As Zynga rejiggers itself into a multiplatform company whose games span both Web and mobile, new faces are emerging to take the reins.One of those is Sean Kelly, now vice president of mobile games at Zynga.
His role has become all the more important now. He’s gone from just a divisional VP to part of the team that is charged with saving Zynga from the decline of Facebook games.
So, who is Kelly?
Kelly is a well-liked veteran at the company who joined in 2009 as general manager of FishVille.
He’s known as a “good manager”—which is rare praise for a cutthroat, build-your-own-castle company like Zynga.
He was a co-creator of CityVille, a Facebook game that rocketed to more than 20 million daily players, and was arguably the last Facebook-driven hit that Zynga’s seen.
But he wasn’t always a good fit with the rest of the CityVille team, we’ve heard from a few sources.
No matter, because his real knack proved to be in mobile games. He joined Zynga’s mobile division in early 2011 and began working on mobile components of multiplatform games, like CityVille Hometown, Zynga Poker, Dream Zoo, and Mafia Wars Shakedown.
He started as a general manager for mobile games, then advanced to vice president of mobile.
But the mobile-Web distinction at Zynga is fading. For example, even though David Ko, a recently promoted executive, has the title of chief mobile officer, Kelly currently reports to Steve Chiang, executive vice president of games.
That just goes to show how Zynga is putting its best talent on the mobile-plus-Web multiplatform strategy.
Before Zynga, Kelly built a massively multiplayer game for kids that ran in a Web browser. That game shut down in 2010, shortly after he joined Zynga. He also spent nearly a decade as a researcher at Microsoft, according to his LinkedIn profile, where he worked on a lot of social Web technologies.
Now nearly half of Zynga’s players are mobile players, and already many of its most popular games are either solely mobile or include a mobile component. Words With Friends, for example, lets you play the Scrabble-like game on either a Facebook app or a smartphone.
Kelly seems like the ideal executive to lead Zynga forward. He experienced the glory days of Facebook games. And he made the leap into mobile early on, showing a real knack for it. If he can bring it all together, then Zynga has a fighting chance.