Zynga New York Is Back With a New Game at No. 1 in the Apple App Store [UPDATE]

Words with Friends: Scrabble as What's the Phrase: Wheel of Fortune.

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UPDATE: Yesterday evening after our post went up, Zynga’s What’s the Phrase moved from no. 3 to no. 1  for top free games in Apple’s App Store and is currently holding down the top spot.

Zynga New York hasn’t always had the chummiest relationship with Zynga’s corporate office back in San Francisco. The East Coast outpost was formed a year ago after Mark Pincus acquired OMGPOP and its mobile juggernaut Draw Something–installing OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter as general manager.

Things started to sour last fall when Zynga blamed a $95.5 million write down on its $183 million OMGPOP acquisition for a bad quarter. But after a round of office closures, Zynga New York remained open, which is in line with gaming giant catching the all-mobile-all-the-time bug from Mark Zuckerberg. COO David Ko (Mr. Pincus’ no. 2 man) also continues to speak highly of Draw Something and the upcoming, Ryan Seacrest-approved Draw Something 2.

Soon he may have even more to crow about to wary Zynga shareholders

When we logged into Apple’s App Store today, Zynga New York’s newest game What’s the Phrase was front-and-center, holding down the no. 3 spot for free games. The app, which was launched February 28th, had been hovering just below the top 10 games last week, a Zynga representative told Betabeat.

Like other Zynga titles, What’s the Phrase takes its cue from old school American pastimes like Scrabble and Pictionary–updating them with a social twist. In this case, “Wheel of Fortune,” since players take turns guessing vowels and consonants that form a hidden phrase.

The company said a team of ten mobile developers from Zynga New York were responsible for the app and that it managed to climb up the app charts organically, without much promotion. This is good news for Zynga, which has had to acquire hits (like Words with Friends) in the past.

Considering Pat Sajak is still on the air, though, What’s the Phrase is gonna have to find a different monetization path than Draw Something, which has an upcoming game show (produced by Mr. Seacrest) and is following the Angry Bird model of extending its brand beyond your smartphone screen.

But Zynga HQ doesn’t sound ready to cede dominance to New York just yet. A representative pointed out that Running with Friends, a new game currently in beta in certain markets, was developed in San Francisco. With that name, we expected a quantified-self app that forces you to humble-brag marathon times (with friends), but apparently the game is Mr. Pincus’ version of Temple Run. Maybe Zynga should change its name to Copies with Friends?

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