Don Mattrick, who has served as the public face of Microsoft’s Xbox console for years, announced Monday that he has stepped down from the Redmond, Wash., tech empire to become CEO of casual gaming company Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA).
All Things D reported early Monday morning that Mattrick was leaving Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), adding that he may be taking a top role at Zynga. Soon after, Zynga — best known for its Facebook games like Farmville — announced that Mattrick had taken over as CEO. Mark Pincus, former CEO and founder of Zynga, plans to stay on as chairman of the board and chief product officer.
“Don is unique in the game business,” Pincus said in a press release. “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.’ He’s one of the top executives in the overall entertainment business and he’s a great coach who has inspired people to do their best work and build strong, productive teams."
As the president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment department, Mattrick has been largely responsible for the company’s Xbox console since joining Microsoft in 2007. Mattrick helped make Microsoft’s Xbox 360 the most popular gaming console in America and directly oversaw production of Microsoft’s new Xbox One, which has received mediocre press since its announcement.
Previously, Mattrick had worked in the game development industry, beginning with Distinctive Software, which he founded at age 17. When Distinctive was bought out by gaming giant Electronic Arts, Mattrick moved up the ranks at his new parent company to oversee global research and development.
While Mattrick’s departure from Microsoft may be related to the dismal reception of the upcoming Xbox One, the new CEO is already having some positive effects at Zynga. After Mattrick’s new CEO position was announced, Zynga’s shares jumped up about 10 percent to $3.07. Unfortunately, that’s still a less than half of Zynga’s post-IPO high in 2011.