The company behind every Ville game you can name is starting off 2012 by heading in a drastically different direction.
Hidden Chronicles (Zynga)On Wednesday, Zynga launched Hidden Chronicles, the company's first entry in the suddenly hot hidden-object genre.
Hidden-object games have been around for ages, of course -- we have seven billion excellent ones here at Yahoo! Games -- but it's a relatively new phenomenon on Facebook. Credit game developer Playdom for that, who watched their surprise hit Gardens of Time outperform the likes of FarmVille, Words With Friends and The Sims Social to become the most popular Facebook game of 2011.The basic hidden-object gameplay premise -- users scour beautifuly crafted still images for a list of objects -- lies at the heart of the free-to-play Hidden Chronicles, but Zynga is attempting to spice things up with some interesting social elements. Friends can challenge each other to find as many objects as possible in under a minute, for instance, or they can hide objects in their friend's estates. Mini-games and puzzles should also keep players coming back.
As the first game following the company's pricey but somewhat tepid IPO, the move into a new genre is tantamount for Zynga's success. One of the topics that concerns new shareholders is Zynga's ability to break out of their shell and diversify their gaming portfolio. Hidden Chronicles does just that, though time will tell if Zynga finds treasure beneath its pretty exterior.