Cash Crop: ‘FarmVille’ Maker Zynga Preparing for IPO?

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As anyone who’s ever been bombarded by others’ status updates knows, no company better represents the current shift in the gaming landscape than Zynga. The casual game revolution caught fire on social networks like Facebook and brought in millions of players who are otherwise uninterested in hardcore console and PC games. Now, rumors abound that Zynga’s looking to go public in an IPO that could rival that of LinkedIn’s blockbuster debut.

AllThingsD reports that the social gaming company could file with the SEC as soon as this week, or next week at the latest. Zynga’s gotten successive rounds of funding as it’s grown and it’s currently valued at $10 billion. Expect it to offer shares at a price above that valuation, though, as its leadership still thinks there’s room for them to grow.

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The company owes its success to its ‘Ville games, which give players virtual environments to nurture and customize. FarmVille, FrontierVille and CityVille are all free to play, but Zynga earns money via microtransactions that can unlock progression and rewards. You can do many of the same things by recruiting and trading with friends, too, but users inevitably pony up cash for the various decorations and content that they can’t wait for.

As popular as the ‘Ville games are, Zynga’s looking to expand, with a sharp focus on mobile. On its own, is hasn’t been as impactful in handheld gaming, so it’s been on an acquisition tear to scoop up companies with more experience in that sector. In recent months, it’s acquired dev studios Newtoy, Area/Code and Conduit Labs.

And the company has also been joined by core game industry vets like Louis Castle and John Schappert (both formerly of EA) and John Blakely, who left Sony Online Entertainment. Zynga’s become more than just a games network, too. Lady Gaga premiered her new album Born Like This on FarmVille and will be offering content tied into Dreamworks’ upcoming Kung Fu Panda 2 in CityVille.

All these factors combined mean that Zynga’s public trading debut could be a record-breaking one. Currently, Activision is the most valuable games company at about $13 billion, followed by EA at $7.8 billion. Zynga could eclipse one, if not both of them, depending on how things go. Either way, folks already holding Zynga stock in hand could be in for a nice payday soon.