Zynga Names David Lee CFO, As Longtime Exec Mark Vranesh Departs The Firm

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 12.37.25 PM Today after the bell, Zynga announced that its CFO and CAO Mark Vranesh will depart the firm after six years, and that David Lee will assume both roles effective April 14. Vranesh will help out for a month to, in the words of Zynga, “ensure a seamless transition.” Read More

On The Eve Of GDC, An M&A Wave Hits the Gaming Industry

Unity and Applifier, the Kontagent and Playhaven merger, Zynga’s half-billion dollar deal to buy NaturalMotion, Kabam and Phoenix Age. A nice, little consolidation wave is floating through the gaming industry after a relatively quiet year for acquisitions among companies in the U.S. and Europe. What’s changed? It depends on which part of the industry you’re looking at. Half of… Read More

OMGPOP Cofounder Living ‘the Life’ 2 Years After Zynga Acquisition



Charles Forman didn’t think Zynga would actually buy his company. OMGPOP had fielded “a lot” of acquisition offers and investment opportunities before talks with Zynga approached their final stages.

“It was a stressful time because deals fall apart, deals fall through,” Forman recalled to Mashable last month in an interview for a larger story about founders following up successful startups. “I was just certain that the deal was going to fall through.”

But on March 21, 2012, Zynga announced that it had acquired OMGPOP, “makers of the popular cultural hit mobile game, Draw Something.” The price tag for the deal was reported to be around $200 million. Forman had already moved on to a new startup by that point, though he remained on OMGPOP’s board and personally gained tens of millions of dollars from the deal. Read more…

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YoVille Gets A Stay Of Execution As Game Acquisition Talks Between Big Viking Games And Zynga Continue

Popular casual social game YoVille, which has a dedicated following of players despite having long since passed its peak in terms of popularity, gets a stay of execution today as Zynga has informed players it won’t be closing March 31 as previously announced. Instead, it will remain open with no new closure date announced, as talks between Zynga and Big Viking Games, the company looking to… Read More

Zynga Reboots Three Of Its Biggest Franchises on Mobile

Under fresh leadership from new CEO Don Mattrick, Zynga has gone back to the drawing board on some of its biggest money-makers. Today, the company is unveiling upcoming revamped versions of Zynga Poker and Words With Friends along with a brand-new mobile-first version of its biggest hit FarmVille. It’s a critical time for Zynga, which is trying to revive momentum after losing out on mobile… Read More

Why the ‘Candy Crush’ IPO Isn’t as Crazy as You Think



Though only mentioned twice in King’s 108,000-word filing with the SEC, there’s one name that haunts the prospect of the company’s IPO: Zynga.

As soon as King’s filing hit SEC.gov, journalists and analysts were angling to draw a comparison with the maker of FarmVille, whose fortunes had reversed dramatically since Zynga went public in late 2011

Zynga provides a reasonable parallel with King. In addition to being one of a handful of recognizable names in the mobile gaming segment, the company had pursued a similar mission: To create an assembly line of hit games. Read more…

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‘Words’ Are in the Air this Valentine’s Day



The folks at Zynga are out with their third annual Words With Friends Valentine’s Day survey, and have shared a handful of fun stats concerning the likes – and dislikes – of more than 11,300 players. If you’ve ever wished you knew more about the mystery gamers on the other side of the Words With Friends virtual game board, now’s your chance.

Centered around a Valentine’s theme, the third annual survey showcases “players’ passion for word rivalry, penchant for smooth talkers, and preferences for expressing their love,” according to a press release that recently reached our inbox. Out of 11,317 respondents, 63% noted that they “thrive on competition with their partner,” and almost one-third admitted to throwing a match on purpose when playing a game of Words With Friends against a loved one, according to the survey. Read more…

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YoVille Creator Seeks To Avoid The Game’s Death By Buying It Back From Zynga


Zynga broke a lot of hearts when it announced it would be shutting down YoVille, a virtual world online game that’s been running since 2008. The game’s players have been building their simulated communities for many years now, but they only have until March to say goodbye. Unless, that is, YoVille’s original creator and his new game studio have their way.

Big Viking Games, which is headquartered in Toronto and counts Albert Lai as its other co-founder, is looking to acquire the YoVille property from Zynga to help it avoid an early grave. That’s something the community definitely seems to support. Right after the announcement, a petition popped up from YoVillians threatening to boycott all Zynga titles if the closure went through (the Facebook group currently has over 15,000 members) and there have been some surprisingly emotional responses to the decision posted not only on Facebook, but to YouTube as well.

There’s a good reason why Zynga was looking to shut down the property, however: It has only around 500,000 active users per month at this point, which is off tremendously from its roughly 20 million actives during its peak popularity. Zynga said that it made the decision based on a need to redirect time and energy to new games, rather than to maintaining some of its older ones.

Still, Big Viking sees a lot of value left in the property. Lai explained to me in an interview that the company is in advanced talks with Zynga to take over the game.

“YoVille’s a massive virtual world not unlike Second Life (but not “adult” in any way) that at its peak was one of Zynga’s top-3 money-makers, and far, far bigger than Second Life ever was in user base,” he said. “Mark Pincus is involved in getting it back to us at Big Viking.”

Pincus of course is a Zynga co-founder, and was the company’s CEO from its inception until July 2013, when Microsoft exec Don Mattrick took over the role. Pincus remains at Zynga as Chairman of its Board of Directors, however, and as Chief Product Officer of the gaming company. His support isn’t the only sign that Zynga prefers this outcome: Lai says the company has been “amazingly good” throughout the purchase discussion process.

“We’re in dialog with them right now and ironing out technical and legal issues,” he said about the state of negotiations. “We are hoping it will happen soon, but it’s hard to put a number on it. The game serves a huge community of players that rely on it daily, from elderly players that are homebound and find it an outlet to socialize and ‘walk around,’ kids finding an outlet and support group. Also Zynga is at a scale that makes it hard for them to give it the level of focus and TLC I think we are able to.”

Lai says that Big Viking thinks its telling that there were once tens of millions of users on YoVille. That reflects the fact that it fills a need, he said, one specifically aimed at “casual social community” rather than “hack and slash” or other types of game mechanics currently in vogue. He won’t talk about what kind of price might be in discussion, but notes that Big Viking has been “quietly building a small war chest over the past two years” for exactly this type of scenario.

For its part, Zynga isn’t commenting on any potential YoVille deal at this time, but if it does go through it’ll mark the first time the casual gaming giant has sold back one of its acquisitions. That could benefit all parties, too, since while the game’s audience has shrunk, it remains numerous and dedicated.

Zynga COO on Company Changes: We Turned a Corner



When it comes to analyzing Zynga‘s full-bodied earnings announcement from Thursday, it may be easiest to take a bird’s eye view

The San Francisco, Calif.-based gaming company announced extensive layoffs, a half-billion dollar acquisition and better-than-expected earnings — a feat that Zynga COO Clive Downie described as the company “turning a corner.”

“I think it is Zynga turning a corner,” he said. “It proved that we have a vision for the company going forward that’s backed by strategy from a content standpoint, it’s backed by strategy for driving efficiency, and it’s backed by strategy in terms of how we look to accelerate it with the acquisition.” Read more…

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Zynga Announces More Layoffs and a Huge Acquisition



Zynga was full of surprises Thursday.

The social gaming company announced Q4 and year end financials on Thursday a full week ahead of schedule, but these numbers were somewhat overshadowed by an unexpected acquisition and plans for another round of layoffs

The layoffs, which will include more than 300 jobs (15% of the company’s workforce), comes just seven months after Zynga unexpectedly laid off more than 500 employees back in June. The company shut down three offices at the same time, and this round of layoffs will save the company “$33 to $35 million in pre-tax savings for 2014,” according to the company’s earnings release Read more…

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