Zynga appoints Google exec, a former DARPA director, to its board

Regina Dugan, currently vice president of engineering and leader of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects, shows interest in video games.

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
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Google executive Regina Dugan joins Zynga's board. Zynga

Video game maker Zynga said Wednesday that Regina Dugan, a Google executive, has joined its board, the latest step in its turnaround efforts.

Dugan, a former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US Department of Defense's tech-research wing, joins Zynga's board both as chair of its governance committee and as a member of its product committee alongside fellow board member Bing Gordon, CEO Don Mattrick, and co-founder Mark Pincus.

The appointment also comes as part of a broader shakeup at Zynga over the past year, punctuated by a new CEO, layoffs, and changes of leadership in an effort to turn around the company. Zynga, best known for games like FarmVille and Words With Friends, has struggled as gamers who were once content to play titles on desktop computers and through Facebook's website have shifted their focus to mobile devices instead. Zynga was slow to react to this trend but has since refocused its development efforts to catch up.

Dugan will help bolster the company's creativity, according to Zynga CEO Don Mattrick. "She will be an incredible addition to the Zynga board of directors and a true catalyst for creative thinking at Zynga," he said. "As we focus on growing and sustaining our leading franchises and creating new hits, Regina's expertise and counsel will put us in a better position to deliver consumers next generation entertainment experiences that span categories, platforms, and devices."

Dugan, 51, currently works for Google as leader of its Advanced Technology and Projects, which operates under the same kind of structure as DARPA. The ATAP group is mostly known for its modular cell phone prototype known as Project Ara, and its 3D mapping efforts known as Project Tango.

But the group has also worked on animation technology, which could explain Dugan's interest in Zynga.

The San Francisco video game maker bought a company called NaturalMotion in January, acquiring a game studio focused on mobile devices, and a popular game animation technology called "Euphoria." The software allows 3D characters to react to their environments in real time, powering movements in games like Take-Two's "Grand Theft Auto" and NaturalMotion's own "Clumsy Ninja."

"Einstein famously stated that 'combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought,' and this spirit is embodied in Zynga's products, which have brought new technology to games," Dugan said in a statement.

Dugan rounds out the company's board, which now includes Mattrick, Bing, and Pincus, as well as venture capitalist John Doerr, tech veteran Stanley Meresman, Internet entrepreneur Sunil Paul, and entrepreneur and investor Ellen Siminoff.