Mark Pincus steps down from daytime duties at Zynga

The founder and former CEO of the social games company has relinquished all responsibilities as chief product officer, signaling the end of Pincus' operational role at Zynga.

Nick Statt Former Staff Reporter / News
Nick Statt was a staff reporter for CNET News covering Microsoft, gaming, and technology you sometimes wear. He previously wrote for ReadWrite, was a news associate at the social-news app Flipboard, and his work has appeared in Popular Science and Newsweek. When not complaining about Bay Area bagel quality, he can be found spending a questionable amount of time contemplating his relationship with video games.
Nick Statt
3 min read

Zynga CEO Don Mattrick (left) with company founder and former CEO Mark Pincus. Zynga

Since stepping down from his position as CEO of Zynga last summer, Mark Pincus has filled the position of an appeased -- but pushed out -- founder while Don Mattrick, formerly head of Microsoft's Xbox division, took over. Today, Pincus' operational role at the company has come to an end.

Pincus will relinquish his role as chief product officer and take a position as non-executive chairman, where he will be present at the company only one day a week with neither management duties nor employees who will answer to him.

"I had wanted to stay on doing the product role for a while, because I wanted to put my hands on the product and make sure the company continued to also pursue its social mission," Pincus said in an interview with Recode. "Don and some of the existing team and new people really embraced that and, so, ultimately a ship is better with one captain putting a hand on the wheel."

Zynga's first-quarter earnings report, released Wednesday, beat Wall Street expectations with a net loss of $61 million, or 7 cents per share. Non-GAAP losses were one penny per share on revenue of $168 million, down 38 percent from $264 million in the first quarter of 2013. Analysts projected a loss of a penny per share with revenue around $161 million.

Zynga shares closed Wednesday at $4.41, down 3.07 percent, but are rebounding in after-hours trading to $4.64, up 4.98 percent.

Pincus' pullback, and the earnings miss, are part of a long and drawn-out deterioration of the San Francisco-based social games company, which Pincus built up to a blockbuster IPO in 2011 only to see its share price plummet, evaporating the company's market cap from more than $10 billion down to $2 billion in the span of half a year.

Since then, Zynga has gone through numerous executive changes, the biggest being Mattrick as CEO, who has pledged to turn the company around with his experience running Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business division.

"Over the last 10 months, I have found his partnership to be intellectually rewarding and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to continue building out his vision," Mattrick said in an statement, referring to working alongside Pincus. "Going forward, with Mark in his role as Chairman of the Board, we will continue to be close partners and work together to achieve our winning aspiration to be the at scale industry leader by delivering more #1 games in more categories than any other competitor."

Pincus' plans going forward will involve personal investing, but he has no plans to build something again himself, though creating a startup incubator remains a potential avenue, he said.

"I am going to invest in ideas that I think can be breakthrough products, and I don't feel any burning need to go out and start a company," he said. "I want to do things that are more organic, because that's where Zynga started."

Update at 1:28 p.m. Thursday, April 24: An earlier version of this article stated that Zynga had missed Wall Street expectations. That is incorrect; Zynga beat Wall Street expectations of $161 million with revenue of $168 million and a loss of one cent per share.