08:18 PM

Startup Online Game Publisher Playdom Hires EA COO

John Pleasants is joining the startup at a time when online gaming is growing, while the video-game industry is in a slump.

Playdom, an online game publisher popular on social networks Facebook and MySpace, announced Thursday that it has hired a former senior executive of Electronics Arts as chief executive.

John Pleasants, ex-president of global publishing and chief operating office of EA, is joining the Silicon Valley, Calif., startup at a time when online gaming is growing, while the video-game industry is in a slump.

Pleasants will take over as CEO from 25-year-old Playdom co-founder Dan Yue, who will become chief product officer and oversee game development. Meanwhile, EA announced that Pleasants would be replaced by John Schappert, who was corporate VP of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, which includes the company's Xbox Live online gaming network. Schappert, who left EA in 2007 to join Microsoft, is scheduled to return to EA July 14.

At EA, Pleasants oversaw the company online gaming initiative that included such properties as Pogo, Rupture," and Mobile Games.

Pleasants said he was "thrilled" to join Playdom, noting that online gaming is the fastest-growing segment of the gaming industry.

"With its expertise understanding player behavior, Playdom is uniquely well positioned to lead the industry," Pleasants said in a statement. "Playdom is also an angel- and self-funded growth company, making it a standout in any industry."

Playdom competitors include startups Zynga, Playfish, SGN, and LOLapps. Founded in February 2008, the company has grown to about 65 employees, the San Jose Mercury News reported. Playdom is backed by entrepreneur Rick Thompson, who is also the company's co-founder and chairman. The company's popular games include "Mobsters," "Bumper Stickers" and "Own Your Friends."

While online gaming is growing, the market for video games played on consoles, EA's biggest revenue generatork, has shown some weakness during the economic downturn. The U.S. video-game industry in May hit its lowest revenue mark in nearly two years, as overall sales dipped below $1 billion for the first time since August 2007, the NPD Group reported.

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