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Zynga gets physical

June 26, 2012: 3:04 PM ET

Social gaming giant seeks to expand its brand.

FORTUNE -- Zynga (ZNGA) has made billions of dollars by digitizing "physical" games like poker and Scrabble. Now it's looking to complete the circle.

The San Francisco-based company has begun signing offline branding deals with everything from toy-makers to apparel retailers to television studios. It's unclear if the company hopes such efforts will generate significant revenue, but it certainly believes that its brands can have life beyond desktops and mobile devices.

"Our aspiration is to lower the bar between the virtual and physical worlds," explains Jeff Karp, Zynga's chief marketing and revenue officer. "We're thinking a lot about how what you do with our brands offline and affect what you do with them online, and vice versa."

Zynga's first major foray into the physical world came in May 2010, when it created cross-promotional campaigns with 7-Eleven. But that was mostly just putting logos on Big Gulps. Then, last December, it offered a series of FarmVille-inspired plush toys for sale at Best Buy (BBY). Kind of following the Rovio-Angry Birds playbook. Then came an announced partnership with American Express (AXP) -- which remains in the early stages -- whereby card users could use reward points to obtain virtual goods in Zynga games.

What's happening now, however, may ring a bit truer to the company's gaming DNA.

For example, take the company's recently-announced deal to create a Draw Something game show, in partnership with Ryan Seacrest Productions. The show still has not yet shot its pilot -- yet alone had it picked up -- but I get the sense that this won't be just an updated version of Win, Lose or Draw

[If you're under 30, WLD involved B-list celebs using markers to draw on big pieces of paper. Plus Alan Thicke. He's Robin's dad.]

Karp wouldn't get specific, but it sounds like Draw Something television viewers may somehow get to participate via their apps. Maybe influence the show in some way, or win prizes. Again, assuming that they can work it all out.

Same goes for a recent toy development deal with Hasbro (HAS). My first thought was that we were just going to see more plush toys and decks of cards with "Zynga Poker" stamped on them. But don't be shocked if some of these games have chips in them. In fact, Zynga sent over the following statement: "We have partnered with Hasbro on some really fun digital integration that we believe our Words With Friends fans will really enjoy. The new Words With Friends game has some amazing new features that are totally new to face-to-face gaming."

Obviously, none of this is Zynga's primary focus going forward. That will remain online, judging by today's announcements of various new virtual games like ChefVille, a cross-platform gaming network and a 3rd-party API. But it does show that the company isn't content to remain within its virtual box, or that it thinks the box itself needs to remain shut.

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Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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