In a recent phone interview with GamesBeat, brothers Paul and David Bettner revealed that they will be leaving Zynga to pursue other avenues, saying, “We are still very excited about the future and feel like we are at the beginning.” This is notable because the Bettner brothers are the creators of the highly popular Words with Friends title, as well as the rest of Zynga’s With Friends series.
This news follows the announcement that Zynga would be lowering their expectations for their third quarter report. This is the second quarter in a row this has happened, directly causing their stock to take over a $0.50 drop per share.
Zynga’s statement on the matter read as follows:
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.
Zynga purchased Newtoy, the studio responsible for Words with Friends, back in November of 2010 for $53.3 million. The Bettner brothers started Newtoy back in 2008 as a result of their former employer, Ensemble Studios (known for the Age of Empires series and lastly Halo Wars), closing. Although Ensemble actually closed in 2009, they had announced in late 2008 that they would do so following the release of Halo Wars. The first release by Newtoy was Chess with Friends in November of 2008. However, it wasn’t until August 2009 that Words with Friends was released for Apple’s App Store. The game quickly moved to become one of the top-selling apps for the iOS platform for quite some time after.
Analysis: So in case you missed the memo, I would advise against coming anywhere near the Zynga stock at this point. Let’s not forget that Zynga started with a $10/share IPO. They have since fallen by 75%, and given the outlook, they’re likely to keep falling. The stock is toxic and should be avoided at all costs.
As far as Paul and David Bettner are concerned, I hope they keep developing. Having played Words with Friends, I can honestly say that it’s a great way to pass time. I don’t think they, or anyone really, deserve to be stuck working for Zynga. But let’s be honest: these guys are responsible for a decent share of Zynga’s more original and profitable games.