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iol scitech march 2 zyga poker REUTERS will launch this month with CastleVille, Words With Friends, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles and Zynga Poker.

San Francisco - Facebook games star Zynga on Thursday unveiled an online playground where people can share passions for hit titles without having to visit the world's top social network. will launch this month with CastleVille, Words With Friends, CityVille, Hidden Chronicles and Zynga Poker, along with a promise of lots more social games by the San Francisco-based firm and outside developers.

“We built to give our players more ways to connect with each other and play great social games whether built by Zynga or other talented developers,” said Zynga founder and chief executive Mark Pincus.

“We look forward to bringing more play to the world on our platform.”

Zynga played up its online games community as an expansion of its partnership with Facebook rather than a quest for more independence.

Zynga rose to success on the popularity of it titles at Facebook, where millions of people enlist friends in either collaborative or competitive online play ranging from poker to growing virtual crops or building cartoon cities. will be connected to the Facebook “social graph” so game play and actions of friends involved will follow people between the online venues, Zynga general manager Manuel Bronstein told AFP.

“I see this as a great manifestation of our relationship with Facebook that goes deeper into gaming,” Bronstein said.

“In the morning you may check your news or social feeds on Facebook and then play games, but late in the afternoon you might just want to play so you go to”

Along with keeping people connected with Facebook play companions, the Zynga website features ways to speed up progress in games and find “zFriends” who share one's passions for titles.

“The reality is that games I like my friends might not like, but there are strangers out there who might share my love for the games,” Bronstein said.

“You can make zFriends to find what you need to level up quickly in games, and be able to keep your family pictures and personal history on Facebook private,” he continued. was also crafted as a platform on which third-party developers could make titles available to the 240 million people who play the company's games each month.

Zynga partners at launch included Mob Science and Row Sham Bow.

“As an independent game developer, we have faced significant challenges in getting players to discover our games,” said Mob Science chief executive Michael Witz.

“The Zynga Platform provides an unparalleled opportunity by letting us focus on building a game that can easily be enjoyed by the millions of people on Zynga's network who already love to play social games.” will launch globally in coming weeks in 16 languages.

Zynga jumped into the stock market with a billion-dollar listing in December.

Offering 100 million shares - one-seventh of the company's total - at $10 (about R80) a pop, the maker of Facebook games FarmVille, Mafia Wars and Words With Friends was valued at a whopping $7 billion.

Zynga stock was trading at $13.75 a share on the Nasdaq exchange at mid-day on Thursday.

Zynga games are free to play but the company makes money by selling virtual in-game goods to players and serving up advertising. The company sees the potential for revenue to grow if players flock to - AFP

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