the number one play money poker site in the world.

The timing couldn't be better as the United States appears poised to loosen online gambling regulations after destroying a vibrant industry that wants to make a comeback. Three states have already dropped bans for online real money gaming and more will likely follow suit.

Zynga currently is licensed in the U.K. for real money poker and casino type games. As highlighted in Zynga's Online Gambling Plans Ready to Blossom, poker games are driving significant amounts of revenue. What the company needs in order for shareholders to watch the share price drive higher is to expand real money poker and casino games.

It takes time, focus and resources to align all the pieces into place so if you're expecting the stock to double overnight, expect disappointment. However, if you're already in for the long haul or are thinking of buying with a wait and see approach, I think the potential rewards are more attractive than competitors King Entertainment (KING) or Yahoo! (YHOO).

Facebook partnered with Zynga earlier this year and currently allows U.K. Facebook users to play real money poker and casino type games, a move that should bolster both companies' top and bottom lines --  although for Facebook, don't anticipate a material or even noticeable impact unless the active players grow magnitudes larger than the U.K. market.

Meanwhile, back at the FarmVille 2 slots, the game supports Zynga's active list of potential real money gambling players and builds the company's expertise in producing desirable games. With any luck the latest update to Hit It Rich! will also create a decent return on its own and bring the company one step closer to a recently elusive operational gain.

Posting a quarterly profit will go a long way towards making the wait until Zynga dominates online poker much quicker.

At the time of publication the author had no position in any of the stocks mentioned.

Follow @RobertWeinstein

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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