How Don Mattrick plans to turn Zynga around

Zynga CEO Don Mattrick has only been on the job for about two weeks, but the former Xbox chief already has ideas about how to turn the home of FarmVille and Zynga Poker around. During an investor call today, Mattrick loosely outlined some of those plans, saying that Zynga needs to "break some bad habits" and "get back to basics."

Mattrick spoke nonspecifically about much of his initial 90-day plan, saying he will get "under the hood to evaluate" Zynga's business, conduct "top-to-bottom business reviews and [work] with our leaders to calibrate against the market opportunity and to go after it with a real sense of urgency" and spend time "heads down" with developers to improve product quality. Business fundamentals, Mattrick said, is something Zynga has struggled with over the past year.

More tangibly, Mattrick said the company needs to take a longer term view on its products in an effort to regain users on Facebook and as the company navigates a transition to mobile platforms and tablets.

Zynga's chief operations officer, David Ko, said the game maker plans to be more bullish on mobile, a segment it believes will continue to grow and one that the company hasn't been executing against. Ko also criticized the performance of Zynga Poker, which is underperforming in part "because of ongoing illegitimate credit card activity on the web" and because of other factors Zynga will address soon, he said.

"We are missing out on the platform growth that Apple, Google and Facebook are seeing."

"It's clear that the market opportunity around us is growing at an incredible clip," Mattrick said in his prepared statements. "It's also clear that today we are missing out on the platform growth that Apple, Google and Facebook are seeing."

According to Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Mattrick is "engaging right away with his projects and people" by setting up his office in the company's FarmVille studio, which "shows a lot about how he's going to approach managing our company."

The FarmVille brand is one of the company's brighter spots these days. The company's latest gloomy financial reportpoints to growing bookings for FarmVille and FarmVille 2, the latter still hanging in the top ten Facebook games, based on daily active users.

In early days, Mattick says he plans to "listen and learn" to see what changes are required at Zynga. He warned of six months to a year of volatility as the the company resets its strategy. Later in the call, an analyst asked Mattrick why the company doesn't pare down further — it already announced plans to cut 520 jobs in a cost saving measure — to the size of Candy Crush Saga maker and competitor King.com.

"They've done an incredible job, they've built a great hit," he responded. "I'll fess up. I'm a Candy Crush player and I've enjoyed it... Imagine if we can start getting the leverage out of our 2,300 people that King's getting out of their 400 people. Would we be driving better financial results? I believe we would.

"While we've got a lot of work to do, I see a lot of opportunity in having the collection of people we've assembled."

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