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   Technology StocksZynga, Inc.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (328)4/8/2015 5:57:11 PM
From: The Ox
1 Recommendation   of 363
Many moons ago, in the early 80s, I was involved with a custom software company that wrote code for anything from a Wang to a IBM PC and many other systems in between. We were all young and full of beans, as the saying goes, so we hired a guy (literally) from IBM to come in and "take us to the next level".

HUGE mistake. Basically, this guy was worthless to a young startup company. He cost us salary, time and other intangibles that became an albatross around the neck of this vibrant young entity. In essence, trying to "do the right thing" by bringing in what we thought was "high end talent", this guy did nothing to aid in our advancement. He actually helped drive the company into the ground.

I was fortunate to be the main programmer, so I was able to walk away with all my clients after the company folded. I did very well as a consultant going forward but we were on the ground floor of the IBM/MSFT pc revolution and we were writing code for small business systems. That area absolutely exploded over the next few years. I was fortunate to reap a great benefit but it's always an afterthought about what could have been had this clown been more in tuned to what this small, flourishing company needed to help it grow!!!

There are way too many stories like this one....

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To: The Ox who wrote (329)4/10/2015 7:57:39 PM
From: Glenn Petersen
1 Recommendation   of 363
I had a similar experience in the mid 80s. I was the CFO of a network oriented (Novell) microcomputer distributor with a product line that was continually being turned over because of technological advances. The environment was one a barely controlled chaos and the company needed a leader capable of turning on a dime. The CEO, who was a part time presence, recruited a friend for the position of President who had had a high level position with a semi-conductor distributor. A completely different world. The President never adapted to the pace and took so long to make decisions that it seriously hurt the company. His biggest mistake was trying to take a sales staff that was barely civilized and turn them into the button-down drones that he was used to managing. The owner eventually terminated both the President and the CEO.

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From: Glenn Petersen5/6/2015 6:36:01 PM
   of 363
Zynga Narrows Focus, Will Cut 18 Percent of Staff

By Kara Swisher,
Apr 8, 2015, 1:05 PM PDT

Those categories are Action-Strategy (such as Empires and Allies, a new game launched yesterday), Social Casino (Hit It Rich), Invest & Express (FarmVille), Casual (Words With Friends) and Racing (CSR Racing).

The layoffs will finish within the next three quarters, according to a company press release, and are expected to save $45 million every year. Zynga expects to cut $55 million in other costs by the third quarter of 2016, but will take on restructuring charges of between $18 million and $22 million in the current quarter.

Zynga also came in ahead of Wall Street’s earnings expectations in the fiscal quarter that ended in March, reporting a net loss of $6.7 million, or one cent per share, on $167 million in sales. The Street was expecting a loss of two cents per share on sales of $148 million.

In an interview with Re/code, Pincus said the layoffs are aimed at “de-layering and de-cluttering the organization” and have come from corporate and central services, rather than game development. However, the company will exit the sports genre it entered last year and close the Orlando studio that developed the fantasy football-esque game NFL Showdown.

“We identified a couple places where we want to be world-class, like data analytics,” Pincus said. “But in other places — we will let Amazon manage our data centers, for instance.”

Mobile now accounts for 63 percent of Zynga’s revenue, continuing a trend that started last quarter; the company previously said it hoped to get that number to 75 percent in the current fiscal year.

Pincus said some games such as Zynga Poker and FarmVille still have “significant” daily active users on the Web, but that moving forward, the strategy for all games is “mobile first or mobile-also.” He pointed to the success of the Hit It Rich slots games amid several other casino game options as a model for attracting players to new releases.

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From: Glenn Petersen5/8/2015 10:06:23 AM
   of 363
For Zynga, a Journey from the Cloud to Home — and Back Again

By Robert McMillan
Wall Street Journal
9:17 am ET, May 8, 2015

In 2009, Zynga ZNGA +0.71% was a marquee customer for 's AMZN +1.41% cloud-computing services. Two years later, it spent $100 million to build its own data centers to handle the bulk of its computing. Now Zynga’s cloud cruise has come full circle.

The company Wednesday said it would shut its data centers and shift its computing workload back to Amazon, as part of $100 million in spending reductions.

“There’s a lot of places that are not strategic for us to have scale and we think not appropriate, like running our own data centers,” Zynga CEO Mark Pincus told investors on a conference call. “We’re going to let Amazon do that.”

Why the change? Well, Zynga’s business changed. The company grew fast as a maker of popular Web-based Facebook FB +0.22% apps, but stumbled as the world moved to mobile games.

“Their business didn’t grow the way they expected,” said Lydia Leong, an analyst with industry research firm Gartner. “Games were unpredictable,” she said, making it hard to plan computing needs.

Meanwhile, Amazon changed too. The company has famously slashed its cloud computing prices, and today offers companies like Zynga more flexibility to tap the right amount of computing power and storage, Leong said.

Even after Zynga built its data centers in 2011, it still relied on Amazon for some tasks. That required the company to create software for the data centers, called zCloud, which made it easier to switch between Amazon’s servers and its own. The zCloud was based on open-source software called CloudStack, Leong said.

Zynga declined to comment for this article.

Amazon rivals Microsoft MSFT +2.36% and IBM sa IBM +1.13%y they offer customers an easier way to create such “hybrid” clouds, mixing customer-owned computers and a cloud provider. But Gartner’s Leong says customers can accomplish the same tasks using Amazon’s cloud without much additional effort.

When Zynga built the data centers, it bet that it could operate them more cheaply than paying Amazon. But squeezing better price performance out of a city block of servers turned out to be a tricky proposition.

Zynga may have simply decided that it wanted to be a gaming company, not a technology company, said David Moser, the chief technology officer of Zenovia Digital Exchange, an advertising-technology vendor that recently shifted much of its computing power from Amazon to its own data centers.

“Running a data center is expensive,” he said. “There are lots of mouths to feed when you have your own data center.”

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From: Glenn Petersen8/26/2015 5:42:02 PM
   of 363
The perils and challenges of mobile gaming:

Rovio To Cut 260 Jobs As The Angry Birds Franchise Becomes Irrelevant

by Romain Dillet ( @romaindillet)
August 26,2015

It looks like Angry Birds maker Rovio is having some troubles to pay the bills. The Finnish company is about to cut 260 jobs after reducing its workforce by 110 employees in October 2014. At the end of 2013, the company had 800 employees in total.

This news comes as a surprise as Rovio’s latest game is a big success. Angry Birds 2 has been downloaded nearly 50 million times in just a month, topping the charts
  • In the U.S. (at least for a couple of weeks), one of the main App Store markets:
  • In China where the franchise is very successful:
    • In many other countries:

    But generating millions of downloads is just part of the challenge. Angry Birds 2 is already falling in the charts around the world, and its freemium model doesn’t seem to be working great. In the U.S., Angry Birds 2 managed to reach the 42nd spot in the top grossing category shortly after its launch. While this is no small feat, it is nowhere near Game of War (#1), Clash of Clans (#2), Candy Crush Saga (#4) and Candy Crush Soda Saga (#7) — these games have been trusting the top grossing charts for months.

    In other words, Angry Birds 2 is probably not enough to pay hundreds of employees. Rovio has offices in Espoo, Stockholm, London, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo — this isn’t your average indie game development shop.

    The Angry Birds franchise has been one of the first breakthrough gaming successes on the App Store and Play Store. Millions of people paid a few dollars to download the latest iteration in the franchise. Yet, it’s a brand new world for mobile gaming. Now it’s all about free-to-play games, micro transactions and waiting times. Angry Birds wasn’t designed for this model.

    Rovio also has a strong merchandise business — the company has been licensing its brands to sell a ton of Angry Birds teddy bears, notebooks and pens. But as the game franchise becomes less popular, these items could become irrelevant as well.

    There is one last hope for Rovio — The Angry Birds Movie. The company has been working on a movie for a while now, expecting to release it in May 2016. Rovio said that the job cuts will affect the entire organization, except the teams working on the movie in the U.S. and Canada. Focusing the company’s budget and energy on this movie is a big bet, and it will determine the fate of the gaming company.

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    From: Glenn Petersen2/23/2016 4:59:36 PM
       of 363
    Zynga puts its San Francisco headquarters up for sale

    Dean Takahashi
    February 23, 2016 11:24 AM

    Above: Zynga headquarters.

    Image Credit: Zynga

    Zynga has put its San Francisco headquarters up for sale, confirming a report today from the San Francisco blog SFist.

    The social mobile game company’s headcount is down around 2,300 or so, significantly down from its peak above 3,500 people. That means it doesn’t need as much space as it once did. Zynga acquired the space, which was once the U.S. headquarters of Sega, for $228 million. Now it maybe worth much more, given the boom in San Francisco real estate.

    Zynga confirmed the headquarters is up for sale, noting it said so during its fourth quarter conference call. GamesBeat didn’t actually notice that. It plans to sell the building and then take out a long-term lease. Right now, the move is in the exploratory phase. If the company sells, it plans to lease back so employees can stay in the building.

    Founded in 2007, Zynga grew dramatically on the popularity of its Facebook games. It went public at a $9 billion valuation at the end of 2011, but then it faltered. The company had a hard time getting its footing in mobile games, and its audience on Facebook’s desktop platform started to decline.

    Mark Pincus, the chief executive and the company’s founder, brought in former Electronic Arts and Microsoft Xbox executive Don Mattrick to help turn things around. Mattrick cleaned house on the management team and acquired NaturalMotion for $527 million, but he found the turnaround task to be a tough one. He left in April 2015, and Pincus returned to the CEO job.

    For the past three quarters, Zynga has been paring back and reporting breakeven results. Its market value is around $1.9 billion today, as investors have become patient for the turnaround. But Zynga doesn’t necessarily need any cash, as it has more than $900 million on its balance sheet already.

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    From: Glenn Petersen3/1/2016 10:23:20 PM
       of 363
    Mark Pincus is out as CEO of Zynga after less than a year — and a turnaround expert is in

    Matt Weinberger
    Business Insider
    March 1, 2016

    Stephen Lam/ReutersZynga Executive Chairman Mark Pincus

    Mark Pincus has stepped down from his role as CEO of publicly-traded social game developer Zynga, less than a year after taking the reins in April 2015. He's staying with the company in a new role of executive chairman.

    Now, Pincus is handing the CEO role over to Zynga board member Frank Gibeau, a 25-year gaming industry veteran credited with completely turning around mega-publisher Electronic Arts' mobile gaming business, the company announced after market close on Tuesday.

    Under Gibeau, EA turned mobile games like "The Simpsons: Tapped Out" and "Plants vs. Zombies" into lucrative businesses. Now, the hope is that he'll bring some of that magic to Zynga — because, frankly, the once-hot Zynga needs it.

    This was actually Pincus' second run as Zynga CEO: He served as CEO from the company's founding in 2007 through 2013, when he stepped down and handed the role over to Microsoft veteran Don Mattrick. In early 2015, Mattrick himself stepped down, and Pincus stepped back up as CEO.

    Despite Zynga's grand ambitions with a slate of new games under Pincus, the "Words With Friends" developer has seen its stock get crushed after whiffing on its most recent earnings.

    Still, Pincus tells Business Insider that he's proud of his 11-month tenure as CEO: He says that under his watch, Zynga's teams are collaborating in ways that they hadn't, and the overall culture is far more focused on its most lucrative businesses, including its fast-growing slot machine and poker games.

    "I put all of that in motion," Pincus says. "I don't need to win CEO of the year to feel good about that."

    Flickr cc, Torbakhopper
    "Words With Friends."

    Furthermore, Pincus says that plenty of the games he's spearheaded as CEO won't come out until later this year or beyond, meaning that it's too soon to judge his legacy as a business executive.

    Still, Gibeau has a challenge ahead. After going no higher than $3.50 over the last year, Zynga stock cratered to $2.16 ahead of this announcement. Meanwhile, reports swirl that Zynga is planning to sell its iconic San Francisco headquarters, which it purchased in 2012 for $228 million.

    Pincus says that Gibeau has been very involved with Zynga's business and plans over the seven months he's held a board seat. Because of that, Pincus doesn't anticipate a lot of bumps during the transition.

    "I saw more and more opportunity for [Gibeau] to engage here," Pincus says, culminating in Pincus going to the board and asking for this change, he says.

    And while Gibeau handles the day-to-day tasks of the chief executive, Pincus says that he's going to stay involved with Zynga, focusing on bigger-picture vision stuff, what he calls "product entrepreneurship," and helping teams within the company talk to each other.

    "I think it's important that founders and CEOs are self aware of where they can add value or not," Pincus says.

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    From: Glenn Petersen5/5/2016 10:02:04 AM
       of 363
    Zynga's Q1 results tops forecasts

    Brett Molina
    9:36 a.m. EDT May 5, 2016

    A bicyclist rides by Zynga headquarters in San Francisco.(Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

    Zynga topped Wall Street forecasts Wednesday with its first-quarter financial results, the first under new CEO Frank Gibeau.

    The San Francisco-based maker of FarmVille and other titles reported sales of $187 million, beating forecasts of $171.85 million, according to analysts polled by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Earnings were break-even, besting projections of a loss of a penny per share.

    First-quarter bookings, the money spent on games by consumers, reached $182 million, up 8% from a year ago.

    News of the financial results sent Zynga shares surging 11.5% to $2.57 in Thursday trading.

    "There are so many things we could focus our attention on and do better that I think will lead us to better results over the long term," Gibeau, who replaced Zynga founder Mark Pincus as CEO in March, said in an interview. (Pincus remains Zynga's chairman.)

    Although the company cut costs and recorded a rise in advertising revenue, it projected a $20 million to $26 million loss for its current quarter.

    Previously, Pincus stepped down as CEO and brought in Xbox veteran Don Mattrick to jump-start Zynga's push into mobile gaming. Indeed, during the first quarter, 76% of Zynga's overall bookings were generated from mobile, a 31% jump compared to last year.

    "We believe that Zynga has an opportunity to create new social experiences to connect even more players together," Gibeau said.

    Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.

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    From: Glenn Petersen8/4/2016 6:50:05 PM
       of 363
    Zynga User Base Shrinks Further, Loss Narrows on Accounting Change

    Quarterly improvement driven by lower expenses

    By Lisa Beilfuss
    The Wall Street Journal
    Updated Aug. 4, 2016 4:37 p.m. ET

    Videogame developer Zynga Inc. ZNGA 0.34 % ’s second-quarter loss narrowed despite a shrinking user base and revenue decline, thanks mostly to an accounting change.

    Zynga said its loss would widen in the current quarter, with revenue coming in below expectations. Shares dropped 8.1% in after hours trading.

    The San Francisco company, known for its social games Farmville and Words with Friends, has been trying to steady its business. Zynga had a meteoric rise, thanks largely to a marketing relationship with Facebook FB 1.51 % in its early days, but since the company went public in late 2011 the stock has tumbled. Shares made their debut at $11 and most recently closed at less than $3.

    The company has been trying to shore up cash, announcing layoffs last year that brought its staff to about half its peak and this year saying it would sell its seven-story San Francisco headquarters. It has also worked to cut marketing costs.

    “We have more work to do in our turnaround,” said Chief Executive Frank Gibeau, though he expressed optimism over steps the company has taken to “do more with less.”

    The second-quarter improvement was driven by lower expenses, primarily because of a benefit stemming from a change in the estimated fair value of recent acquisition’s liability. Zynga bought the social casino Rising Tide Games last year. Mr. Gibeau said lower marketing costs also helped. Such expenses declined 1.2%.

    During the quarter, Zynga’s user base continued to shrink. The company reported 61 million average monthly users—down 26% from a year earlier and 11% from the first quarter. Most of those users play Zynga’s games on mobile devices. Average monthly mobile users dropped 23% year-over-year and 11% from the first quarter. Users who play daily fell 15% from last year’s quarter to 18 million.

    As the company’s user base declined, so did revenue. Total sales slid 9.1% to 181.7 million, with online game revenue down 16%. Advertising jumped 22% from a year earlier, though from the first quarter it fell 8%.

    Zynga’s loss narrowed to $4.45 million, or a penny a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $26.9 million, or 3 cents a share. Excluding stock-based expense and acquisition-related costs, among other items, the company broke even on a per-share basis after posting a loss of 2 cents a share last year.

    Analysts projected a loss of 2 cents a share and revenue of $169.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters.

    For the current quarter, Zynga said it expects to report a loss of 3 cents to 4 cents a share. On an adjusted basis, the company sees a profit of a penny per share, matching analysts’ expectation. Zynga predicted third-quarter sales of $170 million to $180 million, short of the $187.2 million average analyst estimate.

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    From: Glenn Petersen9/6/2017 7:03:54 AM
       of 363
    Mostly OT to Zynga:

    An Angry Birds Empire: Games, Toys, Movies and Now an I.P.O.

    New York Times
    SEPT. 5, 2017

    Rovio Entertainment’s “Angry Birds” game has led to a series of sequels, a line of toys and clothing, and a feature film. Credit Columbia Pictures

    LONDON — The digital world is littered with one-hit wonders — companies that tried to turn a single successful brand into a big-time business only to be eclipsed by changing technology and consumer tastes.

    Zynga, which once paraded sheep in Times Square to celebrate a spinoff of its highly addictive FarmVille, is worth far less than it was when it went public in 2011. King Digital Entertainment tried to build an entire Candy Crush empire, but sold out to a traditional game maker two years ago.

    The maker of Angry Birds, Rovio Entertainment, hopes to defy that trend.

    Rovio found success in a smartphone game that pitted a brightly colored feathered flock against an army of green pigs, spawning a series of sequels, a line of toys and clothing, and a feature film. Now, the Finnish company is planning an initial public offering that could value the company at roughly $2 billion, in a test of whether investors will find favor in a single franchise and whether the business can evolve.

    Rovio helped usher in the rise of smartphone games, building a juggernaut around the Angry Birds brand. In the game, released in 2009, users fling birds at elaborate structures built by pigs that have stolen their eggs.

    The game’s idiosyncratic concept now has several spinoffs that rank among the most downloaded apps on smartphones and tablets. Rovio’s titles have been downloaded 3.7 billion times, the company said.

    “The Angry Birds Movie” grossed around $350 million worldwide. A sequel is planned for release in September 2019.

    Rovio has ridden the wave of a rapidly expanding mobile gaming market. The industry’s worldwide revenue was about $16 billion in 2012 and is forecast to top more than $50 billion this year, according to data from SuperData Research, a data provider on the games industry.

    But Rovio now needs to prove it can profit beyond the success of Angry Birds. Its games business, which includes the original Angry Birds and more than a dozen spinoff titles, accounted for 79 percent of its revenue in the 12 months through June.

    “They need to find a way to diversify their brand portfolio in the future,” said Atte Riikola, a research analyst at Inderes in Helsinki, Finland. “They have had problems in their history when trying to diversify, so it won’t be an easy task to do.”

    The company has done a good job creating offshoots of its flagship game, like Bad Piggies and Angry Birds Match. The company has also introduced several non-Angry Birds titles in recent years, including a puzzle game called Fruit Nibblers and a game tied to the pop singer Shakira.

    “The hardest part in the app market is to find the users, to get people to download your game,” said Tero Kuittinen, chief strategist at Kuuhubb, a Finnish company focused on lifestyle and mobile video game applications. “If you have a well-known intellectual property — you have something that is instantly recognizable, James Bond, ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ any kind of property like that — it helps you a lot. Why wouldn’t they leverage Angry Birds?”

    But it is still unclear whether Rovio has the framework or model to fuel innovation and expand beyond its main brand. The mobile gaming environment is especially competitive.

    “At a certain stage, you will need a formula for more efficient innovation success,” said Mark DiMassimo, the chief executive and chief creative officer at the advertising agency DiMassimo Goldstein. “You’re going to need to get to winners faster than other folks, more efficiently than other folks. If you don’t, you’re going to be on the losing end of the category.”

    The announcement of the public offering marks a turnaround for Rovio, which struggled financially in the years after the initial release of Angry Birds. The company, which started out by selling its games, was caught flat-footed as consumers gravitated to games offered through a so-called freemium model, in which players download the game for free and pay for additional features. Rovio has since switched from paid apps to free downloads of its games.

    Mikael Hed, a co-founder, stepped down as its chief executive in 2014, and the company announced plans to cut nearly 40 percent of its work force the next year. (Mr. Hed is still executive chairman of Rovio Animation, which helped bring “The Angry Birds Movie” to the big screen last year.)

    Rovio returned to a profit in 2016 and reported revenue of 191.7 million euros, or about $228 million, last year.

    Rovio is the latest game maker to turn to the public markets after becoming a cultural phenomenon, following in the footsteps of Zynga and King Digital.

    Zynga, the company behind not only FarmVille but also Words With Friends, was valued at $7 billion when it went public in 2011. Its shares are now trading at a third of the initial price.

    The company rose to fame with social games played on Facebook, but it was slow to recognize the move to mobile gaming. While it has since shifted its focus, the company has not been able to repeat its earlier success.

    King Digital, the Swedish maker of Candy Crush, went public in 2014, but was sold for about $5.9 billion a year later to Activision Blizzard. It sold at a discount to its initial listing price as it struggled to replicate the success of its biggest hit.

    The founder of Supercell, a Finnish rival behind the hit Clash of Clans, opted not to pursue an initial public offering, instead selling a 51 percent stake to the Japanese telecommunications giant SoftBank in 2013 for about $1.5 billion. Last year, the Chinese internet giant Tencent paid $8.6 billion for a controlling stake in Supercell.

    Rovio said that the aim of the initial public offering was to help it carry out a growth strategy, and that it would use its shares for possible acquisitions and rewards to its employees.

    Rovio said the initial public offering would consist of the sale of stock by its main shareholder, Trema International Holdings, and other shareholders. The company is also seeking to issue additional shares worth €30 million, or about $36 million, in the offering.

    “That’s really the question for the market around this I.P.O.: To what extent do we believe the company can exploit its existing intellectual property, and to what extent can it go again and deliver another big hit?” said Will McInnes, the chief marketing officer at Brandwatch, which monitors social media trends.

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