Microsoft's Don Mattrick officially Zynga's new CEO

This man will no longer lead the Xbox division for the launch of the Xbox One this November.

Confirming earlier rumors, game developer and publisher Zynga has announced that Don Mattrick, the leader of Microsoft's Xbox business, will depart the company and become Zynga's new CEO starting on Monday, July 8th; Mattrick will also be a new member of Zynga's Board of Directors.

In a post on Zynga's blog, its founder Mark Pincus, who also served as its CEO until now, announced why Mattrick was leaving Microsoft to lead his company. He stated, "I’ve always said to Bing and our Board that if I could find someone who could do a better job as our CEO I’d do all I could to recruit and bring that person in. I’m confident that Don is that leader." Pincus will remain as chairman of Zynga's board as wells as its chief product officer.

Mattrick joined Microsoft in 2007, after previously working for 15 years at Electronic Arts. In his own statement about his latest gig, he said, "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." In the past year, Zynga's once huge presence in social gaming has taken a hit and the company has shuttered a number of studios and laid off many of its workers in the process.

Posted below is Ballmer's email to all Microsoft staff:

From: Steve Ballmer

Sent: Monday, July 1, 2013

To: Microsoft – All Employees

Subject: Don Mattrick’s Next Chapter

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.

In the past month, the IEB 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.

I’m particularly excited about how Xbox pushes forward our devices and services transformation by bringing together the best of Microsoft. The consoles are incredible all-in-one devices with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Skype.   And, just as important, Xbox Games, Xbox Video, Xbox Music and SmartGlass light up Windows PCs, tablets and phones.

Thank you, Don, for setting us on a path to completely redefine the entertainment industry. The strong leadership team at IEB and their teams are well positioned to deliver the next-generation entertainment console, as well as transformative entertainment experiences, long into the future.

Steve

Source: Zynga | Image via Microsoft

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He handled the Xbone debacle with the graceful agility and honed tact of a drunk walrus having a root canal. The man was doomed and the day I knew it was when he said, "We have a product for anyone who doesn't have internet access. It's the Xbox 360."

That was the moment. I think he probably knew it, too. He said it without a trace of irony or sarcasm or mirth. He probably knew it the next second. Like a damp cloth that fell all around him. He knew. Ballmer was going to leave him out to dry when he did the reorganization now. Just as with Julie who took over the Windows 8 Metro division after Sinofsky was booted by Ballmer for getting too close to the sun (MS throne), he had his shot. He blew it just as she did a month earlier with a crazy show.

Now it was his turn for a crazy show. It would have been a tragic fall from grace if he hadn't been so outright bullish on responding to criticism not for a few days, not for a week, not for two weeks, but for two entire months since the initial internet rage began with the leaking of the "always-online" requirement back in March and the ensuing madness that followed, including a developing being fired for twittering off at the mouth.

That should have been foreshadowing for Don, but he must have thought, "Poor sap. That could never be me."

Poor sap. Ballmer's never met a MS employee he didn't think about throwing under the bus a few times a day, especially if it helps him deflect criticisms that he's a poor leader with absolutely no vision for the future or where MS needs to be to enact anything remotely vision-like. I'm pretty sure E3 was where Ballmer decided firing Sinofsky kinda worked out with Windows 8, RT, and Windows Phone, so why not try it again with Don? If the people wanted blood, he'd give them some.

Certainly, nothing Mattrick did makes one feel sympathy for the man. The way he handled the Xbone leak, then reveal, then E3 and the post-E3 damage truly was the very picture of incompetence. In that, he and Zynga will no doubt be perfectly aligned.

Still, Microsoft hasn't gone from the glory days to the mediocre now not because of Don or Sinofsky or J Allard or Bach or Peter Moore or anyone else MS has lost or dumped. There's one man chief most responsible for MS's descent from innovation to tepid me-too-dom and that is the one man doing all the firing and driving away.

Jobs was right about Ballmer and business men who run inherently creatively-driven tech companies. (Putting Tim Cook in charge of Apple was baffling in that context.) Companies like that live and die by having a vision of the way things are to be. Gates had a vision. Jobs had a vision. Cook and Ballmer have their eyes on the balance sheet. Gates and Jobs had an idea in their head of the way things were going to be. Money came as a result of how great that vision was.

Ballmer and Cook are like those guys you meet everyday who say, "I wish I was rich." You don't wish you were rich. You do what you love and just maybe what you love is great enough you become rich. So it is with company visions. The money will come to he whose vision is the greatest in both design and execution.

Ballmer seems to be 100% vision-free. Every time you think he has one, he compromises it and scales back, only to later show up again with a new, even harsher and haphazardly-stitched frankenstein idea that is aborted the moment investors shift in their seats.

This is why MS will bleed out most of its influence and become the next IBM. Business users will be good money, but it won't be on the backs of consumers MS rises again.

Don, I won't miss you. Zynga is a perfect fit for a man of your intelligence. I'm sure it was the only job you could scrounge up at the last minute. Still, it's a great fit for you. At this rate, the Xbox brand will likely outlast Zynga's, but not by as long as a lot of people might think.

Not surprised he's leaving. He's really hit rock bottom if he went to Zynga. I thought Zynga didn't exist any more lol

This isn't that more strange than when Peter Moore left to be head of EA sports. At least this is an "upgrade" to a CEO position, even if at a much smaller company.

Great. Only for picking the name "Xbox One" he already deserves to go.

At a time where Microsoft is being accused of inconsistency and confusion (unfair accusations for the most part), why confuse people with this name, I wonder.

Torolol said,
but who we gonna blame for next xbox mishaps, that will surely happens ?

He will get blamed for the next two, after that the new guy will need to sit down and "write three letters".

Na, Major is a tool. All he does is film videos.

He's supposed to represent the community but totally ignores every comment on his site. Actually his site is nothing more then a new product announcement list.

Vannos said,
Na, Major is a tool. All he does is film videos.

He's supposed to represent the community but totally ignores every comment on his site. Actually his site is nothing more then a new product announcement list.

Dude is not a tool. That's just a ridiculous statement to make.

Seeing a bunch of the comments on his site I don't blame him for not responding to them. Internet bullying among gamers is getting way out of hand (see Neogaf ...).

I've heard some not so great stories of Major Nelson's behavior in general at some of the conferences; one in particular where he was making fat jokes at the expense of others and other typical gamer labels.

Granted, I don't believe everything I hear, but considering all I've seen from the guy, I would definitely not put it past him.

+1 He just made a great product that Peter Moore build up make looking bad....

The reason is the initial statement Don made: Xbox 360 the offline console...

I think X-One would be a great console but he just made the whole company look like amateurs....

I wish Peter Moore would be back.

Bring back DRM! Who's with me?!

*crickets*

Kidding!

In all fairness I did like some of the features but the way they presented it was just bad. Anyway, all the best to him.

Exactly, if they had explained the reason for needing the DRM initially, maybe the response to the Xbox One would have been better.

I was one of those sceptics about the DRM, but when they dropped it and I realised why they needed it to exist with their new features, I felt a bit gutted.

I guess I must blame the media as well, all I saw on the news was "Xbox needs to be online every 24 hours, PS4 doesn't!" "Xbox One costs £100 more than the PS4"
They never said why it costs more or why they need the 24 hour DRM. Giving the PS4 the upper hand.

Good, after he caved in on the Xbox One it became clear that he didn't have the backbone to release anything innovative or revolutionary anymore. Hopefully they get someone in there who isn't afraid of some internet trolls.

I think its little funny he went from leading the Xbox division to now a company that produces mobile and Facebook games! Maybe all the Xbox controversies made him want get onto something that's more calmer.

I'd wager that there was an element of coersion involved after his diabolical E3 performance.

That said, I wonder who at Zynga saw that and thought "He's just the kind of guy we need to run our company!"

That said, I wonder who at Zynga saw that and thought "He's just the kind of guy we need to run our company!"

Seriously? Putting aside E3, for a company like Zynga the wealth of experience from Microsoft that he will bring in shaping the structure and operations will be exceptional. Its not like bringing in an RIM executive and making him a CEO - that would be disastrous. If I was a Zynga shareholder right now I'd be pretty pumped about this announcement.

still_rookie said,

Seriously? Putting aside E3, for a company like Zynga the wealth of experience from Microsoft that he will bring in shaping the structure and operations will be exceptional. Its not like bringing in an RIM executive and making him a CEO - that would be disastrous. If I was a Zynga shareholder right now I'd be pretty pumped about this announcement.

No not seriously (although if I was considering him to run a company I had shares in I'd have been a bit disturbed by his form of late).

SteveyAyo said,
Pretty sure he saw the writing on the wall that his time was limited after how he handled the Xbox One announcement.

That had absolutely zero to do with it. These negotiations have gone on AT LEAST 6 months. You don't hire someone at his level to become CEO of a company just on a whim.
Sheesh

georgevella said,
Weird leaving right before your product's release

Or right before getting fired ?

If this guy was not close to be fired then something is wrong with Microsoft.

....

It's like seeing the Titanic passing by and thinking "hey, that looks like a more comfortable cruise liner!"

Best of luck to him.

recursive said,
To me it looks like he saw the iceberg from afar and decided to grab a life boat before it is too late..

He is the iceberg.

Shiranui said,
Isn't Don Mattrick an old type of printer, widely used before the advent of inkjets an lasers?

That would be Dot Matrix

Sounds like he's bailing while the getting was still good. Color me not surprised.