Zynga's founder is back to run the farm.
Mark Pincus, who guided the online gaming company from its inception in 2007 through its high-profile IPO four years later and subsequent stock market crash, has been limited to the role of cheerleader since July 2013, when he stepped down as chief executive officer.
The San Francisco-based company said on Wednesday that Pincus, who remained on the board as non-executive chairman, is returning to the role of chief executive officer effective immediately. He's replacing his replacement—former Microsoft executive Don Mattrick, who was brought in to clean the company up after its failure to catch consumers' transition to mobile gaming.
Mattrick has made dramatic changes, pushing Zynga into mobile action and puzzle games and reducing reliance on social titles like FarmVille. But investors have responded with a giant shrug. The stock trades just pennies above its price of $2.77 at the time of Mattrick's appointment.
"Don and I and the board believe that I'm the right person for what the company needs to do right now to get to the next chapter of growth," Pincus, who owns 10 percent of Zynga's stock and 64 percent of its voting shares, said in an interview. "It's really sometimes about what's the DNA of that leader, and how deep they're going to go in a particular area."
For Mattrick, that depth was in mobile production and game quality, and for Pincus the focus is more on user engagement and analytics. In Pincus's words, Mattrick has given the company the necessary mobile strength for the founder to do what he does best: make games social.
Zynga's current problem is that it can't crack the top of the charts. No Zynga title is currently among the top 25 grossing games on Apple devices, and none rank higher than 18th on Android, according to App Annie. Instead, games like Supercell's "Clash of Clans" and "Boom Beach" and King.com's "Candy Crush Saga" are winning consumer eyeballs, and dollars.