Zynga Corp’s founder Mark Pincus is back in charge of day-to-day operations, as Don Mattrick yesterday stepped down from the post of chief executive officer and departed from the company. The change was announced yesterday, with Mattrick saying that he planned to “return to Canada to pursue my next challenge”. He will receive a $4-million payout, according to Zynga.
“I sincerely thank him for [Mattrick’s] leadership in better serving our players in a mobile first world and for delivering world class quality and value to our consumers,” Pincus said in a statement, acknowledging Mattrick’s role in Zynga’s transition from a social game developer to a mobile-first company.
Founded in 2007, Zynga quickly rose to prominence, taking advantage of the growing popularity of the then young Facebook platform and nascent social gaming market. With hugely-popular titles such as FarmVille, CityVille and Zynga Poker, the company became the biggest game maker on Facebook, with hundreds of millions of users playing its games every month. This changed with the rise of smartphones and the rapid development of smartphone compatible games that ensued. The change favoured makers of mobile-friendly games such as King Digital Entertainment Plc, which took Zynga’s place in the limelight
Zynga had poached Mattrick from Microsoft about two years ago, hoping that his experience as head of the software giant’s Xbox division would help him steer the FarmVille maker through a tough transitial period. However, the company’s performance under the former Microsoft executive had been far from stellar. During Mattrick’s spell as CEO, both Zynga’s share price and its user base had fallen.
In February, Richard Greenfield, a media and Internet analyst at BTIG Research, published a highly critical report titled “Zynga Needs a New Leader — Time for Don Mattrick to Go”. “We have been highly sceptical of Zynga’s prospects over the past two and a half years,” Greenfield said at the time.
In an Interview for The New York Times, Pincus said that the company did not fire Mattrick, but that the two agreed it was time for the founder of the company to return as CEO.
In today’s pre-market trading, Zynga shares fell 8.3 percent at $2.66, as of 11:30 BST. The stock had risen 3.6 percent yesterday, extending its year-to-date advance to just over nine percent and boosting the company’s market capitalization to $2.55 billion.
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