CEO Don Mattrick Says Zynga Turnaround Is Going Great

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) CEO Don Mattrick said that the mobile video game company is about halfway through his turnaround efforts at a Game Developers Conference party hosted by Covert & Co. According to a report from Re/code, this was Mattrick’s first public appearance since he left his executive position at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to join Zynga last summer, at which point he undertook a massive turnaround effort for the struggling mobile game maker.

Though he was tight-lipped on the details — we’ll find out more when Zynga reports its earnings for the first quarter of 2014 next month — Mattrick did say he’s optimistic about the the company’s progress and compared it to his early years at developer Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA). “To me, it feels like 1991 when EA was going public,” he said, per Re/code. “We grew from 1 to 25 percent market share” by “making purposeful bets.”

Zynga has made some bets of its own recently, having acquired the U.K.-based game maker NaturalMotion early last month for $527 million. NaturalMotion employs a game strategy more focused on creating a quality experience than maximizing monetization, something that represents a change in strategy for Zynga. NaturalMotion is behind the popular mobile games CSR Racing and Clumsy Ninja.

The company announced that acquisition along with better-than-expected financial results for both the fourth quarter of 2013 and the full year. Mattrick also raised the company’s forecast for 2014, and we’ll see if Zynga meets those expectations when its report for the first quarter is released.

Zynga also recently announced that it’s revamping its own blockbuster titles FarmVille, Zynga Poker, and Words With Friends with new mobile-only versions of the games that have been improved per user feedback. “We listened closely to all of your feedback over the years and leveraged your insights to create new experiences that honor the games you’ve come to love, yet deliver the fresh unique features and gameplay you’ve been asking for,” Zynga chief operating officer Clive Downie said in a letter addressed to the players of Zynga games and posted on the company’s blog.

Zynga underwent an IPO in 2011 on the success of its highly popular Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) game FarmVille. But the mobile gaming world is a fickle place, with quickly changing tastes and little loyalty to a particular developer. Zynga stock declined 86 percent between February and November of 2012.

Mattrick is looking to return the company to its former dominance of the mobile gaming sphere in an increasingly competitive market. King Digital Entertainment, the maker of the current hit Candy Crush Saga, is planning to file for its own $500 million IPO later this year, hoping not to repeat Zynga’s mistakes.

Some industry watchers think that mobile games will usurp expensive console-based titles except among hardcore gamers, but Mattrick believes that there’s room for both mobile and console games to co-exist. “People always try to think of the business in discrete terms and pure cannibalization occurring,” Mattrick said, per Re/code. “I think we’re going to see, in the console space, growth occurring… I’m personally bullish on growth in all segments of the business.”

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