We think Dan Porter's exit at Zynga is a sign of a bigger shakeup at the games maker, as it tries to figure out whether it's future lies in social games like FarmVille or mobile games like Words With Friends and Draw Something.
Sean Kelly, a Zynga VP who spearheaded its move into mobile games, is taking over the New York studio Porter ran. Kelly, we're told, moved to New York last fall. His top priority: Rolling out Draw Something 2, the sequel to the hit mobile drawing game that made OMGPOP so valuable to Zynga, around the world.
Kelly's nice-guy reputation comes as a contrast to Porter, who has repeatedly gotten in trouble for brash public comments he's made about Zynga's culture and business. Porter recently had to apologize to his colleagues for saying that Zynga copied other companies' games.
To be fair to Porter, he said his remarks were misconstrued, and he makes no bones about his outspokenness: His Twitter handle, @tfadp, originated as a nod to his stint at Teach For America, but for some colleagues, came to stand for "That F---ing A--hole Dan Porter."
Besides his public remarks, Draw Something's financial performance was also a drag on the company. In the third quarter, Zynga wrote down about half of its purchase price, and in the fourth quarter, CFO Mark Vranesh said a drop in payments by Draw Something players hurt the company's performance in mobile.
But Porter did successfully get Draw Something 2 out—it's currently available in Sweden, and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest teased it last month. He also emerged on top after a consolidation of Zynga's East Coast studios.
The move also makes us wonder about office politics at Zynga headquarters. Porter was an ally of COO David Ko, who spearheaded Zynga's push into mobile by acquiring Words With Friends maker Newtoy as well as OMGPOP. But Kelly, Porter's replacement, will report to Travis Boatman, a former EA executive who's now Zynga's senior vice president of mobile.
That makes sense because the operation in New York today focuses on mobile games. A second New York studio developing social games was shuttered in a recent round of office closures.
We'll probably see more shifts at Zynga as mobile executives like Boatman and Kelly rise in prominence.
Update: We've clarified the origins of Porter's Twitter handle.
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