Latest from 'FarmVille' maker looks to grow empire

June 1, 2011 - 2:14 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — The creator of "FarmVille" and "FrontierVille" is ditching the "ville" suffix for its latest Facebook game, "Empires & Allies."

The game from Zynga is set to launch Wednesday. It is like a mix of the classic strategy game "Risk" and "CityVille," where players oversee virtual cities. Unlike the company's other games, which give points for helping neighbors, "Empires" lets Facebook users play against one another.

"You can do altruistic things like helping out your friends, or you can attack them," said Amer Ajami, executive producer of the game. "We give you honor points or infamy points."

Like Zynga's other games, "Empires" is free to play. For small amounts of money, you can buy virtual items such as battleships, submarines, army cadets and groups of rifle-wielding solders. Zynga says this strategy has allowed it to be profitable. Wedbush Morgan estimates the company will bring in at least $850 million in revenue this year.

The new game comes amid growing chatter of an initial public offering for Zynga. The San Francisco-based company is not commenting and has not yet filed any IPO papers. If it comes, Zynga's public debut would most likely eclipse that of LinkedIn Corp. The professional networking service more than doubled its stock price in its first day of trading on May 19, a pop that recalled the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

"Empires & Allies" is more complex than Zynga's other games, in which players do little more than constantly click on things to get ahead. The goal this time is restore your island it to its former glory and to build up enough troops to fight the villains of the Dark Alliance. It's Zynga's first combat strategy game.

"Empires," which is launching in 12 languages including Norwegian and Korean, is Zynga's biggest international launch yet, Ajami said.

"We want to introduce as many people to the game as possible," he said.