Perhaps just hours away from revealing its finances in order to become a public company, Zynga has signed a major deal with AT&T (NYSE: T) to promote its brand of simple social games to AT&T’s Android customers. A few helpings of free credits and promises to make Zynga’s games work better on wireless networks are involved.
AT&T has agreed to promote Zynga’s games in its section of the Android Market, giving Zynga a prominent billboard among Android customers. What’s more, the two companies are going to work together on making Zynga’s games perform better on AT&T’s network, by exploring “ways to extend device battery life during game play, as well as improve network efficiency for playing,” they said in a press release. And Zynga users “of select games” will be able to purchase a few new accessories for their farms or cities if they are also AT&T customers when the deal goes into effect later this year.
The deal makes a lot of sense for Zynga (although the terms were not disclosed), in that it doesn’t want to be dependent on Facebook for such a huge chunk of its customers. Mobile is a natural place to make a mark, which is what led to Zynga’s purchase of Newtoy last December and the release of several new mobile games since then. And AT&T has a huge audience as the second-largest carrier in the U.S., with designs on becoming the largest in the country if it can ram home its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile.
But the optimizations that AT&T and Zynga are working on could be very interesting if they can find a way to make Zynga’s games work best on AT&T’s network. It’s not hard to envision AT&T using that as a selling point for attracting new customers, perhaps coupled with an inexpensive Android device designed for gaming.
Of course, attracting new customers to AT&T by emphasizing the quality of the network might be a tough road at first, given AT&T’s historic struggles with network performance. Still, as people grow more and more familiar with smartphones data network performance will start to be as important to the buying decision as voice quality or a shiny new phone. Verizon’s iPhone group is nodding its head.