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Gaming pioneer Trip Hawkins resigns from Digital Chocolate

Trip Hawkins, a pioneer of video games, has resigned from Digital Chocolate, the mobile and social game company that he founded.

Hawkins announced the resignation himself on the company’s blog over the weekend. He said he would move into a consulting and advisory role at Digital Chocolate, which hasn’t been one of the victors in the mobile and social gaming wars. Hawkins said that the company is moving to a narrower and more streamlined focus, so it made sense to make the change. Rumors suggest that Digital Chocolate has laid off about 180 employees.

“I’ve always had a mission and purpose in my career, and I’ve always cared about helping game developers to prosper so that they can make better games for the public,” Hawkins wrote. “And I’ve worked towards making everyone in the world a gamer — a vision that is indeed on its way to reality. I’ve had the highs and lows and mixed results, but the journey has been extraordinary.”

Hawkins founded publisher Electronic Arts 30 years ago — an anniversary that came just yesterday — in 1982 with a vision to turn video games into an art form alongside books, movies, visual arts, and music. He started EA Sports and John Madden NFL Football, and those properties are still driving EA’s revenues today. He left EA to start 3DO, which failed in its effort to establish a new game console.

He founded Digital Chocolate in 2003, driven to succeed in the mobile game markets and hoping to redeem himself after the failure of 3DO. Hawkins was early in the mobile gaming market, and he pivoted into social games once that became big on Facebook. But Digital Chocolate didn’t have enough soldiers in its army, and it was short on hits.

Digital Chocolate has operations across the U.S., Russia, Spain, and Finland. But it has apparently shut offices in Mexico, Armenia, the state of Washington, and part of its operation in Russia. Rivals such as Zynga, Rovio, Electronic Arts, Gameloft, and others have beaten Digital Chocolate in the current advertising gold rush in the mobile and social space. While Zynga has nearly 250 million monthly active users on Facebook, Digital Chocolate has barely over 6 million.

Marc Metis, who has been at the company since 2009, will serve as interim chief executive at Digital Chocolate. Digital Chocolate has raised more than $60 million to date from backers including Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital.


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