Microsoft executive Don Mattrick, the public face and organizational leader for Microsoft’s Xbox division, may resign from Microsoft as early as this afternoon to assume the CEO role for social-gaming company Zynga. If the report from the Wall Street Journal is true, it would appear to be a significant setback to the upcoming launch of the Xbox One at a time when Xbox One pre-orders and buzz have endured a bit of a roller coaster.
That’s not to say Mattrick’s departure would harm the launch of the Xbox One. Other than announcing Microsoft’s surprising reversal of its Xbox One DRM and used-game policies, Mattrick’s direct role in the Xbox One launch is arguably waning, as the company is largely now looking more at its supply chain than its strategic partnerships and launch game lineup.
Nor should the report that Mattrick, currently president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment unit, may leave the company be interpreted as an indictment or failing of the Xbox One console coming out of E3. Discussions regarding senior-level executives, particularly CEO, take months or more to develop. In fact, if today’s report is accurate, Mattrick may have been targeting a mid-summer departure for months now, at a time when he knew the flurry of E3 announcements and Xbox One unveilings would be well past.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which spoke with multiple sources, Mattrick is ” close to taking a top job at Zynga, the troubled online social gaming company, possibly as its CEO and working in close partnership with its founder and current CEO Mark Pincus. Sources said the announcement of Mattrick’s appointment could be made as soon as today, after the markets close.”
Perhaps just as interesting was the revelation that “[i]nterestingly, Mattrick has also been on the short list of the top execs being considered to run Electronic Arts.” EA has been without a permanent CEO since John Riccitiello stepped down, leaving longtime Xbox, Sega and industry executive (and current EA Chief Operating Officer) Peter Moore temporarily in charge.
If Mattrick leaves Microsoft before the Xbox One launch date, PlayStation 4 (PS4) fans will invariably claim a moral “victory” at the departure. Regardless of how the departure would appear, though, the dubious timing would likely be more of a coincidence than an indictment of Mattrick’s job at the helm of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment division. Quite the contrary, in fact: being tapped to become CEO of a publicly traded company is seldom a bad thing. We will have more to report if and when the situation unfolds.