In July of 2013, barely a month after the Xbox One E3 debacle, then Head of Xbox Don Mattrick abruptly left Microsoft to join Zynga as CEO. Having joined the company at a time when its stocks had plummeted, Mattrick’s time as CEO saw Zynga‘s fortunes turn around in some regards. However, the company is still not at the heights that it once was.
Now, not even two years since he joined the company, Mattrick is stepping down from his position at Zynga, effective as of April 8th, 2015. The official company statement is that Mattrick has fulfilled his purpose and he will be moving on to explore unknown future endeavors. However, Mattrick’s inability to help Zynga succeed in the mobile gaming market is a more likely reason why he is resigning from his position as CEO.
Zynga has found most if its success through games that are primarily Facebook titles, such as FarmVille and Words with Friends. Despite past success on Facebook, Zynga has had difficulty in capturing the same casual crowd with their mobile gaming ventures. Due to his experience as Microsoft’s President of the Interactive Entertainment Business, Zynga was counting on Don Mattrick to succeed where their former CEO, Mark Pincus, had failed.
To Mattrick’s credit, Zynga began capturing a portion of the mobile market with Zynga Poker, a game that has proven popular on both Facebook and mobile devices. Accounting for over 25% of the company’s revenue, the game once dominated the sales charts for iOS devices, but a controversial update that drastically altered its appearance resulted in many fans losing interest. Zynga eventually released Zynga Poker Classic to try to win back some of the fan base it lost, but this has not proven to be a successful venture.
Meanwhile, Mattrick’s replacement has already been selected. Former Zynga CEO Mark Pincus will be returning to the position that he relinquished to Mattrick in July of 2013, which is a controversial move to say the least. It was under the leadership of Pincus that Zynga began suffering its financial hardships in the first place. When Mattrick initially replaced Pincus in 2013, public reception to this decision was so positive that stock rose by 10%. Zynga stock is expected to slip again due to lack of confidence in regards to Pincus’s ability to return Zynga to the success it once enjoyed.
All of that being said, Zynga is no stranger to controversy. Among other things, they’ve been accused of copying the games of their competitors. They have also abruptly discontinued games, only to return unspent in-game currency (purchased with real money) to customers as credit that can only be spent on other Zynga products. Due to these situations, Zynga has acquired somewhat of a poor reputation amongst consumers, to the point that their acquisition of developer OMGPOP has been blamed for Draw Something losing 4 million users within the span of one month.
As for Mattrick, considering he has been involved in the gaming industry in some capacity since 1982, don’t be surprised to find him in a new role in a different gaming-related company in the near future. Despite his longevity in the industry, Mattrick has sometimes been a controversial figure as well. For example, Mattrick’s firm stance on the initial always-online vision for Xbox One arguably cost Microsoft the console race for this generation before it even truly began at E3 2013.
Source: Venture Beat