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Zynga's new CEO was also its first

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Zynga's attempt to restore its former glory by hiring an Xbox executive as its leader hasn't exactly panned out. The game developer has announced that CEO Don Mattrick is leaving, effective immediately, with founder Mark Pincus once again taking the reins. It's not clear what prompted the sudden exit, but Pincus swears to the New York Times that Mattrick isn't getting the boot. Reportedly, the two agreed that it was a time for the changing of the guard.

The shift reflects the trouble Zynga has had adapting to a world where smartphone games matter a lot more than releasing yet another Ville title on Facebook. Mattrick swung the company's attention to mobile, but just over half of its rapidly declining revenue last year was still coming from social network games -- he wasn't moving quickly enough. Zynga hasn't had a FarmVille-level hit in years, and the spotlight has moved to developers that planned for phones from day one, like Clash of Clans' Supercell.

It's also an indication that Zynga thinks at least some aspects of its previous strategy are worth another shot. Under Pincus' original command, the studio was all about raw numbers, changing its game designs based on player data. It's not certain that this approach will work as well in 2015 as it did in 2009, but a lot of modern smartphone games revolve around the carefully calculated (and sometimes infamous) free-to-play model that Zynga made popular. It's not far-fetched to imagine a return to form.

[AP Photo/Paul Sakuma]

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