Dan Porter, who led Draw Something-maker OMGPOP into its $180 million acquisition by Zynga, is leaving the company just a year after the deal closed. His departure comes just on the eve of Draw Something 2′s launch, which is supposed to be the big follow-up to the original and is already live in Sweden.
“Developing and launching games is a team effort, and we’re proud of the great work the Zynga New York team has done with Draw Something 2,” said Zynga COO David Ko in a statement. “Our follow up to the original hit is even more social and engaging, and we’re excited to get it into the hands of our players globally. We thank Dan Porter for his efforts in making the Draw Something franchise a success and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
It’s another blow for Zynga’s buzziest and most expensive acquisition to date. Ko and Porter are pictured above smiling almost exactly one year ago, just after the acquisition closed. Basically, it sounds like it wasn’t a cultural fit on both sides and that the decision was mutual.
Porter has always been very candid — maybe too candid — for Zynga’s comfort. Just a few weeks ago, Porter had to issue a public apology for implying that Zynga copies games. This is a sensitive issue for Zynga as it tries to manage its reputation so it can attract creative talent in a very competitive market and third-party developers for its publishing program.
“I am sorry that my actions have reflected negatively and generated negative press for the company,” he said in a statement posted to Zynga’s company blog just under a month ago. “I’m also sorry if anyone on the game creation side felt that my comments were somehow a discredit to their work.”
Two sources told us Zynga CEO Mark Pincus demanded that he apologize or that he would be fired. Again, even though Porter did apologize, his departure seems to be a mutual decision. When Zynga acquired OMGPOP, it was for $180 million in cash and $30 million in retention.
Longtime Zynga general manager Sean Uberoi Kelly is stepping in for Porter. He’s the vice president of mobile, has been at the company for four years, and led the launch of CityVille, which grabbed 100 million players in less than 30 days when it came out.
Draw Something 2 is designed to be a lot stickier than the original. We’re hearing that players will get to hold onto their drawings and save and share them in something that resembles much more of a social network than a game.
We’ve reached out to Porter for comment.
Read the original post: OMGPOP Head Dan Porter Leaves Zynga A Year After $180M Acquisition, Former CityVille GM Steps In
Staying true to a health or fitness regimen can be tough, but San Francisco-based Mango Health is looking to see whether an app can help with that.
The seven-person startup just did a full launch of their app following a 16-week trial where they tracked whether regular notifications helped prescription drug takers keep on top of taking their medications every day.
CEO Jason Oberfest, who came from a career in social gaming and networking with stints at DeNA’s Ngmoco and MySpace, said user retention in the trial beat what he saw with mobile games he had launched in his previous career by three or four times. The trial was fairly small at just over 100 people.
Now the app is fully available to everyone on iOS. (Android will come at a later point.)
Mango Health takes tactics from the gaming world and applies them to one of the pharmaceutical industry’s toughest problems — prescription adherence. If people don’t stay on top of taking their medications properly, they could end up aggravating long-term health problems that could be more expensive to treat in the long-run. Oberfest says this is a $300 billion-a-year problem.
“It’s such a pressing issue that some U.S. physicians now refer to it as a “silent epidemic” facing the U.S. healthcare system,” he said.
He says that the current ways the industry tries to treat this problem involve tracking patient consumption of medication or analyzing back office data to identify people who are at risk of falling off a regimen.
A mobile app, with proper notifications and information about how to avoid harmful drug and food interactions, could be a more effective way of nudging people to stay on track. Patients who take their medications properly can get rewards like discounts or gift cards for Whole Foods and Gap.
Mango Health’s app gamifies the whole process with eight different levels that offer different kinds of rewards that range up to $100 gift certificates or discounts. It also keeps a journal of medications and supplements that people take.
Mango Health’s revenue model has to balance many different interest groups. On the one hand, the company is working with brands to offer users rewards; it’s a practice borrowed from the social gaming world where brands would give offers to gamers if they downloaded titles or paid for virtual currency.
Instead, in this model, these offers and rewards are used as a carrot to keep people taking their medications properly.
“In the very end, good game design is about changing human behavior,” he said. “To be able to apply that in an area that can make a meaningful difference in peoples’ lives gets me so excited to come to work every day.”
In turn, brands in the app get to reach a target market of people who care about their health and wellness. Mango is announcing a partnership with Target today, but Oberfest couldn’t comment on whether the retailer is paying the startup anything for being included in the app.
On the other side, Mango Health could also work with health care organizations, HMOs or big employers that have health and wellness plans. Partnerships on this side could help health providers incentivize their patients or pool of insured customers to take steps that could prevent more expensive health problems in the long-run.
Mango has seven employees and has raised $3.1 million to date from investors including First Round Capital, Baseline’s Steve Anderson, Floodgate’s Mike Maples, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus and Square’s chief operating officer Keith Rabois. They also took a bit of extra seed funding recently from Bullpen Capital and Ray Rothrock, a Venrock partner that invested as an individual.
Last October, Google introduced the new email compose window as an option for Gmail users and starting today, this will become the default. The new compose experience, which is essentially a pop-up window that appears on the right side of the screen, is easier to use, faster and makes it easier for Gmail users to multitask, Google says. In return, however, it’s now a bit harder to find text formatting options like underline, indent, numbered and unnumbered lists, etc. (you can, of course, also still use the same keyboard shortcuts as before).
The new compose experience will roll out over the next few days. It looks like Google will still allow users to switch back to the old compose windows for a while, but it’s not clear for how long. A Google spokesperson told me that the company has not set a timeline for this.
The new experience breaks the integration with Rapportive (recently acquired by LinkedIn) and similar services (though Boomerang apparently works just fine with it) which previously lived in the right-hand sidebar of the compose screen. You can still use Rapportive while you are reading emails, of course, but the new compose windows have no sidebar (and hence also no ads), so it’s not clear where these tools would present their information while you are composing emails.
Thankfully, it looks like the old compose window will still be around for a bit longer, but we’ll have to see for how long.
On the positive side, though, the new compose window makes it easier to multitask, as you can open multiple compose windows next to each other, though things get rather confusing once you open more than two. The new compose window is also close integrated with Google Drive and makes it very easy to attach documents from Google’s cloud storage service.
See the rest here: Google Makes Gmail’s New Compose Experience The Default
Last year Facebook tested out and then launched Facebook Exchange ads in its right-hand column, a way for advertisers to market themselves to users based on those users’ online browsing habits, using a cookie-based real-time bidding platform. Those ads have proven to be some of Facebook’s strongest performing ad units, so now it’s taking them a step further, with an alpha test to extend FBX ads into the desktop News Feed, the place where users spend most of their time on the social network.
It’s important to note that this move will not increase the number of ads that Facebook shows in the News Feed; but it will make them based on where else you have been online. That could be useful, or it could be creepy. Facebook itself believes that more relevant means more useful. “Allowing advertisers to reach people in News Feed is important because people spend more time in News Feed than any other part of Facebook,” Facebook writes. “We also believe that ads delivered through FBX will create more relevant ads for people. Introducing Facebook Exchange in Desktop News Feed will not change the number of ads people see in their News Feeds.”
For now, the alpha test is desktop-only and does not cover mobile platforms. “Right now we’re focused on desktop,” a spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “Desktop is more in line with what FBX has been doing effectively in the right hand side. And we also find that desktop is the place where more people convert from seeing direct-response ads.”
The move will mean that advertisers will be able to offer links to specific landing pages.
It comes on the heels of Facebook upgrading its News Feed earlier this month with bigger pictures and separate feeds for music, pictures and more — a move that gives users a nicer experience, but now also makes some sense in the context of enhanced advertising, too.
And the expanded role for FBX comes also as Facebook is increasing the number of data sources that it uses to gather information about online browsing habits, which will serve to make those retargeted ads more relevant.
“We wanted to give advertisers and agencies the opportunity to deliver highly relevant ads in News Feed, the most engaging place on the web,” Facebook writes in its blog post.
That will prove to be a potent combination when combined with FBX. Early results show that FBX ads gave a 16-time return on investment to advertisers using the platform, according to AdRoll, one of Facebook’s early DSP partners for the initial roll out.
Demand-side platform partners for the alpha test in the News Feed are TellApart, MediaMath, and Nanigans. Facebook says that it plans to expand that to more DSPs and advertisers in the coming weeks.
Times Square is where Samsung is gearing up to unveil the Galaxy S IV tonight at a special press event, but the leaks won’t stop coming. The latest, from the same Chinese source that brought us videos of key features earlier today, is a long, extensive review of the supposed SGS IV hardware, laying bare all of its secrets and even going so far as to take a microscope to the new smartphone’s screen.
The review is, as mentioned, exhaustive (and also in Chinese), but there are some key elements worth drawing specific attention to. In the disappointing column, that metal-look border surrounding the phone does indeed appear to be plastic upon closer prodding. On the good side, it looks like the plastic backing for the device actually doesn’t feel like plastic, according to the reviewers, thanks to micro-perforations in the surface.
Taking the scope to the screen reveals improvements to the sub-pixel arrangement which help increase density and maximize the rendering of deep blacks, with changes that also help it improve its ability to render fine detail. The screen is reportedly better able to render images clearly, making it impossible to discern pixels with the reviewer’s naked eye. The camera also looks improved, in side-by-side comparisons with the iPhone 5, though the reviewer says accurate color rendering isn’t up to par with Apple’s smartphone.
The Samsung Galaxy S IV tested in the leaked review had an eight-core Samsung Exynos Octa processor on board (the one rumored for the international version, which makes sense), which led to it blowing away the competition in AnTuTu benchmarking tests. Users definitely won’t be disappointed by the GSIV’s performance if these leaks prove legit.
The review notes that Samsung has focused a lot on adding and refining screen transition animations and tap action effects, which are likely made possible by the big bump in processing power. It also supposedly has Smart Scrolling, Smart Pause, and Smart Rotation features onboard, which is in keeping with earlier reports about Samsung enabling eye-tracking interaction on the handset.
The leak may disappoint some who were hoping for more surprises later tonight, but Samsung likely isn’t too concerned: this phone will sell well, regardless of how much it has to demo to the press tonight has been publicized beforehand. Check out the full review at it168.com for all the poorly translated spoilers your heart could desire, and then follow along with our live coverage to get the full scoop.