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SAN FRANCISCO — Anyone who follows social gaming knows that today’s Zynga is hardly anything like the Zynga of 2009, as chief operating officer Clive Downie affirmed during his GamesBeat 2014 fireside chat with Ian Sherr on Monday.

When asked what interested him about joining Zynga, Downie said that he was fascinated about being part of “a company with the scale to produce many consequential experiences.”

In regard to the existing staff who he would be working with, “I was impressed with the caliber of people who understood customer needs,” he said. This thought segued to a topic about the kinds of people he wants to attract, particularly those who are creative and can create a content strategy. “You can tell about the health of a company by who it brings in,” he said.

Zynga’s portfolio has never been more diverse, even if it still has the seven year-old Zynga Poker. You could not have pictured the company in 2009 taking on as many licensed properties has they have today. Downie was especially proud of Zynga’s partnership with the NFL and the success of NFL Showdown, and he also talked about how pro golfer Tiger Woods would be the next Zynga licensed sports brand. All the while, he’s cognizant of the amount of seconds a human has in a day and knows that time is valuable. Often putting himself in the consumers’ shoes, he asks what can Zynga’s games and apps make to be worthy of someone’s valuable time?


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Regarding the success of Farmville 2: Country Escape, Downie credits having smaller teams for mobile game production cycles and using the versatile Unity codebase, along with having the ambition to release the game in 16 languages on both iOS and Android on the same day.

When asked how the product pipeline has changed since Don Mattrick joined Zynga as its CEO, Downie spoke generally about having purposeful strategies for a scaled portfolio. It’s a portfolio that 2,000 employees support. The company has also seen a significant shift toward products being mobile-first, a huge change over the Zynga of 2009.

Downie was giddy when talking about Zynga’s acquistion of U.K.-based Natural Motion. He noted that this company was attractive for having creative risk-takers with best-in-class technology. He cites the console-quality appeal of games such as CSR Racing as well as Clumsy Ninja. He noted that CSR Racing could have been a bigger success if not for the fact that the game had an ending. He also noted that it was great to discover that Natural Motion had many great projects that Zynga didn’t even know about until after acquiring the development house.

As a veteran of the mobile market, Downie was asked how his view of the sector’s evolution. “There’s a lot more consumers participating. The sheer scale is just an amazing opportunity for company,” he said And it’s not just traditional gaming experiences. He sees opportunities in markets with [broad] categories that address basic human needs as well as driving experiences that go beyond just racing games.

Downie acknowledged that any successful company has to be aware of the many slices of someone’s time — who you participate with, when you play, and how you play. “Companies who unlock that will get the players who are into consequential gaming,” he said.

The session ended with Downie stressing the importance of shared experiences, that we don’t exist in a vacuum. Along with personalized apps, he’s looking for experiences that make people feel alive and enhanced when they feel connected.

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