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Electronic Arts taps Samantha Ryan as new head of mobile game division

Following the sudden departure of Frank Gibeau in May, EA has a new mobile games chief in charge of key franchises like Plants vs. Zombies and Bejeweled.

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EA Mobile's new chief, Samantha Ryan. Electronic Arts

Electronics Arts has a new head of its mobile division, who will be in charge of the company's ongoing efforts to expand its game development from consoles and PCs to smartphones and watches.

EA Mobile's new chief, Samantha Ryan, has worked for the division since she joined the company in March, working on key titles like strategy game Plants vs. Zombies and a mobile version of simulation game The Sims.

EA Mobile's previous chief, Frank Gibeau, left the company suddenly after 20 years in May. Gibeau was considered a possible candidate to replace former CEO John Riccitiello after he left in 2013, but the chief executive job went to EA Sports head Andrew Wilson.

Ryan said she hopes to keep the smartphone, arguably the most ubiquitous gaming device in the world, a primary focus at EA.

"The power of mobile is that it not only changes how we make and play games, but it also expands our reach to entirely new types of players," said Ryan in a statement. Ryan joined EA in from Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, the film studio's video game wing responsible for the Batman: Arkham adventure games and the fighting game series Mortal Kombat.

EA Mobile began in 2004 and became well-known to early mobile gamers for refashioning puzzle game classics like Tetris and Bejeweled for flip-phones. With the advent of the smartphone, the division shifted more of its focus to turning its big-budget games, like the FIFA soccer franchise and its Need for Speed racing series, into smaller mobile versions customers could play on touch screens.

For game makers, mobile titles still present a lucrative frontier where games costing only a small fraction of the price of large, flashy titles for living room consoles can still generate millions of dollars over long periods of time. EA has yet to score a big hit on the level of King Digital's Candy Crush Saga or Supercell's strategy game Clash of Clans. But it has been behind some hits, such as the world-building game The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Real Racing. The division has also negotiated the rights to produce Star Wars games for mobile devices.

In its fiscal 2015 earnings, EA reported a record $524 million in sales generated from its mobile titles, largely from small purchases made within apps for items and other game add-ons.