Inside the San Francisco headquarters of Zynga, engineers who haven't shaved - or, really, slept - for days huddle around screens, checking for updates. The whole building has a feeling of anticipation, like the next few hours could change their lives.
No, it's not the social networking giant's IPO -- let's not get ahead of ourselves. The talk today is not about stock, but about the newest Zynga game release, called "Empires and Allies." Launching on June 1, in 12 languages, "E&A" boasts more action that your typical farm or city, instead letting players build up their island fortresses, and then defend them in battle.
In fact, "Empires" really spreads things out. The game's executive producer, Amer Ajami, told me the new game is like CityVille meets Risk, "because you have multi-player city building, along with more traditional hardcore game elements like fighting, and telling an involved story with many characters and villains." You can choose to help your friends get ahead, or fight them. Either way, the ultimate goal is to beat back the evil warlord named "The Raven."
Also, like all Zynga games, you start for free, then can build up your defenses by spending real money. Your real cash buys you virtual "points" you can use to snag tanks and airplanes, and leapfrog over levels you find too boring, or too taxing.
Yes, Zynga makes a ton of cash with these games, and given LinkedIn's recent IPO success, it makes sense that Zynga would take its turn basking in the public market. While you wait for their stock filing, there's a new way to keep you busy.