Head of Xbox, Don Mattrick, leaves to join struggling Zynga

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don_mattrick.jpgDon Mattrick, Microsoft’s head of the Xbox division, has left the company to join struggling Zynga as the social gaming company’s new CEO, replacing outgoing CEO Mark Pincus

Confirming the news in an email to employees, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said:

“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.

“Since joining IEB more than six years ago, Don and his team have accomplished much. Xbox Live members grew from 6 million to 48 million. Xbox 360 became the No. 1 selling console in North America the past two years.

“We introduced Kinect and have sold more than 24 million sensors. We released fantastic games, and, most importantly, we expanded Xbox to go beyond great gaming to deliver all the entertainment people want — sports, music, movies, live television and much more,” said Ballmer in his letter.”

Mattrick, who has been with Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business for over six years, gave this statement:

“Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential. I’m proud to partner with Mark [Pincus] to deliver high-quality, fun, social games wherever people want to play.”

Pincus will now shuffle aside into the CPO role at Zynga, home of titles including Farmville and Cityville.

Though such a move must have been meticulously planned for some time, the timing of the announcement (so close to the excruciating launch of the Xbox One and ahead of its general release) will inevitably lead some to believe Mattrick was pushed from Microsoft. Under his leadership, his team failed to succinctly communicate the benefits of their new console, leading to a full 180-reversal on many of the next-generation console’s key policies.

Microsoft has yet to announce a replacement for Mattrick, and will need to appoint one fast to steer the Xbox One through a successful Christmas launch.

Gerald Lynch