Update 4:05 p.m.: Zynga has announced that Don Mattrick is their new CEO. He will also join the Zynga board. Outgoing CEO Mark Pincus, one of Zynga’s co-founders, will remain the company’s chairman and “Chief Product Officer.”
Original story: Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Xbox division and maligned Xbox One envoy, is leaving the company for a “top role,” possibly CEO, at the social-game studio Zynga, according to Kara Swisher at All Things D. Swisher’s report cites “multiple sources close to the situation,” who also note that Zynga, the creator of online games like FarmVille, has been courting Mattrick for “some time.”
This is the kind of situation for which the phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire” was coined. You might remember Mattrick as the floppy-haired suit who revealed the Xbox One, delivered a number of embarrassing quotes regarding its more controversial features, and acted as the hand performing the corporate seppuku that was Microsoft’s used game and always-online policy reversal.
If this report turns out to be true, Mattrick will be jumping into a position atop one of the industry’s most disdained companies at a time when all of its virtual farm-based capital is drying up fast. Just one month ago, Zynga closed two studios and laid off more than 500 people. Not exactly the kind of place I’d want to pack my bags and leave for, especially with a major console launch just months away. The All Things D report attributes Mattrick’s desire to move back to California’s Bay area as a factor in the transfer. Geoff Keighley, games press frontman extraordinaire, offered another tie between Mattrick and Zynga on Twitter:
One thing to note: If Mattrick goes to Zynga it reunites him with Bing Gordon, co-founder of EA and a dear friend.— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) July 1, 2013
Maybe the Microsoft higher-ups were unhappy with how this whole Xbox One debacle played out and gave him the squeeze. Or maybe Mattrick just loves a challenge. Either way, Zynga does make a lot of sense as a destination if you think about it. All its games require an internet connection to play.