SAN FRANCISCO — Zynga’s new chief executive officer, Don Mattrick, takes over the struggling social-gaming pioneer amid one of its biggest challenges yet: losing the No. 1 spot on Facebook to upstart King.com.
King, developer of “Candy Crush Saga,” Monday reached 150.4 million monthly users on Facebook Inc. – surpassing “FarmVille” maker Zynga, which has 150.2 million, according to online tracker AppData. That ended Zynga’s five-year reign as the top game maker on Facebook’s social network.
Zynga is hiring Mattrick, former head of Microsoft’s entertainment division, to take over from founder Mark Pincus, who will remain chairman. It’s an effort to recharge revenue growth at the game developer, whose shares have tumbled by more than two-thirds since its 2011 initial public offering as demand fizzled for games like “Mafia Wars.” Mattrick’s challenge as CEO will be twofold: winning Facebook gamers back from King, and wooing players who favor mobile devices with titles designed for smartphones and tablets.
“It’s like trying to turn a ship around that’s been going in the wrong direction,” said Sean McGowan, an analyst at Needham & Co. who recommends buying Zynga shares. “Mobile is a different animal — it’s different from anything Mattrick has done.”
Pincus will take a diminished role at the San Francisco- based company he founded, a sign that his hard-charging management style and negotiating prowess – once described by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt as “fearsome” — may have clashed with the needs of a large, publicly traded business.
Zynga reached a peak 327 million users on Facebook in October before entering its first extended period of decline, according to AppData.