Wow, talk about “out of left field”: Don Mattrick, the guy in charge of Xbox and the man responsible for making Xbox LIVE what it is today, has left Microsoft to take up the position of chief executive officer at Zynga. Yes, Zynga – the company behind Farmville and other Facebook monstrosities aimed at bringing gaming to the non-gaming types; the company that experienced such massive growth that many panicked about Zynga changing the face of gaming forever; the company responsible for inventing the “social gaming” genre. Also, the company that’s ripped off more games than most other “creative entities” have, and the one that Electronic Arts sued for ripping off The Sims Social. In a bizarre side note, it was Don Mattrick who was in charge of franchises like The Sims when he worked at Electronic Arts prior to joining Microsoft.
Most recently, you’ll recognise Mattrick as the guy who was on stage introducing the Xbox One. It seems odd that the man in charge of Microsoft’s console would abandon ship a few months prior to the launch of the next generation of console hardware he just waxed lyrical about in front of millions. It also seems odd that he’d abandon Xbox for Zynga – a publisher that many of late consider a sinking ship. After the jump you can find two emails addressed to Zynga employees: one from Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus and another from Mattrick himself.
To our Zynga employees, players and shareholders,
Today is a big day. I’m excited to announce that Don Mattrick will be joining us as Zynga’s new CEO and member of our Board. I wanted to let you all know why I made the decision to recruit Don and what I think it means for all of us.
Over the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all that we have achieved together as a company. We have pioneered social gaming and helped make Play a core part of millions of people’s lives. But Zynga has so much more potential ahead, the opportunity to be an Internet Treasure and deliver on our mission of connecting the world through games.
As I reflect on the past six years, I realize that I’ve had the greatest impact working as an entrepreneur with product teams, developing games that could entertain and connect millions.
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.
If you’re not familiar with Don, he’s an entertainment and game industry innovator who’s been making products and scaling teams and businesses for the last 30 years. Don’s had major leadership roles at Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Distinctive Software, which he founded when he was 17 years old.
Don is unique in the game business. 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.
He deeply understands the value of a network and the importance of creating lifelong consumer relationships. He turned Xbox into the world’s largest console gaming network, growing its installed base from 10 to 80 million and transformed that business from deep losses to substantial profits. And he has grown the Xbox Live player network from 6 to 50 million active members.
Going forward I’ll continue in my role as Chairman and Chief Product Officer. I’m excited to partner with Don and the rest of our team to return Zynga to its leadership role in inventing and growing Play as a core human experience.
Don officially starts next week; however he’ll be joining me tomorrow to host an All-Hands meeting so you can all have an opportunity to meet him and ask any questions. Please feel free as always to post your questions and vote up questions on our Zyntranet here.
Thanks and see you tomorrow.
And Mattrick’s email follows:
By now, you’ve had a chance to read Mark’s email about my coming aboard. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself and share with you how excited I am to be here.
I’ve admired Zynga for years. You have redefined entertainment and brought gaming to the mainstream.
Only Zynga combines engineering, industry-leading product management and analytics to deliver products that strike a chord with consumers and add real value in their lives.
More than 1 billion people have installed a Zynga game across web and mobile and popular franchises like FarmVille and Words With Friends are a daily habit for millions of people. It’s a staggering milestone that speaks to the mass market opportunity ahead of all of us.
I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark’s pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started. As Mark was recruiting me to come here, I was impressed by his creativity, drive and the clarity in which he sees the future of games and entertainment as a core consumer experience.
For the last 30 years, I’ve been fortunate to work with smart people on exciting projects. I’ve managed over 100 platform transitions and I’ve never lost my love for seeing products as creative experiences that bring people together.
I’ve had the chance to lead the teams behind brands and franchises like “Need for Speed,” “FIFA” and “The Sims” and networks and consumer services like Xbox and Kinect. I’ve seen firsthand how powerful franchises and networks can work together to deliver breakthrough value for consumers and drive sustainable growth. We too, have all the makings of a successful service and business and we have the opportunity to create lifelong relationships with our customers through our high quality products.
Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential. I’m really proud to partner with a product focused founder like Mark and work with the executive team to grow the DNA of the company and lead this transition.
I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at our All-Hands tomorrow. Please feel free to submit any questions you have for Mark and me here – see you soon.