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Don Mattrick out as Zynga CEO, founder Mark Pincus will return to lead the company

Don Mattrick out as Zynga CEO, founder Mark Pincus will return to lead the company


Out with the new, in with the old

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Gaming giant Zynga has had a rough go of it recently. After emerging as a giant during the first era of Facebook gaming, it stumbled during the transition to mobile, overpaid for underperforming acquisitions like OMGPOP, and has seen its stock price plummet since its IPO. Today the company announced that Don Mattrick, a veteran of Microsoft and Eletronic Arts, would be stepping down as CEO. Mark Pincus, the controversial founder and former chief executive, will be his replacement.

"Don joined us at a very important time in our evolution. In less than two years under his guidance, our teams have worked hard to better serve our mobile players and deliver world class quality and value to our consumers." Pincus said in a letter to employees. "Now that we are a mobile first company, it’s time to renew our focus on our vision to make play and social games a mass market activity."

Analysts had been calling for the company to fire Mattrick, accusing him of repeating the company's early mistakes. BTIG's Rich Greenfield pointed to Mattrick's $527 million acquisition of developer Natural Motion. "Your core franchises have and continue to generate meaningful earnings, yet that is being completely offset by your attempts to find the next hit games in categories where Zynga has no underlying expertise." Of course, they were saying the same thing about Pincus before he swapped places with Mattrick the first time.

We wrote recently about the Zynga's efforts to regain relevance with Dawn of Titans, a strategy game from Natural Motion that has been a hit with consumers. The strong reviews for that title and the big earnings from its casino game, Hit It Rich!, have driven the stock up 23 percent over the last month. Pincus, at the very least, returns to a company with a little momentum.