GamesBeat

Zynga exec departs on the eve of IPO to run eHarmony

Former Zynga general manager Jeremy Verba has left the company to become chief executive officer of dating site eHarmony after working at the social gaming company for 19 months, according to his LinkedIn profile.

His departure comes shortly before Zynga’s planned $1 billion initial public offering, and means that he is likely giving up a substantial portion of his equity there.

Verba was responsible for Treasure Isle, a Zynga game launched in April 2010. It took off quickly, hitting around 28 million monthly active users at its peak, but began to decline quickly after that. The game now only has around 5.7 million monthly active users and lost around 1 million monthly active users between July and August.

Zynga reportedly had a harder time generating revenue from virtual goods sales in Treasure Isle, compared with healthy virtual goods sales in games such as FarmVille, Mafia Wars, Zynga Poker and more recent titles. A Zynga spokesperson would not comment on Verba’s departure when contacted by VentureBeat.

Verba worked at the company between December 2009 and June 2011. That he has vested a little under 40 percent of the total options he was offered in Zynga when he started working at the company. Zynga employees vest 25 percent of their shares after the first year of working there, plus an extra 1/48th of their shares each subsequent month.

With Zynga filing for an initial public offering, eHarmony would likely have to offer an incredible deal to pull Verba from the blazing social gaming star. Zynga is looking to raise up to $1 billion in its IPO and has a valuation somewhere between $10 billion and $20 billion — putting it well ahead of Electronic Arts, one of the largest game publishers in the world with a market cap of $6.4 billion. The upper valuation would put it ahead of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publisher Activision-Blizzard, which has a market cap of just more than $12 billion.

By comparison, eHarmony is a private dating site that has raised around $110 million in funding, according to filings with the securities and exchange commission. Even at the CEO position, it’s unclear how lucrative the deal is compared to what Verba would get had he stuck around through Zynga’s initial public offering. Match.com, a dating site owned by Barry Diller’s InterActive Corp, acquired another dating site called OkCupid for $50 million earlier this year. Those are pretty small exits compared to the bombshell Zynga is about to unleash on the public markets.

Zynga is mostly known for its major hits on Facebook. That includes the likes of Farmville, which is still the sixth most-used app on Facebook with 33 million monthly active users. Its latest game, Empires & Allies, has around 44 million monthly active users and its city-building game Cityville has 77 million monthly active users.

Both games are losing users after an initial pop in monthly active users, but that’s pretty normal for a game company. Cityville gradually lost around 10 percent of its monthly active users between July and August, while Treasure Isle lost nearly 18 percent between July and August. The number of monthly active users for Empires and Allies fell around 10 percent too, but the number of monthly active users has leveled off for the past several tracking periods, according to AppData.

The company has a lot of games that aren’t as huge as Cityville and Empires and Allies, but even those games have large player bases when compared to Treasure Isle. Frontierville, a Farmville spinoff, has more than 11 million monthly active users while Texas Hold ‘Em poker has around 35 million monthly active users.


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