Jam City Names Josh Yguado CEO as Chris DeWolfe Leaves to Start Plai Labs

Jam City has announced that co-founders Chris DeWolfe and Aber Whitcomb have left to start a new mobile game startup, and Josh Yguado will take over as CEO.

Yguado is also a co-founder, and formerly its COO and President. Seungwon Lee, the president of Jam City, will also be promoted to CEO of Jam City. Lee is also the president of Netmarble, the majority owner of Los Angeles-based Jam City.

“I’ve been an integral part of running the company for a long time. So it’s a little bit unimpressive in that way, but I’m happy to take on the CEO role and I’m excited for the next chapter of Jam City,” Iguado said in an interview with GamesBeat. “I co-founded the company a long time ago. 12 years and I’ve been instrumental in running it since the beginning and I’m deeply involved in every part of the business. So now I’m stepping in to run the business. To some extent, it will be business as usual, which for us means continuing to grow our successful portfolio games.”

Yguado said he was honored to take on the new role and said the change is appropriate given the company’s evolving strategy around blockchain games and free-to-play mobile titles. DeWolfe, the former CEO, and Whitcomb (formerly CTO) will move to start social platform Plai Labs, which will take the first blockchain game from Jam City Champions Ascension, which launched in the middle of last year.

DeWolfe, Yguado, and Whitcomb started Jam City in 2010 and have turned it into one of the largest and most successful mobile gaming companies with nearly half a billion dollars in annual revenue companywide. The company is achieving profitable growth on a large scale, and has the seven highest-grossing global game franchises.

Jam City CEO Josh Yguado

The total lifetime bookings are $4 billion, and the games have racked up billions of installs. The company has raised more than $650 million to date and employs more than 900 people in 10 studios in five countries.

Yguado has been integral to the company’s growth, overseeing a number of core operating functions, including studio management, marketing, product management, corporate development, merger and acquisition efforts and intellectual property negotiations.

His experience and involvement in all aspects of the business make him a natural to lead
Company in the future as CEO, where he will focus on creating long-term growth opportunities for Jam City’s existing best-in-class, free-to-play mobile games, and launching a slate of blockbuster titles in 2023 and 2024.

“I have great confidence in Jam City and am honored to be asked to take on the role of CEO,” Yguado said in a statement. “It has been a pleasure building this company over the past 10 years with Chris and Uber into one of the world’s leading mobile game publishers. Their vision and experience has enabled us From creating a range of games that gamers around the world enjoy, such as Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Disney Emoji Blitz, Jurassic World Alive, and Cookie Jam.”

And the future is bright, he added, with a strong slate of new games planned for 2023 and 2024, including DC Heroes & Villains and mobile games based on one of the biggest entertainment brands ever. With Plai Labs, Chris and Aber are starting a new chapter. Once again, they start a new chapter
Opportunity is at the forefront of the next major iteration of web experiences, and I’m excited to see what they achieve. “

Jam City’s hub away from the blockchain

Heroes: Ascension is Jam City's first NFT game.
Heroes: Ascension was Jam City’s first NFT game.

In late 2021, Jam City announced the addition of a new blockchain division anchored to its first project, Champions Ascension. DeWolfe and Whitcomb are taking that division and the world of Champions Ascension, launching Play Labs, which is focused on creating dynamic, unique, and engaging social experiences that take advantage of Web3 and AI technologies.

Plai Labs will leverage its visionary leadership in leading social media platforms and deep expertise in digital identity, community engagement, and gaming mechanics to power its development of next-generation social experiences.

Yguado noted that the split of the founders was a big change, and noted that DeWolfe was most passionate about switching to blockchain. Next year, Jam City is unlikely to invest heavily in blockchain games, Yguado said, so it made sense to form the Champions Ascension team, which includes 50 people.

“We’ve been planning it fairly systematically for the last six months. And it’s really a combination of that work and that planning,” Iguado said.

But he said he wasn’t ready to say definitively that Jam City would stay out of blockchain gaming. But he sees more opportunities in the near term in laser-focusing on free-to-play mobile games.

“I think this is an opportunity to take a step back and see how blockchain games evolve over the next 12 months or maybe 24 months. And I think we’d be happy to come back again if we see the right opportunity. But for now, there are a lot of great opportunities to play on mobile.” “We really want to get this right,” Yeguado said.

Prior to founding Jam City, DeWolfe co-founded and served as CEO of MySpace, the first major social media network, which catalyzed social media as we know it today. Whitcomb served as the company’s co-founder and CTO. MySpace was the pioneer of Web 2.0, and was the largest social network and most viewed website in the world in its heyday. Plai Labs will be the visionary founder’s fourth startup.

In a statement, DeWolfe said, “Jam City is an amazing company with an incredibly talented team, and I couldn’t be prouder of what Josh, Aber, and I have built together. Having led the company since its inception, I know there is no person better or more committed to leading it to The future is from Josh.”

He added, “We started Plai Labs because we are on the brink of the next major evolution of the social web, and we have a clear vision of how we can leverage new technologies like AI and Blockchain to
You play a leading role in shaping this exciting space. Although leaving Jam City is bittersweet, we are confident in launching this project due to the company’s strong market position and growth prospects.”

As for parting ways with DeWolfe and Whitcomb, Yguado said, “It’s bittersweet. Aber and Chris were amazing partners. They’re also great friends. It’s been an amazing journey over the past 12 years, founding this amazing company that is Jam City, and I’ll miss the job.” But on the other hand, you know, Chris and Aber are amazing entrepreneurs, and it makes sense for them to move on to their next opportunity, while I’m really excited to take Jam City to new heights.”

Jam City's headquarters are in Culver City, California.
Jam City’s headquarters are in Culver City, California.

In a statement, Lee said, “Josh has led many of Jam City’s most important business and creative functions for many years, and as CEO, he is well-positioned to take the company to new heights. Chris will always be part of the Jam City family, and it has been great to work with him on the Over the years the company has expanded and achieved many important milestones. His founding vision formed the strong foundation upon which this company was built, and together he, Josh and Uber have created a successful and unique company.”

In 2021, Jam City attempted to go public in a Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC. But market conditions didn’t work out, and Jam City instead raised the money and acquired the leading Montreal-based mobile game studio Ludia, adding to its existing studios and talent located in Los Angeles (HQ), Burbank, Cedar Falls, Las Vegas, San Diego and San Francisco. and internationally in Berlin, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Toronto.

Jam City laid off a few hundred people in August 2022, and now Jam City has about 900 people.

Instead of organizing teams around the locations where people live, Yguado said the company has taken into account changes from remote work during the pandemic. And so it has now organized gaming teams around genre rather than location. If you are an RPG expert living in Seattle, you should be part of an RPG team, rather than a Seattle team.

“In a post-COVID world where so many of us are working remotely, I felt gender differentiation is more important than where you live,” Yguado said.

DC heroes and villains

DC Heroes & Villains will introduce a host of DC characters.
DC Heroes & Villains will introduce a host of DC characters.

Yguado is particularly optimistic about the upcoming DC Heroes and Villains game, which is expected to be released this year. This game is in the beta stage.

“DC is an IP that hasn’t gotten as much exposure as Marvel over the past five years on mobile app stores,” he said. “I love the IP. It’s so deep and so rich.”

A post-IDFA world

A mix of Jam City games.
A mix of Jam City games.

Yguado also said that the company has invested a lot in user acquisition and performance marketing. When Apple focused user privacy over targeted advertising (Change Identifier for Advertisers, or IDFA), it hurt a lot of mobile game companies like Jam City. But now the company has rebuilt its marketing and marketing results back to pre-IDFA levels, he said.

“That’s something I’ve really pushed for over the last 12 months. And so I think between realigning the studio into really focusing on UA ​​performance, I think the company is in a better position than we’ve ever been. So the future is bright for Jam City.”

Yguado said it is hoped Netmarble’s Lee can play a bigger role in helping Jam City as it expands its global footprint. Yguado said he sees a lot of opportunities to work closely with Netmarble and Lee.

As for the recession, Yguado said the company has been doing well despite a challenging year, as people have come out of the COVID lockdown and are less engaged with games. IDFA’s changes haven’t helped, but Yguado sees those trends reversing.

“We’re seeing participation start to pick up again. And so we’ve seen modest, but positive key growth metrics over the last three to four months, including bookings and EBITDA.” “And I think our runway for continued growth is really compelling. So we’re not quite out of the woods yet, there’s still a lot of work to do. I really believe in our incredibly talented teams, our tech platform and our game pipeline. I think we’re really well positioned to succeed in 2023.”

New year, new technologies

DC Heroes & Villains is a mobile game for iOS and Android.
DC Heroes & Villains is a mobile game for iOS and Android.

As for new technologies, Yguado said the generative AI tools now being built around art and text are “incredible.” It feels like the early days of the internet, he said, and there will be a lot of innovation built around these technologies, though he doesn’t yet know how game development will be affected.

He also noted that Jam City, through its acquisition of Ludia, has a large presence in augmented reality games with Jurassic World Alive.

He said, “The combination of AR plus AI in the future, I think it can be really amazing and interesting.”

Yguado also said he believes video games will be a bigger part of mainstream entertainment culture, as evidenced by shows like Netflix’s Arcane (based on Riot’s League of Legends) and HBO’s The Last of Us, based on Sony’s hit game.

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