[Update: Kabam confirmed our report Monday morning] Nick Earl, a veteran game development executive at Electronic Arts, has taken a job as president of worldwide studios at Kabam, the fast-growing mobile-game company.
Earl was most recently senior vice president and general manager of EA Mobile, the mobile gaming division of the giant game publisher. But after a recent reorganization, Frank Gibeau was named the head of the division. That meant there was less room for Earl at Electronic Arts. Kabam declined to comment, but we have verified the appointment via two independent sources, who are not authorized to talk for Kabam.
At Kabam, Earl will report to chief executive Kevin Chou, who is the co-founder of the company, and will oversee the work of hundreds of game developers. Kabam is one of the hot companies in mobile. It raised $120 million from China’s internet giant, Alibaba, in a deal that valued Kabam at more than $1 billion. Chou said the company is targeting $500 million in revenues, compared to $360 million in 2013.
To deal with that growth, Kabam has been hiring a number of senior executives to fill out its management team. Kabam hired former EA executive Jordan Edelstein as its vice president of marketing and former EA veteran Aaron Loeb as Kabam’s senior vice president of North American studios.
Earl served at EA for 13 years. Before that, he was a vice president of product development at game company Eidos, and he also served as an executive producer at 3DO. EA has had a tough time competing in mobile recently. It had an early lead thanks to its 2005 acquisition of Jamdat, but it fell behind in the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the overall mobile gaming industry’s revenues are skyrocketing as gaming on smartphones and tablets take off.
Earl replaces Andrew Sheppard, who was the previous head of the game studios at Kabam. Sheppard left to become chief operating officer at Gree International, the overseas arm of Japan’s mobile-game publisher Gree. But Earl will evidently have more authority than Sheppard had. Earl will oversee all of Kabam’s first-party mobile games, including original titles and those developed in partnership with Hollywood studios.
“Kabam is increasingly delivering console-quality game experiences on mobile devices,” said Earl, in a statement. “I am thrilled to help drive the future of Kabam’s first-party games and the future of the entire gaming industry.”
Right now, the highest-ranking EA game on the top-grossing list for iOS is The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Rivals such as Supercell, Machine Zone, and King have performed much better with their mobile hits even though they have far fewer titles than EA has.
“Nick Earl is the perfect choice to drive the next phase of Kabam’s evolution and growth,” said Chou, in a statement. “Nick’s deep experience creating AAA titles will help Kabam continue to redefine what mobile games can be.”
Back in 2009, Kabam had just 20 employees. Today, it has more than 850 employees. It launched Kingdoms of Camelot on Facebook in September 2009, and it made $2 million in revenue. It ended 2010 with $37 million in revenue. By 2011, the company raised $75 million from Google and existing investors like Warner Bros.
In 2012, Kabam made the leap to mobile with Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North. It acquired several new game studios, including Balanced World Studio in Beijing. In 2013, it partnered with NBC Universal to make Fast & Furious 6: The Game for mobile. By the time the company finished 2013, Kingdoms of Camelot had generated $200 million over its lifetime. Kabam also set up a $50 million fund to take Asian games into Western markets.
By the end of 2013, 70 percent of Kabam’s revenues were in mobile games. The Hobbit game made more than $100 million in its first year.