Zynga CEO Needs to Whack Headcount
It would, of course, be tremendously hard going to a friend whom you respect and telling him that it's time to step aside. Then, you have to go through the process of finding the right replacement and convincing the founder to really recruit the guy in. And, after doing all that, you've got to ensure that your founder friend doesn't fall into the easy trap of starting to micromanage or undercut the guy.
We're still only a quarter in to Don's tenure. So, it's way too early to declare things a success. But the early signs are good. The real test will come if Don's initial games aren't successful, adding to the stress on everyone at the company.
If that happens, will Pincus still give Don free rein, or will he jump in and start to create the problems Horowitz discussed in his piece? We will have to see. But, for now, Pincus is doing a great job letting Don analyze the situation and take initial steps to correct it.
Now here's the bad news, particularly for short-term investors.The existing slate of games for Zynga that Don inherited don't seem to be that good. The company launched Castleville on mobile a few weeks ago, hoping it would be a hit and help to launch other "ville" games on mobile. It hasn't been a hit, so it can't refer a lot of new traffic to future releases. It appears that the existing games don't give Mattrick much to work with. So, if you're hoping Don can magically create some new Candy Crush-type game himself to drop in the laps of Zynga customers, the other piece of bad news is that we likely won't see the "Don" games -- built from start to release -- until next summer. And, once they're out there, there's no guarantee they'll be hits. However, a longer-term oriented investor like me doesn't mind holding this stock and waiting around. I'm betting that Mattrick will deliver better quality games that will help grow daily active users. In the meantime, I'm comfortable with the cash hoard and real estate assets the company has to backstop my investment. On any popular game news, this stock will move quickly to the upside. We just don't know when exactly that will be. So what can the more short-term Zynga investor hang his or her hat on? I think it's headcount reductions. Big ones. I expect they're coming soon. Don's had a quarter now to size things up. He's got 2,300 people. King, with its Candy Crush game and impending IPO, is seeking a $5 billion valuation. It has only 600 people. So I think we'll hear about a big staff reduction at Zynga -- maybe before the next earnings call in two weeks. Such an announcement should support the stock. At the time of publication, Jackson held shares of ZNGA. Follow @ericjackson This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
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