OpenFeint co-founder leaves, Gree International head becomes CEO

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Gree International head AoyagiWell, that sure was quick. Just months after Japanese social game network Gree acquired OpenFeint (for a cool $104 million, mind you), the latter's co-founder and CEO has left the company, VentureBeat reports. The Burlingame, Calif.-based mobile social game network's 26-year-old co-founder Jason Citron has moved on to new opportunities, and has been replaced by Gree's head of international operations Naoki Aoyagi (pictured).

"In just over 24 months, OpenFeint has grown to over 120 million users across 7,000 games," Aoyagi said in a release. "I thank Jason for his leadership growing the company and wish him well in his new adventures." But, according to VentureBeat, the old switcheroo might not have been so cut and dry.

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi reports hearing rumors that Citron had been fired from the company before contacting OpenFeint and Citron, both of which declined to comment on the news until Aoyagi made the above statement in a release. However, both companies aim to announce their plans for integration between the U.S. operations of both companies in the coming weeks.

In other words, Gree's westward expansion into the U.S. through OpenFeint is imminent, and Gree will likely have even more of a say in how OpenFeint handles things now with a former Gree executive at the reins. Gree hopes to turn U.S. mobile gamers into the apparently wild spenders that Japanese mobile gamers tend to be.

However, direct Japanese competitor DeNA has already launched its Mobage mobile social games platform in the U.S. through recent acquisition ngmoco, and already has support of major U.S. carrier AT&T (though, it is AT&T). It looks like this holiday season will prove whether Gree and OpenFeint can catch up to their new rivals, not to mention existing western competitors like Zynga and EA, both of which have global and mobile ambitions. At any rate, it's going to be a very merry Christmas for mobile gamers.

[Image Credit: VentureBeat]

Do you think Gree and OpenFeint can catch up to DeNA under its new management? What do you hope to see from Citron now that he's freed himself from the company he helped bring up to this point? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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