Zynga announces Xbox head Don Mattrick as CEO

Former Xbox executive Don Mattrick is the new CEO of social game maker Zynga, the company confirmed today. Mattrick will assume the roles of chief executive officer and member of the board starting July 8, according to a press release.

"Don is unique in the game business," said Mark Pincus, founder of Zynga, in a release. "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 in 41 countries.

"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."

Pincus will stay on as chairman of the board and chief product officer.

"I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark's pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started," Mattrick said in a prepared statement. "Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential. I'm proud to partner with Mark to deliver high-quality, fun, social games wherever people want to play."

Earlier today, the All Things D reported that Mattrick was leaving Microsoft for a top role at Zynga.

Mattrick will help Zynga as it attempts to turnaround its business, which is experiencing declining revenue, companywide studio closures and consolidation. Zynga announced in June it would lay off more than 500 employees in an effort to cut costs.

In an email to employees, Pincus announced the hiring of Mattrick, saying that he has confidence in the former Xbox executive to serve as Zynga's new CEO.

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.

Mark

At Microsoft, Mattrick was responsible for the company's Xbox business, including Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Live. In May, Mattrick was at the forefront of the Xbox One's unveiling, and drew the ire of Xbox owners for his comments about the next-gen console's lack of backwards compatibility and $499 price tag.

In the weeks following the Xbox One's announcement, Mattrick defended the console's internet connection dependency, labeling the new Xbox a "future proof system." Later, Mattrick would be the one who issued an official statement outlining a stunning policy reversal that eliminated that internet connection requirement and eased used game restrictions.

Prior to his role at Microsoft, Mattrick was president of EA's worldwide studios.

Polygon has contacted Microsoft for comment on Mattrick's departure. A replacement has not been named.

Update: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addressed Mattrick's exit in a letter to employees posted to the company's website. "Zynga announced today that Don Mattrick would be its new CEO, effective July 8," reads a portion of Ballmer's internal memo. "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."

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