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Zynga "not a mobile business" says EA exec

Frank Gibeau says social gaming publisher "blew it" by focusing on Facebook instead of multi-format approach

Electronic Arts is a jack of all trades in the gaming industry, carving out a presence in the console, smartphone, tablet, and free-to-play PC markets. While that spreads its resources between many different bets, the company's head of mobile development Frank Gibeau might suggest it's the only reasonable response to a world where people game everywhere, and on everything.

Speaking with The New York Times recently, Gibeau talked about changing consumption habits benefitting games, with people who have 10 free minutes choosing to spend it gaming instead of reading a few pages of a book or a few minutes of a movie. When the Times reporter suggested that was the vision originally espoused by Zynga CEO Mark Pincus, Gibeau said the company stumbled in how it acted on that vision.

"But Zynga blew it," Gibeau said. "They're not a mobile business. We're six or seven times their size in mobile. Zynga fell into a hole because they were completely focused on one platform, which is Facebook." Gibeau said EA saw that Facebook gamers were migrating to smartphones, where they wouldn't be able to play their favorite games through the social network. On top of that, Gibeau said customer acquisition costs on Facebook "were on a straight line up," further dampening the publisher's enthusiasm for the field. So instead of focusing on just one platform, EA has instead embraced a multi-format approach to its intellectual properties that parallels the efforts of one of its competitors and business partners.

"Look at Disney," Gibeau said. "They do a spectacular job of acquiring world-class intellectual property and then - 'exploiting' is probably the wrong word - bringing it to market across multiple channels in an appropriate way for each. So you can see the property in a theatrical big-screen version or as a TV show or a webisode or an interactive game. We're doing the same thing here with our interactive properties."

Naturally, part of that approach includes the console market that used to take up the bulk of EA's business. While the console business has seen its share of doom and gloom predictions in recent years, Gibeau said perceptions have reversed of late.

"I kept hearing that console gaming is a dinosaur, headed to the tar pits," Gibeau said. "Then the new consoles were announced, and people started saying, 'Can you get me one?'"

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.