Don Mattrick leaving Microsoft, for Zynga

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Don Mattrick, President of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment unit and the face for much of the Xbox One hate, is leaving Microsoft to join Zynga as CEO.  Have all the horrible memes driven him to career suicide?

In a weird turnaround, yet another 180 for Mattrick, he is jumping ship and moving to the mobile gaming company that many wrote off as a sinking ship.  Remember, Zynga has just gone through more huge retrenchments.  It appears that he was brought on board to turn things around at the floundering Zynga, but I’m not too sure there’s much hope for him – Zynga has seriously squandered a powerful position in the market.  However, he is apparently highly sought after – sources also hint that he was on the short list to come on at EA as CEO.  Could one of the factors in his move be his longstanding desire to move back to the Bay area (San Francisco area)?

Sources also say that the talks have been going for some time – this is not related to the restructuring being considered by CEO Steve Ballmer.  It appears that Mattrick made the choice to move and was not pushed out, but we may hear otherwise in the weeks to come.  

Explaining himself in an open letter to Zynga employees:

More than 1 billion people have installed a Zynga game across web and mobile and popular franchises like FarmVille and Words With Friends are a daily habit for millions of people. It’s a staggering milestone that speaks to the mass market opportunity ahead of all of us.

I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark’s pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started. As Mark was recruiting me to come here, I was impressed by his creativity, drive and the clarity in which he sees the future of games and entertainment as a core consumer experience.

Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential. I’m really proud to partner with a product focused founder like Mark and work with the executive team to grow the DNA of the company and lead this transition.

This could be bad news for Microsoft, who sources say does not have anyone to replace Mattrick as gaming product head.  That said, it could be good for them to get a change of face in there – I wonder who will step in to fill those shoes.  In the meantime, apparently everything will go through Steve Ballmer:

Zynga announced today that Don Mattrick would be its new CEO, effective July 8. This is a great opportunity for Don, and I wish him success. Don’s directs will report to me and will continue to drive the day-to-day business as a team, particularly focused on shipping Xbox One this holiday.

Still, it’s hard not to wonder what this means for Xbox One, and if we will see Microsoft move in a new direction after this.

Last Updated: July 2, 2013

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