“The Second Coming of PlayFirst: Re-constructing the House that Flo Built” – Gamesauce Article on PlayFirst – July 2013




Strangely, PlayFirst has been largely forgotten. As the earth shifted beneath the tectonic plates that was the upward thrust of the mobile revolution, many PC publisher/developers have bitten the dust – especially the early casual game pioneers. Remember them? Remember when PC downloads and try-before-you-buy was the disrupting force in the industry? Most of those early portal-publishers are gone or diminished, unable to make the transition to mobile fast enough. Big Fish Games was an exception, PlayFirst was not. Like many once-great stalwarts of the casual revolution, their transition was painful and slow. If it had not been forMarco DeMiroz and Becky Ann Hughes, they might not have made it at all.

It takes a whole team of dedicated individuals to turn a company around.

To be fair, it takes a whole team of dedicated individuals to turn a company around, not to mention a wise board and some smart investors. PlayFirst has rebuilt itself almost completely with fresh blood and loads of new talent. But it was the passion, faith and quick thinking of DeMiroz and Hughes that lit the fuse – though they will be the first to demure and give credit to their people. Still, it was Hughes and DeMiroz who, in a make-or-break 56-hour marathon, made the tough call to re-focus the business entirely on mobile and then lay down the framework for the plan that would, they hope, not just save the company, but build it into a mobile powerhouse to rival their South of Market neighbors.

Marco DeMiroz is not your typical CEO. He looks and sounds more like that great science teacher you had in high school, the guy who still burns with a passion for organic chemistry and delights at the little puffs of smoke he produces with his magic beakers. Marco is refreshingly cheerful, and his eyes sparkle with a child-like enthusiasm. He is a roll-up-your-sleeves visionary with boundless energy and some impressive chops in the tech industry.

Marco DeMiroz

Marco is a roll-up-your-sleeves visionary with boundless energy and some serious chops in the tech industry.

DeMiroz has made some very interesting and strategic hires since he came on board 18 months ago, people with some serious street cred, like Tom Hall of Doom fame, Paul Chen from Papaya and Brian Booker of Creative Brain, to name a few. But DeMiroz has some street cred of his own. He’s a true Silicon Valley veteran, coming out of Oracle, Sun and SGI. But it was his stint at General Magic back in the early 90′s that’s most interesting, and perhaps the most relevant highlight of his storied career.

In case you’ve forgotten, or just didn’t know, General Magic invented the precursor to the smart-phone. Back in the last century they called them PDA’s – personal data assistants. But PDA’s were ahead of their time and General Magic followed Apple’s ill-fated Newton, both relegated to Wikipedia obscurity.  But that vision – that the whole world would one day be connected by a computer held in the palm of a hand – wound up changing the world. When DeMiroz was approached by the PlayFirst board almost two years ago, he saw his chance to get in on what he calls “One of life’s major inflection points.”


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