Published on July 1st, 2013 | by Adam DeMarco1
Microsoft’s Don Mattrick moonwalks into Zynga
Earlier today, Kara Fisher of All Things D broke the story that the president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division, Don Mattrick, would be leaving the company to
pursue greener pastures take the job of CEO at former gaming megacorporation Zynga. Reports he accidentally quit while backtracking on Xbox One policies have been denied. As all of you must undoubtedly be aware at this point, the news comes fresh off of the heels of several missteps and breakdowns in communication regarding Microsoft’s newly announced Xbox One console.
Recent public relations snafus, 180-degree changes in policy, and focuses on gimmicky hardware peripherals that don’t work very well aside, Mattrick’s contributions to the gaming industry at large have not been insubstantial. In his time working for publishing behemoth EA, Mattrick was a driving force behind several of their flagship franchises such as Need for Speed, FIFA, and The Sims. In an internal letter to employees published today by GameInformer, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer credited Mattrick and his teams with making the Xbox 360 the best-selling home console in North America for each of the last two years, increasing Xbox Live membership from six million to 48 million subscribers, and selling over 24 million Kinect sensors. You have to admit, anyone who could convince 24 million poor bastards to buy a Kinect must have been doing something right (business-wise, not ethically).
Mattrick will officially take the mantle of CEO at Zynga on July 8th, Kotaku reports, but will be leading an “all-hands meeting” at the company’s headquarters tomorrow, alongside Zynga founder and former-CEO Mark Pincus. Zynga has, of course, seen better days. From its erstwhile position as supreme leader of the social and mobile markets, the company has seen its stock prices fall from an all-time high of $14.69 in March 2012 to its current price of $3.07. Clearly, Pincus and other Zynga board members have high hopes in their newest employee’s ability to right the ship.
Still, given how poorly Microsoft has handled the announcement of the One, I can’t help but wonder how committed to the project Mattrick had been over the last few months. Fisher’s sources report that he and Zynga had been in contact for quite a while prior to today’s announcement, and that Mattrick had also been given deep consideration for the CEO gig at his former home, EA. Microsoft needn’t worry, though, because, even though they do not seem to have any immediate intent to fill the position, I believe I’ve found the perfect replacement.
Just before the news of Mattrick’s departure from Microsoft today, GamesIndustry International published an interview with everyone’s favorite out-of-work game developer Patrice Désilets in which he extolled the virtues of Microsoft’s originally intended policies regarding DRM and digital distribution on the Xbox One. In the interview he opines that Microsoft made a major mistake when changing course, and that the console’s intrinsic differences to Sony’s machine would have been a boon for the industry as well as gamers. Its a message Microsoft’s PR team should study closely, and one that, had they had the confidence to stick by their decisions and the wherewithal to show gamers how a digital future would benefit them, could have drastically changed the way consumers view the One. Think it’s a crazy idea? Don’t forget, Mattrick got his start in the industry as a developer too.
So there you go, Microsoft, your leadership problem is solved. You’re welcome. Feel free to send that 10% finder’s fee check to Adam DeMarco C/O AWESOMEoutof10.