Zynga, MOL unveil game cards in Asia

update Available in US$2, US$5 and US$10 denominations, cards can be used to pay for virtual goods in Zynga games and will be available in six Asian markets including Singapore, India and the Philippines.

update SINGAPORE--Zynga and MOL have announced the launch of Zynga game cards in Asia, allowing users to pay for virtual goods used in Zynga games.

Available in values of US$2, US$5 and US$10, the cards will be sold in retail chains in Singapore such as 7-Eleven, Cheers, and Comics Connection, revealed company executives during the launch here Tuesday. They will also be available in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Current customers of MOL, which is a Malaysian online payments company, can transfer their existing MOLPoints virtual currency to the Zynga game cards, which can be used to purchase virtual goods for 11 Zygna games including FarmVille, FrontierVille, CityVille and Café World.

In Singapore, the cards are sold in MOLPoints rather than US dollar dominations--1,000 MOLPoints for S$10 (US$7.90), 2,000 MOLPoints for S$20 (US$15.70), and 5,000 MOLPoints for S$50 (US$39.40). An MOL executive explained to ZDNet Asia that Singapore distributors prefer to sell MOLPoints because it is a single point of currency that can be used to purchase other virtual credits such as Facebook Credits and iTunes credits.

In Indonesia, online payment company Indomog also launched Zynga game cards that will be available in over 1,500 cafés and retail outlets across the country. "A lot of adult players here have little time to maintain their online farms or mafia clans but are highly committed and wouldn't mind spending cash to catch up with their peers," co-founder of Indomog Vincent Iswaratioso said in a separate press statement Tuesday.

Social games developer Zynga said the cards will provide more options for consumers in Asian markets, and pointed to an ABI Research study which projected that global online games sales--propelled by Asia--will hit over US$20 billion in 2012.

During his presentation, MOL Group CEO Ganesh Kumar Bangah said social games are rapidly growing in popularity in the region, where 10 to 20 percent of social gamers are inclined to pay for rewards or virtual items.

However, Bangah noted that consumers in Asia are less inclined to provide their credit card numbers online for fear of fraud and theft. Therefore, he said it is important for social gamers in the region to have multiple channels to pay for virtual goods.

He added that users in Singapore can buy their Zynga cards or MOLPoints electronically at cybercafés, AXS kiosks or via their mobile phone, he added.

First launched in the United States in September 2009, Zynga cards are currently available in 15 countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Taiwan and Hong Kong. They are also scheduled for release in Latin American markets in April this year, said Ryan Linton, Zynga's senior director of business development, who was also at the launch.

Elaborating on the company's decision to bring the game cards to Southeast Asia, Linton told ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of the event that it became apparent after the U.S. launch that the "prepaid mechanism is very endemic in Asia and Latin America".

Even in the U.S., where credit cards and PayPal are the dominant forms of payment, game cards have taken off likely due to users' budget constraints borne from a tight economy, he explained.

Game cards are popular also because they can be easily bundled with redemptions and promotions, for instance, during holiday periods or special occasions such as Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, Linton added.

The US$2, US$5, and US$10 denominations will be maintained across all Southeast Asian countries, though Ganesh noted that MOL may add higher values depending on feedback from consumers.

The company also owns Friendster, Ganesh said, noting that the social networking site is currently focused on localized game publishers but did not rule out the possibility of inking future deals with Zygna--which hosts its games on rival Facebook--in this aspect.

"Social game is the next wave of entertainment," Linton said. He added that international expansion and growth is one of Zygna's top priorities, and pointed to Asia as an area of great opportunity.

Besides offering Zynga game cards in this region, he noted that the company is also investing in localization efforts to offer its games in local languages. CityVille, for instance, is now available in Bahasa Indonesia, while FarmVille has a Chinese language version.