Words With Friends co-creators leave Zynga

Well, this isn’t going to help Zynga’s stock price.

Paul and David Bettner, the creators of Zynga’s enormously successful Words With Friends game and its subsequent Zynga With Friends titles, are leaving Zynga.

In a phone interview with GamesBeat, the brothers confirmed their departure but wouldn’t say what they’ll do next. They would also not say what they thought of their time at Zynga. Paul Bettner said, “We are still very excited about the future and feel like we are at the beginning.”

Zynga’s stock is in a free fall today because yesterday it announced weak expected earnings for the second quarter in a row. In a statement, Zynga said, “Paul and David Bettner helped Zynga create an amazing social game brand. Along with so many others at Zynga, they helped develop it into one of the world’s most beloved online pastimes.We are proud of the Zynga teams that scaled the ‘With Friends’ brand to become the mainstream, must-play mobile games they are today. In less than two years, Zynga has grown the Words With Friends brand into a franchise of six game titles – including top hits Scramble, Hanging and Gems With Friends.  Zynga’s ‘With Friends’ franchise continues to engage and delight players worldwide with nearly 55 million games being played any given time across the world. We look forward to the continued success of the With Friends franchise and we wish Paul and David well.”

Back in November 2010, when Zynga was buying a company a month, it paid $53.3 million for Mckinney, Texas-based Newtoy, the maker of Words With Friends. The deal added just 23 employees to Zynga’s 1,300 at the time. Among the new Zynga employees were brothers Paul and David Bettner, who became studio heads at the Zynga With Friends studio.

The Bettners started their game studio in 2008, and in a short time they became one of the most successful iPhone game development companies.

The brothers first worked at Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios in Dallas, which Microsoft bought in 2004. But Microsoft shut down the 200-person studio and the brothers started Newtoy. Their first game was Chess With Friends. Then, in August 2009, they released Words With Friends, and it became a huge hit, staying in iOS’s top 25 grossing games for more than a year after it hit the market. Celebrities such as John Mayer and Justine Bateman talked about it and made it even more viral. The studio has also launched Hanging With Friends, Scramble With Friends, and Matching With Friends.

[Image credit: Star Local News]

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