Zynga Founder Mark Pincus Steps Away From Active Role In Company
April 24, 2014

Zynga Founder Mark Pincus Steps Away From Active Role In Company

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Reports circulated late Wednesday that Zynga founder Mark Pincus would step down from an operational role at the social game publisher as his successor, CEO Don Mattrick, called for a need for change at the company. Pincus, who founded Zynga in 2007, stepped down from the top spot last year as former Microsoft Games Studio head Mattrick took over in an attempt to turn the once hot social game maker around.

In a memo to employees on Wednesday, Pincus said: “I’m writing today to share that I have decided to change my role to non-executive Chairman. This means that, while I’ll still keep an office at Zynga, and be active in supporting the company, I will not have an operating role. Most importantly, I remain Zynga’s largest shareholder and biggest believer.”

He added that he had full faith in Mattrick’s leadership and ability to take Zynga to the next level. Pincus will give up his title of chief product officer and will now step away from all day-to-day management duties. He will however remain chairman of the company; but Mattrick will take on more responsibilities including the likely appointment of new executives with more video game industry experience.

Venture Beat called the move a “big milestone in the history of casual social gaming, where executives with no gaming experience like Pincus paved the way to reach much broader audiences than industry executives ever imagined.”

During Pincus’ tenure at Zynga the company rode the wave of the rise of social media, where its games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars attached massive followings on Facebook. The company, which went public in 2011, rose from obscurity to a market cap of more than $10 billion in March 2012, but slid to below $2 billion six months later as other game makers invaded Facebook. As of this week its stock stood at $3.8 billion.

Following its IPO, the company has had to cut jobs as it posted losses.

Mattrick replaced Pincus as CEO in July, and since that time agreed to buy NaturalMotion, the company behind the hit mobile game CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja. Analysts and other industry insiders say that company was slow to adapt to a changing market as social media users increasingly picked up mobile devices. The purchase of NaturalMotion could be one way for the company to reclaim its past glory days.

ABC News reported that the San Francisco-based company also made several new executive hires on Wednesday and this includes Alex Garden of Microsoft, who is now the president of Zynga Studios. Garden had been in charge of Xbox Live and Xbox Music, Video and Reading.

“Alex Garden is an exciting hire for us as we focus on growing and sustaining our franchises, creating groundbreaking new entertainment experiences, and developing a more creative culture across Zynga,” said Mattrick, as reported by Venture Beat. “As president of Zynga Studios, Alex will have an integral role on the management team overseeing all of our studios as well as our CTO division. On a personal note, I have known Alex for 25 years and I am confident that he will strengthen our creative and technical capabilities as well as nurture and mentor our existing teams.”

Zynga may need to do more than make a few new hires, however, as the company reported losses of $61.2 million in the first quarter this year. The company also reported that it now has 28 million daily users, which is down by almost half from one year ago – but actually up by about 1 million from the fourth quarter of last year.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities told the AP via ABC News that Zynga's first-quarter bookings were better than Wall Street expected and its second-quarter guidance is also good, suggesting the company could meet its outlook for 2014.

Last week the company also launched FarmVille 2: Country Escape, which was built specifically for mobile users. The game is available for free for Android devices, as well as the iPhone and iPad.