Social Gaming’s Highest Profile Hires of 2011

This year was big one in terms of hiring activity in the social games industry, led mainly by Zynga, as the developer continued to grow and prepare for its eventual IPO. Kabam also made a lot of changes this year to its executive ranks, hiring three new vice presidents in the span of just a few months.  Here is a roundup — and in some cases, an update — of the highest profile hires, moves, and promotions of 2011.

5th Planet Games

  • Braden Moulton, Chief Business Officer – Moulton left his position as director of business development at RealNetworks to take on the role of chief business officer at 5th Planet Games.

6waves

  • Dan Laughlin, Director of Business Development – In May, Dan Laughlin joined the 6waves team as director of business development, moving from his role as lead producer at Microsoft Game Studios. 6waves later merged with developer Lolapps, and as far as we know, Laughlin maintains his current job title.

Appssavvy

  • Rahul Daterao, Chief Technology Officer – Appssavvy brought on Daterao as its new chief technology officer, moving him from KickApps where he served the as CTO as well.

Atari

  • Gui Karyo, Executive Vice President, Development & Operations – Atari brought on Karyo, the former president of Mindspark’s IWON.com to help bolster its casual gaming expertise in November.

Bossa Studios

  • Yoshifusa Hayama, Creative Director – London-based Boss Studios hired former Sony vice president Hayama as its creative director at the end of the year.

Booyah

  • Jason Willig, CEO – In May, Willig left his position as the chief operating officer of EA’s Hasbro division to join Booyah as its chief operating officer. By October he was the company’s CEO, replacing Booyah’s co founder Keith Lee.

Crowdstar

  • Peter Relan, Chief Executive – Crowdstar’s year got off to a turbulent start in January when Niren Hiro was replaced as the company’s chief executive by then-chairman Peter Relan.

DoubleDown Interactive

  • Glenn Walcott, President – In February, Walcott left his role as chief financial officer of Big Fish Games to lead DoubleDown Interactive as its new president in a high profile move. The company’s one social game, DoubleDown Casino, continues to perform well on Facebook.

Funzio

  • Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Business Development – Moledina moved from his role as director of business development at EA Partners to join Funzio as the vice president of business development in November. The developer recently to its popular Crime City social game cross-platform on iOS.

Gamzee

  • Michael Scholz, Chief Technology Officer – Industry veteran Scholz brought experience from Sierra Online, WildTangent, THQ, and SkillJam when he joined Gamzee as chief technology officer. The developer was one of the earlier HTML5 adopters on Facebook and mobile.

EA

EA Playfish

  • Aaron Loeb, General Manager, San Francisco – Aaron Loeb left his position as chief executive officer at Planet Moon Studios to take on a new role as the general manger of Playfish San Francisco.

EA PopCap

  • Jeff Green, Director of Editorial and Social Media – At the beginning of the year, Green left a similar position at EA for PopCap in a high profile move. By July, however, his former employer bought the Seattle-based casual game company for $650 million plus $100 million in stock options — putting Green essentially right back where he started.

iWin

  • Laralyn McWilliams, VP of Creative – After less than six months at Loot Drop, McWilliams had a change of heart and moved to iWin, to help the company move its catalogue of casual games into social and mobile.
  • Scott Arpajian, VP of Product – Dizzywood CEO and co-founder Scott Arpajian joined iWin as the vice president of product in June.

Kabam

  • Chris Ko, VP of Product Strategy – Kabam made significant changes to its executive ranks this year. Ko left a position with Electronic Arts to join the social games company in the spring.
  • Stephen Pelletier, VP of Engineering – At the same time, Pelletier left his position as the chairman and CEO of Silent Capital Corporation to join as the company’s new vice president of engineering.
  • Jen Silverstein, Director of Business Intelligence – In February, Kabam announced it had hired former Google employee Silverstein as its new director of business intelligence.
  • Andy Riedel, Vice President of Mobile – In April, Riedel left his position as “All Things Mobile” at Zynga to move to Kabam as vice president of mobile.
  • Steve Klei, Chief Financial Officer – And finally in September Steve Klei joined Kabam as its chief financial officer, moving from a CFO position at Jigsaw.

King.com

  • Jong Woo, Senior Business Development Director – Woo moved to King.com’s brand-new San Francisco office as the company’s senior business development director in October.

Kixeye

  • Brandon Barber, Senior Vice President of Marketing – Kixeye brought on the former co-founder of Lionside and vice president of marketing for Zynga as its new senior vice president of marketing in December.

Kobojo

  • Gerhard Florin, Board of Directors Chairman – In May, Kobojo appointed former EA executive VP Gerhard Florin to its board of directors.

Loot Drop

  • Brenda Brathwaite, COO & Co Founder; John Romero, CEO & Co Founder; Tom Hall, Austin Studio Head, Robert Sirotek, Co Founder – Formed by by an all-star team of games industry veterans looking to take on the social gaming industry and currently developing games for RockYou, Loot Drop made high profile hiring news this year even after it revealed its executive lineup in the spring.
  • Erin Hoffman, Lead Game Designer – Hoffman, famous for taking the games industry to task as the “EA Spouse” recently left Zynga to take on a new role as Lead Game Designer for Loot Drop.

MTV Networks

  • Garry Kitchen – In February, MTV Networks brought on Kitchen as its VP of games publishing.

RockYou

  • Lisa Marino, CEO – RockYou promoted Marino from chief operating officer to chief executive officer in early April.
  • Julie Shumaker, Senior Vice President/General Manger of Media – Shumaker brought experience from 4INFO, Double Fusion, EA and Yahoo when she joined RockYou in March. So far as we know, she maintains her position at the embattled publisher-developer following massive layoffs in the fall.

SponsorPay

  • Dave Westin, SVP & General Manager – As part of its U.S. expansion this summer, SponsorPay brought on Dave Westin as senior vice president and general manager.

Turbine

  • Alex Galvagni, General Manager – In April Galvagni left Glu Mobile, where he was the vice president of global product development and CTO to join Crowdstar to help the company focus on mobile games. It appears he didn’t stay long, moving to Turbine to lead the company as general manager in September.

Wild Tangent

  • Brett Orlanski, Director of Business Development – Orlanski joined Wild Tangent as its director of business development in August.

Wooga

  • Antti Hattara, Head of Studio – In April, Digital Chocolate promoted Hattara to vice president of product management. By September, however, he had moved to Wooga to take a studio head position — fueling rumors that Digital Chocolate underwent massive staff cuts over the summer.

Zynga

  • John Schappert, Chief Operating Officer – Possibly 2011’s single highest profile move, Schappert left his position as COO of Electronic Arts in April to take on the same role with Zynga.
  • Jonathan Knight, Studio General Manager – Knight joined Zynga after 11 months as SVP of games at RockYou to take a position as a studio general manager.
  • Dave Wehner, Chief Financial Executive – Zynga brought on Wehner from his position as a managing director at investment bank Allen & Company in June, in a move that many speculated at the time was a precursor to an IPO.
  • Paul Neurath, Creative Director – Former Floodgate Entertainment co founder Neurath joined Zynga in March after Zynga acquired his company.
  • Cara Ely, Creative Director – A pioneer of the increasingly popular hidden object genre of casual games, Zynga added Ely to its team in June to develop its latest title, Hidden Chronicles.
  • Kenji Matsubara, Chief Executive of Zynga Japan – Matsubara joined Zynga Japan (a joint venture between Zynga and Softbank) in March several months after leaving his position as CEO of Tecmo Koei.
  • Andy Kleinman, General Manager, Latin America – This year, Kleinman left Playdom to join the Metrogames team as its VP of strategy and business development. Just three months later he had moved again to Zynga, to act as the company’s general manager for Latin America.
  • Rob Dyer, Head of Partner Publishing – Zynga brought on Dyer from his role as senior vice president of publisher relations at Sony Computer Entertainment in  December.
  • Jeff Karp, Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer – Karp joined Zynga as its new chief marketing and revenue officer moving from his position as executive vice president at EA Play.
  • Phil Frazier, Executive Producer – Frazier was another high profile scoop from EA, coming on as an executive producer for Zynga after leaving the same role at EA Tiburon in June.
  • Neil Roseman, Vice President of Zynga Seattle – Roseman was added to the Zynga team in March to head up head up Zynga Seattle as its vice president.
  • Jason Allen, Director of Development – Allen moved from Geeknet to Zynga as director of development in January.
  • Eric McDougall, Minister of Cool – And finally, in January McDougall left a position with Cisco to become Zynga’s Minister of Cool, developing the company’s brand, strategy and creative direction.