David Ko is the wireless guru responsible for building gaming company Zynga's mobile business and diversifying the firm's revenues, which currently are dependent upon Facebook. Zynga, which makes the popular Farmville game, generated 94 percent of its revenue from Facebook in the third quarter of 2011.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority, or an estimated 53 million, of Zynga's active users are on Facebook. But the company also has a significant wireless following. It reported in November it had 13 million mobile users, up from 11.1 million in October. Ko's challenge is to continue to grow that wireless following and figure out how to fully monetize Zynga games on mobile devices.
Ko, who previously was the senior vice president of mobile at Yahoo, already has had some success in mobile. Zynga's Scramble with Friends game, which made its debut Jan. 6, currently holds the No. 3 position in paid apps and Words with Friends sits at No. 5 on Apple's App Store.
Ko has also been instrumental in building Zynga's mobile portfolio through a series of acquisitions. In December, Zynga snapped up ZombieSmash developer Gamedoctors. In August 2011, the company quietly purchased HipLogic and Astro Ape Studios. And in September, Zynga landed Page44 Studios, maker of the iOS hit World of Goo.
But finding success in mobile gaming may be more elusive than via Facebook. Analysts say that mobile games offer fewer opportunities for players to spend money, making the revenue model more difficult.
Nevertheless, Zynga is expected to make lots of headway in mobile this year and release more mobile games than Facebook games.