Back in October, Zynga hinted at a new play service called Project Z. Today, its unveiled this mysterious project as a new online gaming platform,, which will launch in beta this month.

This new site will allow you to play popular Zynga games such as “Words with Friends” and “CityVille” without going through Facebook or mobile apps. But why would Zynga bother?

According to lead product manager, Reed Shaffner, Zynga gamers want to find other people to play with beyond Facebook and to have a community for gaming and play that isn’t integrated with the platforms they use for other tasks. So it appears that Zynga are looking to create a gaming community it can harness without the restriction of Facebook. Imaginably, this would also allow the company greater access to player data which will make Zynga a stronger platform in its own right.

Though you can continue your game no matter what space you are in (Facebook, mobile apps, website), the site allows for greater interaction with anyone on the Zynga network. They have created a live social stream with conversations from everyone across the ecosystem. These interactions have then been made into a game outlining how helpful you are verses how much help you’ve received and how you compare to the rest of the community. Of course, this type of function has had success in other communities to drive more online use as users compete with each other to top the leaderboard.

The most intriguing part of this development is that Zynga are opening their platform to third party game developers.  As Shaffner states in his video address, “Building games is in Zynga’s DNA and we want to bring third party developers along to give them a space to make their games better.” By partnering with Zynga, developers will extend the reach of their games, while Zynga will gain more users and have more products to put advertisements against. The first round of Zynga Platform partners includes MobScience, Row Sham Bow and Sava.

There is no mention of the benefit the developers receive. Is it advertising dollars? Development funding? Or just a launch platform for their work? According Zynga’s blog:

These developers will be able to leverage our zCloud infrastructure for scalability and availability and our analytics to measure and drive their social engagement with metrics such as ASN (Active Social Network) which measures how many friends our players interact with.

It may seem a strange move to go away from mobile and social networks as Zynga’s primary platforms, but the gaming company may be looking at a more long term strategy here. If it is able to host endless new games (and ones that may be better than its own) that Zynga didn’t have to invest development dollars in, then its focus can move more to in-game advertising, which is where the dollars are. Especially as they reward customers for watching them.

What do you think? A bold move forward for Zynga? Or will this be a doomed endeavour?