Xbox One architect, Don Mattrick, departs Microsoft for Zynga

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It has today been confirmed that Microsoft’s Don Mattrick – architect of the Xbox One and frontman for its announcement and full unveiling – has accepted a position as CEO at online social game developer Zynga (Farmville, Mafia Wars).

Zynga has been haemorrhaging top executive and development talent for the last two years following the company’s IPO, and according to industry analysts has been in a fair deal of trouble after failing to pull out from its downward spiral, despite the release of follow-ups to its popular online games Farmville, Mafia Wars, and the acquisition of popular games like Words With Friends and Draw Something.


To help Zynga retain the market leadership position it once held, Don Mattrick (who has previously served at EA as president of worldwide studios, and more recently at Microsoft as president of the Interactive Entertainment Business) will come on board as company CEO to work alongisde Zynga’s founder, Mark Pincus. In a statement, Pincus wrote of the new hire:

“Don is unique in the game business. He can execute in multiple domains -hardware, software and network, and he’s been the person responsible for game franchises like Need for Speed, FIFA and The Sims.”

Mattrick is just as enthused about the move, writing in his own statement:

“I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark’s pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started. Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential.”


Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has since sent out a note to company employees acknowledging Mattrick’s move to Zynga and how that affects the leadership structure, writing:

“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.”

Ballmer then went on to note Mattrick’s many contributions to Microsoft and the Xbox division in his six years at the company, growing Xbox LIVE from six million to 48 million members, helping Xbox 360 become the best-selling console in the US and selling 24 million Kinect units, with “fantastic games” released alongside the delivery of entertainment “people want” including “sports, music, movies, live television and much more.”

“In the past month,” Ballmer wrote, “the [Xbox team] showed for the first time here on our Redmond campus, and again at E3, how we are going to continue to transform entertainment with Xbox One. I am incredibly proud of the work and vision culminating in Xbox One.”

Ballmer closed by saying thanks to Don for his work that has set a path to “completely redefine the entertainment industry,” noting that the strong leadership team at Xbox is “well positioned to deliver the next-generation entertainment console, as well as transformative entertainment experiences, long into the future.”

How do you see Mattrick’s departure affecting the successful launch of Xbox One and the running of the Xbox division? Is it as Ballmer says, with a strong leadership team in place to pick up where Mattrick left off, or are there direction problems at Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business unit?

And with 30 years experience in the videogame industry, how can Mattrick help Zynga regain its leadership position in the casual online gaming space?

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