Jonathan Knight Leaves RockYou on a High Note, Heading to Zynga

Jonathan Knight, former SVP of Games at RockYou, has left the social game developer and publisher for a position at Zynga, RockYou CEO Lisa Marino tells us.

Knight joined RockYou after a nine-year stint at EA as an executive producer and vice president with credits on The Sims series, The Simpsons Game, and Dante’s Inferno. Marino told us back in April that he was brought in specifically to rebuild RockYou’s games business after the company struggled to transition from its origins as a photo-sharing app developer and advertising network to serious social game developer. To that purpose, Knight oversaw development on the Zoo World franchise and the launch of its sequel, and the acquisitions of developers 3 Blokes, Playdemic, and 3D social game engine developer TirNua.

Though RockYou‘s overall traffic declined by more than 50% across monthly and daily active users during Knight’s 11 months at the company, changes to its ad platform and key content updates to specific titles yielded rapid growth for Zoo World 2 and Playdemic’s Gourmet Ranch. The latest game launch is 3 Blokes’ Galactic Allies, which went live last week. Its next game is likely going to be Cloudforest Expedition from partner studio Loot Drop, which is expected to launch sometime this fall.

“We hired [Knight] to help us build out a portfolio of great products and he’s done the job,” Marino says. She tells us that Knight’s duties as SVP have been transferred to internal team members for the time being with no mention of seeking a replacement right away. “We have built a strong team of talent through a careful hiring process, our Studio Partners program, and acquisitions over the past year. The departure of Jonathan will not impact our game development pipeline or our plans to continue to launch quality titles.”

Knight declined to comment on his employment status at Zynga. It is not listed on his LinkedIn profile as of press time.

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10 Responses to “Jonathan Knight Leaves RockYou on a High Note, Heading to Zynga”

  1. Zoo World creator RockYou’s Jonathan Knight leaves for Zynga - : says:

    [...] there goes another. Inside Social Games reports that Jonathan Knight (pictured), former SVP of Games at RockYou, has left the company for Zynga. [...]

  2. CurrentEmployee says:

    If you look at our company’s current traffic rankings, it’s pretty hard to say he went out on a high note. CloudForest Expedition won’t ever be coming out, ZooWorld 2’s stats are dead and declining, GourmetRanch DAU is low, the success of Galactic Allies remains to be seen, and the big rumor is that layoffs are about to hit… again.

    The only thing that Jonathan Knight has done for RockYou was bring in a bunch of his buddies from EA and hang out with his wife.

    Sorry Lisa Marino; no one’s buying it, or you.

  3. TheWorkingPerson says:

    So it happens all the time, bring in buddies, college buddies, girlfriend, old coworkers, friends of old coworkers. Now, these are the royalties, the “cannot be fired” and make the other employees the slaves. And no shame, and be confident, and CTO, list Stanford as his school when he went to John Hopkins; of course, he needs self-esteem.

  4. Wolfinsheepsclothing says:

    Jonathan Knight exploited RockYou. He rode in as a savior and, instead, pillaged it to benefit his Tirnua buddies and other close confidants. He left exactly a year from his start, as if he had planned it all along. He did nothing for the company…other than milking it dry.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Jonathan is an amazing person to work with. I’m sure he’ll do well at Zynga. He surely left both Visceral and RockYou on such high notes. What an awesome visionary.


  6. Plato says:

    If you are familiar at all with RockYou’s history you’ll realize they’re a tad dysfunctional. Major layoffs, and employee turnover in its past.

    Why people are pegging Jon Knight as the bad guy is beyond me. The challenges at the firm are most likely much more deep and systemic than thought.

    I thought it peculiar that this post was quoting the CEO of RockYou about Jon, and Jon declined to speak – and not at Zynga yet (according to LinkedIn). seems like a pre-emptive ploy to me..

  7. Rocky Dennis says:

    I have no clue how this guy continues to get hired for leaving such a wake of shit in his path at the previous companies he left. I feel bad for the team that has to deal with his blimp sized ego and horrible ideas.

  8. New Hires in Social Gaming: Funzio, RockYou and Zynga says:

    [...] brought on four new team members, including Jonathan Knight, RockYou’s former senior vice president of games. Knight is now studio general manager at Zynga. PopCap also had a high profile move, taking former [...]

  9. Inside Social Games · RockYou Cuts Half of Staff, Shelves Cloudforest, Spins Out Playdemic, Drives up ARPU on Zoo World 2 says:

    [...] As of tomorrow RockYou is cutting approximately 54% of its staff and is selling Playdemic back to its founders and disassociating from Cloudforest Expedition developer Loot Drop, Inside Social Games can confirm. We first heard rumors of impending layoffs immediately after now-ex SVP of Games Jonathan Knight left the company to join Zynga in September. [...]

  10. Game maker RockYou to cut staff by 40% just weeks after launching two new games | VentureBeat says:

    [...] to the position of CEO, after former CEO Lance Tokuda left the company in November of 2010. RockYou recently lost Jonathan Knight, the creator of Zoo World, to San Francisco-based Zynga, which is gearing up for an initial public [...]

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