Zynga's paid $300 per new user in the past nine months, says analyst

Zynga has been struggling with its stock price since the IPO late last year, and Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia says there are more dark days ahead. When you compare Zynga's $120 million marketing budget to its recent rise in only 400,000 new players (about $300 a person), the numbers don't look good: "We know that, on average, these people are spending about $150 or so," says Bhatia, which suggests that Zynga is spending about $300 for every $150 in profit. "That math won't work for very long," obviously.

Zynga's spending is indicative of a few trends in social gaming. First, the company has discovered it's very hard to earn new players. Many of Zynga's games are similar, and without really experimenting, it's going to be hard to generate uniques. Second, Zynga's earnings are based on "whales": A small percentage of players who spend big. You need to find a lot of unique free-to-play players to land a few whales, and Bhatia doesn't see Zynga doing that lately.

So what's the solution? "Zynga will have to find their next FarmVille," says Bhatia. Until the company finds another phenomenally popular hit and the surge in new players that comes along with it (which is incredibly tough to do), Bhatia expects to see even more problems with Zynga and its stock.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.