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UPDATE: Xbox chief Don Mattrick leaves Microsoft, joins Zynga as CEO

UPDATE: Zynga has confirmed that the now ex-president of Interactive Entertainment at Microsoft, Don Mattrick has joined the social gaming company as the new CEO.

Mattrick, who led the Xbox and Xbox Live teams at Redmond, will take over from founder Mark Pincus, who replaced himself amid some tough times for the company following its IPO and will now become chairman of the board and chief product officer.

In a blog post Pincus wrote: “I’ve always said…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.”

Mattrick himself said in a statement: “I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark’s pioneering vision and
mission to connect the world through games is just getting started.
Zynga is a great business that has yet to realize its full potential.”

Original story continues below…

News of a potentially huge upheaval at Microsoft emerged on Monday evening with reports claiming Don Mattrick is on the way out.

AllThingsD reports that the company’s president of Interactive Entertainment, which oversees Xbox and Xbox Live, is leaving to join the social gaming company Zynga.

The article claims Mattrick will take on a top role at the company, which brought the world Farmville and Words With Friends, alongside current CEO and founder Mark Pincus or perhaps being handed the CEO chair by Pincus himself.

Mattrick, who joined Microsoft in 2008, is also being courted by EA for the open CEO position, apparently, but AllThingsD seems to think a move to Zynga is more likely.

Zynga has been struggling massively since it began trading on
the stock market in 2011, so setting up camp there would be somewhat of
a salvage operation for Mattrick.

It is not known, at this stage, why Mattrick seems to be keen on leaving Microsoft with a brand new era of exciting Xbox gaming about to commence and a battle against Sony to be won.

The timing of the departure would be strange, given the Xbox One release is just a few months away. It leaves the division rudderless at a crucial time for Sony as it prepares to take on the PS4.

There’s no indication, according to ATD that the impending departure is down to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s reshuffling plans either.

There will be speculation that the recent controversy over used games and online check-ins for the new Xbox One console may have something to do with it.

He upset a lot of loyal gamers by saying “We have a console for those who’re unable to get some form of connectivity, it’s called the Xbox 360,” during the recent E3 expo.

Microsoft, of course, was forced into an embarrassing climbdown over the issue, which was publicly fronted by Mattrick, so perhaps there’s something going on behind the scenes that we’re yet to be aware of?

Alternatively, as the report states, it may not be that dramatic at all. AllThingsD reckons he’s keen to move back to San Francisco, so it may be as simple as that.

We’ll update this story should an official announcement be made.

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