(EDGAR Online via COMTEX) -- ITEM 2. MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
You should read the following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q. The following discussion contains forward-looking statements that reflect our plans, estimates and beliefs. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to these differences include those discussed below and elsewhere in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q, particularly in "Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements" and "Risk Factors." The forward-looking statements included in this Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q are made only as of the date hereof.
The human costs of the COVID-19 pandemic have been extraordinary, straining global capabilities and forcing massive societal change. We at Zynga remain focused on monitoring and assessing the COVID-19 pandemic and global response, and prioritizing the interests of our employees and players. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our operations began to materialize towards the end of the first quarter of 2020. Specifically, beginning in late March, as more individuals throughout the world sheltered-in-place, we began experiencing higher levels of player engagement in our games from current, lapsed and new players, as well as a decline in advertising prices across the industry. Additionally, in mid-March, our global workforce transitioned to remote working as we closed our offices, without any material disruption to our day-to-day operations. Currently, our global offices remain closed and our global studios are operating remotely, while we continue to assess the impact of the pandemic on the health and safety of our employees.
While we believe that we have been able to observe certain trends, we may not be able to determine the quantifiable impact primarily attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic on our results of operations and financial performance as of and for the three months ended March 31, 2020 and for future periods. See Part II, Item 1A. "Risk Factors" included in this Quarterly Report on form 10-Q for further discussion of the possible impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business.
We are a leading provider of social game services with approximately 68 million average mobile monthly active users ("MAUs") in the first quarter of 2020. We develop, market and operate social games as live services played on mobile platforms, such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android, and social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Snapchat. Generally, all of our games are free to play, and we generate substantially all of our revenue through the sale of in-game virtual items ("online game revenue") and advertising services ("advertising revenue").
We are a pioneer and innovator of social games and a leader in making "play" a core activity primarily on mobile devices and social networking sites. Our objective is to become the worldwide leader in play by connecting the world through games.
Consistent with our free-to-play business model, a small portion of our players have historically been payers. For example, in the first quarter of 2020, our average mobile monthly unique payers ("MUPs") represented approximately 2.9% of our average mobile monthly unique users ("MUUs") - for more information about the uses, estimates and limitations of these and other operating metrics, please see "Key Operating Metrics" below. Because the opportunity for social interactions increases as the number of players increases, we believe that maintaining and growing our overall number of players, including the number of players who may not purchase virtual items, is important to the success of our business. As a result, we believe that the number of players who choose to purchase virtual items will continue to constitute a small portion of our overall players.
Our top three online game revenue-generating games historically have contributed to a significant portion of our revenue, though the games that represent our top three online game revenue-generating games vary over time. Our top three online game revenue-generating games accounted for 48%, 45% and 45% of our online game revenue in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively. With respect to advertising and other revenue, our Words With Friends games generated a substantial portion of our advertising and other revenue in 2019, 2018 and 2017.
How We Generate Revenue
We operate our social games as live services that allow players to play for free. We generate revenue primarily from the sale of in-game virtual items and advertising services. Revenue growth will continue to depend largely on our ability to attract and retain players and more effectively monetize our player base through the sale of in-game virtual items and advertising. We intend to do this through the launch of new games, enhancements to current games and expansion into new markets and distribution platforms.
Online game. We provide our players with the opportunity to purchase virtual items that enhance their game-playing experience. We believe players choose to pay for virtual items for the same reasons they are willing to pay for other forms of entertainment - they enjoy the additional playing time or added convenience, the ability to personalize their own game boards, the satisfaction of leveling up and the opportunity for sharing creative expressions. We believe players are more likely to purchase virtual items when they are connected to and playing with their friends, whether those friends play for free or also purchase virtual items. Players may also elect to pay a one-time download fee to obtain certain mobile games free of third-party advertisements.
In 2020, our business continued generating a significant percentage of revenue and bookings through mobile platforms. In the three months ended March 31, 2020, we estimate that 49% and 46% of our revenue and 48% and 47% of our bookings were generated on Apple and Google, respectively, while in the same period of the prior year, we estimate that 51% and 40% of our revenue and 49%, 45% of our bookings were generated on Apple and Google platforms, respectively. This information is estimated because certain payment methods we accept and certain advertising networks do not allow us to determine the platform used.
In addition, we also incur licensing fees related to the use of intellectual property within our games and our operating margins can be affected by the mix of player purchases from games in which we own the intellectual property as compared to games in which we license certain intellectual properties. For example, we use licensed intellectual property as creative assets in games such as Game of Thrones(TM) Slots Casino, Hit It Rich! Slots, Wizard of Oz Slots and Wonka's World of Candy, and we are developing new games using licensed intellectual property for Harry Potter(TM) and Star Wars(TM). While overall bookings within these games will benefit our revenue, a shift in the mix of our revenue towards such games using licensed intellectual property could decrease our operating margins.
Advertising and other. Advertising revenue primarily includes display advertisements, engagement advertisements and offers and branded virtual items and sponsorships. Other revenue primarily consists of royalties received from the licensing of our brands.
We regularly review a number of metrics, including the following key financial and operating metrics, to evaluate our business, measure our performance, identify trends in our business, prepare financial projections and make strategic decisions.
Key Financial Metrics
Revenue and Bookings. Bookings is a non-GAAP financial measure that is equal to revenue recognized plus or minus the change in deferred revenue during the period. We record the sale of virtual items as deferred revenue and then recognize that revenue over the estimated average playing period of payers or as the virtual items are consumed. Advertising sales consisting of certain branded virtual items and sponsorships are also initially recorded to deferred revenue and then recognized ratably over the estimated life of the branded virtual item, similar to online game revenue, or over the term of the advertising arrangement, depending on the nature of the agreement. Bookings is a fundamental top-line metric we use to manage our business, as we believe it is a useful indicator of the sales activity in a given period. Over the long-term, the factors impacting our revenue and bookings are the same. However, in the short term, there are factors that may cause revenue to exceed or be less than bookings in any period.
We use revenue and bookings to evaluate the results of our operations, generate future operating plans and assess the performance of our company. While we believe that bookings are useful in evaluating our business, this information should be considered as supplemental in nature and is not intended to be considered in isolation of, as a substitute for, or as superior to, revenue recognized in accordance with U.S. GAAP. In addition, other companies, including companies in our industry, may calculate bookings differently or not at all, which reduces its usefulness as a comparative measure.
The following table presents a reconciliation of total revenue to total bookings for each of the periods presented (in thousands):
Three Months Ended March 31, 2020 2019 Reconciliation of Revenue to Bookings: Revenue $ 403,767 $ 265,403 Change in deferred revenue 21,108 94,082 Bookings $ 424,875 $ 359,485
The following table presents a reconciliation of mobile revenue to mobile bookings for each of the periods presented (in thousands):
Three Months Ended March 31, 2020 2019 Reconciliation of Mobile Revenue to Mobile Bookings: Mobile revenue $ 386,989 $ 246,093 Change in mobile deferred revenue 21,510 95,305 Mobile bookings $ 408,499 $ 341,398
Limitations of Bookings
Key limitations of bookings are:
bookings do not reflect that we defer and recognize online game revenue and revenue from certain advertising transactions over the estimated average playing period of payers, the average life of branded virtual items, the term of the advertising arrangement or as virtual items are consumed; and
other companies, including companies in our industry, may calculate bookings differently or not at all, which reduces their usefulness as a comparative measure.
Because of these limitations, you should consider bookings along with other financial performance measures, including revenue, net income (loss) and our other financial results presented in accordance with U.S. GAAP.
Key Operating Metrics
We manage our business by tracking several operating metrics: "Mobile DAUs," which measure daily active users of our mobile games, "Mobile MAUs," which measure monthly active users of our mobile games, "Mobile MUUs," which measure monthly unique users of our mobile games, "Mobile MUPs," which measure monthly unique payers in our mobile games, and "Mobile ABPU," which measures our average daily mobile bookings per average Mobile DAUs, each of which is recorded and estimated by our internal analytics systems. We determine these operating metrics by using internal company data based on tracking of user account activity. We also use information provided by third parties, including third party network logins provided by platform providers, to help us track whether a player logged in under two or more different user accounts is the same individual. We believe that the amounts are reasonable estimates of our user base for the applicable period of measurement and that the methodologies we employ and update from time-to-time are reasonably based on our efforts to identify trends in player behavior; however, factors relating to user activity and systems and our ability to identify and detect attempts to replicate legitimate player activity may impact these numbers.
Mobile DAUs. We define Mobile DAUs as the number of individuals who played one of our mobile games during a particular day. Under this metric, an individual who plays two different mobile games on the same day is counted as two Mobile DAUs. We use information provided by third parties to help us identify individuals who play the same mobile game to reduce this duplication. However, because we do not always have the third party network login data to link an individual who has played under multiple user accounts, a player may be counted as multiple Mobile DAUs. Average Mobile DAUs for a particular period is the average of the Mobile DAUs for each day during that period. We use Mobile DAUs as a measure of mobile audience engagement.
Mobile MAUs. We define Mobile MAUs as the number of individuals who played one of our mobile games in the 30-day period ending with the measurement date. Under this metric, an individual who plays two different mobile games in the same 30-day period is counted as two Mobile MAUs. We use information provided by third parties to help us identify individuals who play the same mobile game to reduce this duplication. However, because we do not always have the third party network login data to link an individual who has played under multiple user accounts, a player may be counted as multiple Mobile MAUs. Average Mobile MAUs for a particular period is the average of the Mobile MAUs at each month-end during that period. We use Mobile MAUs as a measure of total mobile game audience size.
Mobile MUUs. We define Mobile MUUs as the number of individuals who played one or more of our mobile games, which we were able to verify were played by the same individual in the 30-day period ending with the measurement date. An individual who plays more than one of our mobile games in a given 30-day period would be counted as a single Mobile MUU to the extent we can verify that the mobile games were played by the same individual. However, because we do not always have the third party network login data necessary to link an individual who has played under multiple user accounts in a given 30-day period, an individual may be counted as multiple Mobile MUUs. Because many of our players play more than one mobile game in a given 30-day period, Mobile MUUs are always equal to or lower than Mobile MAUs in any given time period. Average Mobile MUUs for a particular period is the average of the Mobile MUUs at each month end during that period. We use Mobile MUUs as a measure of total audience reach across our network of mobile games.
Mobile MUPs. We define Mobile MUPs as the number of individuals who made a payment in a mobile game at least once during the applicable 30-day period through a payment method for which we can quantify the number of individuals. Mobile MUPs do not include individuals who use certain payment methods for which we cannot quantify the number of unique payers. However, because we do not always have the third party network login data necessary to link an individual who has paid under multiple user accounts in a 30-day period, a player who has paid using multiple user accounts may be counted as multiple Mobile MUPs. Mobile MUPs are presented as an average of the three months in the applicable quarter. We use Mobile MUPs as a measure of the number of individuals who made payments across our network of mobile games during a 30-day period.
Mobile ABPU. We define Mobile ABPU as our total mobile bookings in a given period, divided by the number of days in that period, divided by, the average Mobile DAUs during the period. We believe that Mobile ABPU provides useful information to investors and others in understanding and evaluating our results in the same manner as management. We use Mobile ABPU as a measure of overall monetization across all of our mobile players through the sale of virtual items and advertising.
Our business model around our social games is designed so that, as more players play our games, social interactions increase and the more valuable our games and our business become. All engaged players of our games help drive our bookings, online game revenue and advertising revenue. Virtual items are purchased by players who are socializing with, competing against or collaborating with other players, most of whom do not buy virtual items. Accordingly, we primarily focus on the aforementioned key operating metrics, which we believe collectively best reflect key audience metrics.
Consistent with our focus on mobile gaming platforms, beginning with the first quarter of 2019, we now report these audience-related metrics based only on mobile platforms. We have ceased including our web-based games in these audience metrics as a result of their decreasing significance as part of our overall financial and operating results and the technical challenges resulting from increased volumes of apparent player activity that we are unable to reliably validate and de-duplicate, as these web-based games are generally more susceptible than mobile platforms to attempts to replicate legitimate player activity.
In order to provide our best estimates of actual player metrics, we continually evaluate our methodologies including estimating audience metrics by applying data science techniques to identify suspicious player behavior. While we devote significant time and effort to developing player metrics, our estimates may not accurately reflect the actual amount of players in a reported period and our methodologies do not consistently identify all invalid traffic in prior reporting periods.
The table below shows average Mobile DAUs, Mobile MAUs, Mobile MUUs, Mobile MUPs and Mobile ABPU for the three months ended March 31, 2020 and 2019:
Three Months Ended March 31, 2020 2019 (users and payers in millions) Average Mobile DAUs(1) 21 22 Average Mobile MAUs(1) 68 72 Average Mobile MUUs(2) 43 43 Average Mobile MUPs(2) 1.2 1.4
(1) We do not always have the third party network login data to link an individual who has played under multiple user accounts and accordingly, actual Mobile DAU and Mobile MAU may be lower than reported due to the potential duplication of these individuals. Specifically, Mobile DAUs and Mobile MAUs incrementally include Merge Magic! and games acquired from Gram Games in May 2018 and Small Giant in January 2019.
(2) Excluded from Mobile MUUs and Mobile MUPs are players of our Facebook Instant Games, Snapchat game, Merge Magic!, and games acquired from Gram Games and Small Giant. These games are excluded to avoid potential double counting as our systems are unable to distinguish whether a player of these games is also a player of the Company's other games during the applicable time periods.
Average DAUs decreased in the three months ended March 31, 2020 when compared to the same period of the prior year, primarily driven by declines in daily audience for older mobile games, Words With Friends and games on mobile messenger platforms (e.g. Facebook Instant Games), partially offset by contributions from Merge Magic! and our casual card games. Average mobile MAUs decreased primarily due to declines in monthly audience for games on mobile messenger platforms, older mobile games and Words With Friends, partially offset by contribution from Merge Magic!, our casual card games and Tiny Royale on Snapchat.
Average mobile MUUs were flat in the three months ended March 31, 2020 compared to the same period of the prior year. Average mobile MUPs decreased primarily due to a decline in payers in our casual card games, CSR2 and Wonka's World of Candy. Finally, mobile ABPU increased due to an increase in mobile bookings.
Other Metrics Although our management primarily focuses on the operating metrics above, we also monitor periodic trends in paying players of our games. The table below shows average monthly unique mobile payer bookings, average Mobile MUPs and monthly unique mobile payer bookings per Mobile MUP: Three Months Ended March 31, 2020 2019 Average monthly unique mobile payer bookings (in millions)(1) $ 50 $ 48 Average Mobile MUPs (in millions)(2) 1.2 1.4 Monthly unique mobile payer bookings per Mobile MUP(3) $ 40 $ 34
(1) Average monthly unique mobile payer bookings represent the monthly average amount of mobile bookings for the applicable quarter that we received through payment methods for which we can quantify the number of unique payers and excludes mobile bookings from certain payment methods for which we cannot quantify the number of unique payers and bookings from advertising and other. Accordingly, mobile bookings from Merge Magic! and our games acquired from Gram Games in May 2018 and Small Giant in January 2019 are excluded.
(2) Excluded from Mobile MUPs are players of our Facebook Instant Games, Snapchat game, Merge Magic!, and games acquired from Gram Games and Small Giant. These games are excluded to avoid potential double counting as our systems are unable to distinguish whether a player of these games is also a player of the Company's other games during the applicable time periods.
(3) Monthly unique mobile payer bookings per Mobile MUP is calculated by dividing average monthly unique mobile payer bookings by average Mobile MUPs.
When comparing the three months ended March 31, 2020 to the same period of the prior year, average monthly unique mobile payer bookings increased primarily due to the contribution from Game of Thrones(TM) Slots Casino, which launched in the second quarter of 2019. Average monthly unique mobile payer bookings per Mobile MUP increased due to the decrease in average Mobile MUPs and increase in average monthly unique mobile payer bookings.
Although we monitor our unique mobile payer metrics, we focus on monetization, including in-game advertising, of all of our players and not just those who are payers. Accordingly, we strive to enhance content and our players' game experience to increase our bookings and ABPU, which is a measure of overall monetization across all of our players through the sale of virtual items and advertising. Future growth in audience and engagement will depend on our ability to retain current players, attract new players, launch new games and expand into new markets and distribution platforms, and the success of our network. Our operating metrics may not correlate directly to quarterly revenue or bookings trends.
Factors Affecting Our Performance
Platform agreements. Our games are primarily distributed, marketed and promoted through third parties, primarily Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store. Virtual items for our games are purchased through the payment processing systems of these platform providers. We generate a significant portion of our revenue, bookings and players through the Apple and Google platforms and expect to continue to do so for the foreseeable future as we launch more games for mobile devices. Apple and Google generally have the discretion to set the amounts of their platform fees and change their platforms' terms of service and other policies with respect to us or other developers in their sole discretion, and those changes may be unfavorable to us. These platform fees are recorded as costs of revenue as incurred, while we recognize mobile online game revenue over the average playing period of payers, which generally results in costs of revenue exceeding revenue early in the life of a new or acquired game.
Launch of new games and release of enhancements. Our revenue and bookings results have been driven by the launch of new games and the release of fresh content and new features in existing games. Our future success depends on our ability to innovate and provide fresh content to keep our existing players engaged, while also engaging new and lapsed players, and launch and monetize new titles on various platforms. Although the amount of revenue and bookings we generate from an enhancement to an existing game or launch of a new game or can vary significantly, we expect our revenue and bookings to be correlated to our success in releasing engaging content and features for our existing games and the success and timely launch of our new games. Further, revenue and bookings from many of our games may decline over time after reaching a peak of popularity and player usage. As a result of this decline in the revenue and bookings of our games, our business depends on our ability to consistently release fresh content for our existing games and launch new games that achieve significant popularity and have the potential to become franchise games.
Game monetization. We generate most of our revenue and bookings from the sale of virtual items in our games. The degree to which our players choose to pay for virtual items in our games is driven by our ability to create content and virtual items that enhance the game-play experience. Our revenue, bookings and overall financial performance are affected by the number of players and the effectiveness of our monetization of players through the sale of virtual items and advertising. The percentage of paying players may increase or decrease based on a number of factors, including growth in mobile games as a percentage of total game audience, localization of content in international markets and the availability of payment options.
Investment in game development. In order to develop new games and enhance the content and features in our existing games, we must continue to invest in a significant amount of engineering and creative resources. These expenditures generally occur in advance of the launch of a new game or the release of new content, and the resulting revenue may not equal or exceed our development costs, or the game or feature may be abandoned in its entirety. In addition, we recognize online game revenue over the average playing period of payers, which generally results in expenses exceeding revenue early in the life of a new or acquired game.
Player acquisition costs. We utilize advertising and other forms of player acquisition and retention to grow and retain our player audience. These expenditures generally relate to the promotion of new game launches and ongoing performance-based programs to drive new player acquisition and lapsed player reactivation. Over time, these acquisition and retention-related programs may become either less effective or costlier, negatively impacting our operating results. Additionally, as our player base becomes more heavily concentrated on mobile platforms, our ability to drive traffic to our games through unpaid . . .
May 07, 2020
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