Pincus stepped down as chief executive of the company behind FarmVille and Words with Friends in July 2013, hiring former Xbox executive Don Mattrick to replace him.
Although he remained at the company, Pincus withdrew from all operational duties in April 2014, saying at the time that “ultimately a ship is better with one captain putting a hand on the wheel”.
One year on, the captaincy is changing hands again. “Don is departing the company and I am returning to Zynga as CEO effective immediately,” wrote Pincus in an email to staff.
“I want to thank Don for his incredible efforts and leadership. He has laid groundwork that will benefit our players and company into the future.”
Under Pincus’ original tenure as chief executive, Zynga rose to become the dominant publisher of social games on Facebook, but struggled to make the most of its huge audience when casual gaming began to boom on mobile devices. Mattrick was brought in to change that.
While he has had some successes – in his email, Pincus cited the fact that 60% of Zynga’s “bookings” (money spent within its games) now happens on mobile, while its NaturalMotion subsidiary’s games have been installed more than 160m times – the company remains some way behind mobile rivals such as King, Supercell and GungHo Online.
How far? Zynga reported revenues of $690.4m (£467m) in 2014, compared to Candy Crush maker King’s $2.26bn (£1.5bn) and Clash of Clans publisher Supercell’s $1.67bn (£1.13bn).
Zynga has already announced plans to launch a match-three puzzle game to rival Candy Crush Saga based on its FarmVille brand, as well as ambitious strategy game Dawn of Titans, which was unveiled in March.
“I am inspired by our upcoming products – it is the most exciting slate of mobile games in Zynga’s history,” Pincus told staff, before promising to reveal more details about his plans on 7 May when Zynga announces it next quarterly financial results.
In an interview with the New York Times, Pincus added that he intends to make Zynga’s famous focus on data and analytics a key part of its continued comeback strategy.
“We need to get back to being the leader in mobile data and analytics, which leads to the best product management in our games,” he said. “I think I bring a DNA and passion, in that respect.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Thursday 9th April 2015 10.13 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010