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Zynga confirmed today that Alex Garden, the head of Zynga Studios, departed from the company in March.
The social and mobile gaming company didn’t announce the departure at the time. But it did publicly announce Garden’s arrival when he joined about a year ago, just as then-CEO Don Mattrick assumed full control of Zynga’s day-to-day operations and founder Mark Pincus stepped back. We just heard about Garden’s departure after Mattrick resigned yesterday and Pincus moved in again as CEO. All these moves take place in an environment in which Zynga continues to find its footing in mobile gaming, a market that could hit $30 billion this year.
Zynga also added two data experts to its leadership team. It’s a move that shows the publisher wants to better understand how its players interact with its games — and better retain them.
A spokesperson for Zynga confirmed the departure and said it was a “mutual decision.” Garden was a high-profile hire, replacing Steven Chiang, who had the job of running the studios before that. The change happened before Pincus became CEO again.
Garden was the founder of Relic Entertainment, maker of landmark strategy games such as Company of Heroes and Homeworld. Just before joining Zynga, he worked with Mattrick as Microsoft’s general manager of Xbox Live, Xbox Music, Video, and Reading. At Microsoft, Garden worked with content partners like HBO, Netflix, and ESPN. He also worked at online publisher Nexon. And at Zynga, he helped usher games out the door such as the new Zynga Poker. But this update didn’t go over well, as many fans preferred the older game. That caused Zynga to bring back Zynga Poker Classic as an alternative game.
At the time that Garden joined the social game publisher, Mattrick said, “Alex Garden is an exciting hire for us as we focus on growing and sustaining our franchises, creating groundbreaking new entertainment experiences, and developing a more creative culture across Zynga. As president of Zynga Studios, Alex will have an integral role on the management team overseeing all of our studios as well as our CTO division. On a personal note, I have known Alex for 25 years and I am confident that he will strengthen our creative and technical capabilities as well as nurture and mentor our existing teams.”
All of Zynga’s game studios reported to Garden. Zynga said it also hired two new people in key roles.
Amy Gershkoff recently joined Zynga as the company’s first chief data officer. Gershkoff was previously at eBay where she built and led the customer analytics and insights team. Her work included creating new data science algorithms to personalize all marketing communications and the customer journey throughout the eBay website.
And Moises Goldszmidt also joined as Zynga’s chief data scientist. An expert in machine learning with 20 years of experience in the field, Moises was previously a principal researcher at Microsoft Research for nine years.
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