New boss at Zynga: Xbox chief to lead embattled social gaming giant

02/07/2013

Zynga has appointed ex-Microsoft executive Don Mattrick as its new chief executive, as the social gaming company looks to turn around its fortunes.

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Shares in Zynga rose by 10% on the news of the appointment, after falling more than 50% in the past year amid staff redundancies, cancelled games and a falling market share.

Mattrick (pictured right) will replace Zynga founder Mark Pincus in the CEO role. Pincus will stay on as chairman and chief product officer.

"Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential," said Mr Mattrick in an email to employees.

"I've always said… that if I could find someone who could do a better job as our CEO I'd do all I could to recruit and bring that person in," added Pincus in blog to staff. "I'm confident that Don is that leader."

Xbox controversy

At Microsoft, Mattrick was head of interactive entertainment, the key division that includes Xbox. He helped turn the Xbox business into a profitable venture after years of losses. His departure comes just as Microsoft prepares to launch a new version of the console, the Xbox One.

Before that, he helped develop popular games like "The Sims" and "FIFA" for Electronic Arts.
However, Mattrick’s decision to leave Microsoft follows a controversial E3 technology show last month, where he was mocked for introducing restrictions on second-hand games and insisting players log onto the net at least once a day.

Mattrick blogged details of a U-turn one week later, traffic to the webpage was so great it temporarily became inaccessible.

However, Mattrick can take credit for having helped Microsoft outsell Sony in the US and UK for the current console generation.

Zynga woes

Zynga has had difficulty almost since its stock market debut in December 2011, when it was valued at $1bn (£656bn). News of the appointment sent Zynga shares more than 10% higher.
Struggling to replicate the success it found with games like FarmVille and Words With Friends, it bought OMGPOP, the company behind the popular game Draw Something, for $200m (£131m) in March of 2012. It shut OMGPOP less than a year later.

Mobile has also proven challenging for the company, which used to rely on its close ties with Facebook for users.

Recently Zynga has expanded into online gambling as another revenue stream, but that has not yet had an impact on the bottom line. More than 20% of its staff has been let go in the past year, and it has shuttered several offices.

Read Mark Pincus’ blog l here

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