Machine Zone Shuts Down Its DSP, Lays Off 125 Employees, Including Media Buyers

Machine Zone’s (MZ) experiment with homegrown ad tech is over.

The gaming company shuttered Cognant, an internal demand-side platform created in 2016 to help MZ’s media buying team plan, create, buy, optimize and measure marketing campaigns.

MZ laid off the entire Cognant team in June, as well as around half of its in-house media buyers, roughly 125 ad ops people in total, all located in the Bay Area. MZ declined to comment publicly, but a person close to the company confirmed the closure and the layoffs.

The tech was originally developed to help MZ promote and monetize its own titles, in particular “Game of War: Fire Age,” “Mobile Strike” and “Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire” – some of the top-grossing games in the world.

MZ soon after made the Cognant technology generally available to other mobile performance marketers.

Cognant, which plugged into more than 200 ad networks, including Google and Facebook, claimed to manage tens of millions in marketing dollars per month and, according to its website, to use its position as “the largest mobile media buyer on the planet to drive efficiencies across the board for all advertisers.”

However, it’s possible advertisers weren’t seeing the expected returns.

The move to wind up Cognant is also part of a company-wide revivification centered on getting back to MZ’s core reason for being: mobile games.

But, recently, MZ had gotten away from its roots with Cognant and other ventures, including Satori, which started as a division focused on creating AI-powered blockchain technology that aggregates public real-time data feeds. Use cases range from analyzing how public transit systems are functioning – Satori ran a test of this in New Zealand a couple of years ago – to streaming data for self-driving cars. Satori is even planning to launch its own digital token soon.

MZ’s co-founder and CEO, Gabe Leydon, left his post in June to lead the tokenization of Satori’s tech, with plans to spin the company off into a standalone business. MZ’s COO, Kristen Dumont, was elevated to chief exec at the same time CTO Vincenzo Alagna was appointed president of games.

Shedding Satori and shutting down Cognant, as well as folding games more completely into the C-suite, all appear to be part of a strategy to streamline the business and concentrate on gaming.

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