At this point in his career, it’s safe to put John Earner in the “names as destiny” category. Following a hugely successful run with Playfish, he’s leaving the social game developer today to start as an entrepreneur in residence at one of its investors, Accel, according to sources.
A former naval officer, he joined as the company in 2008 as its first game producer, where he shepherded the development of its first big simulation game, Pet Society. Having figured out how to monetize virtual goods with it, he went on to launch the company’s next big hit, Restaurant City. These two games inspired competing ones from Zynga and many other developers, and provided the revenue and traffic numbers that got Electronic Arts to acquire Playfish in the fall of 2009 in a deal worth up to $400 million.
He also built out its product team as he moved up within the company. And after the acquisition, he helped EA to develop a variety of other titles using existing sports intellectual property, including soccer management game FIFA Superstars. His biggest win, though, has been Sims Social. The life simulator, based off of the long-running EA series, is now the single largest title in EA’s Facebook portfolio. It’s also one of the largest games overall on the platform today, with 3.9 million daily active users and 22 million monthly actives, according to AppData.
He will no doubt be missed, especially considering the general traffic decline of EA’s Facebook titles.
The gaming conglomerate is still one of the largest developers on Facebook, but its social game leadership has also continued to get whittled down. Of the Playfish founding team, only Kristian Segerstrale remains — albeit he’s moved up to be the executive vice president of EA Digital. Meanwhile, former division head Barry Cottle was recently poached by Zynga.
UPDATE: Now at Accel, Earner has already started Angel investing, most recently in the London-based Llustre startup headed up by former Playfish colleague Vivienne Bearman and former VC associate Tracy Dorée.