[Updated] Xbox One Fallout: Don Mattrick Leaving Microsoft For Zynga

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News Posted: Mon, Jul 1 2013 1:48 PM
There are certain headlines you don't expect to see on a regular basis. "BMW Executives Prefer Driving Kia." "Ryan Gosling Weds Dowdy, Middle-Aged Housewife." "Game Industry Leaders Agree:  Industry Peaked With Colecovision."

Or, in this case: "Microsoft Entertainment Head Don Mattrick Leaves For Zynga."

This is clearly fallout from the disastrous debut of the Xbone at Microsoft's unveil in May, the used game lockout, throwing military gamers under a bus at E3, and the $100 price premium compared to the PS4. Toss in the terrible way Microsoft communicated on virtually all these points and it's hard to find much good to say about the man's performance. Even the pivot of several weeks ago, in which MS dropped many of the Xbone's negative points, was delivered in the most passive-aggressive way possible.

After announcing that the Xbox team  "imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing, and new ways to try and buy games. We believe in the benefits of a connected, digital future," Mattrick declared that because Xbox users had dared to demand used games and resale capabilities, the entire digital loaner idea was going away. This, despite the fact that there was no technical reason why MS couldn't create a flag that denoted a title as either disc-based or purchased directly, with the latter games still able to be loaned online.

Having dug himself a hole on the initial, Mattrick filled it with dynamite and blew the reversal. The digital loaning library was one of the few initial innovations that the Xbox One offered; a compelling concept that not even Steam could match. It should have been positioned as a perk of buying digital rather than going with used copies; a reason to stay online and connect with friends. Instead, by first mandating the connection and then blocking a two-tiered digital/physical system, Mattrick managed to piss off everyone.

The problem with the Xbox One isn't that Mattrick had bad ideas, but that he clung to them as unilateral concepts rather than flexible implementations. When your product message, at any point, boils down to "Buy an Xbox 360!" you've failed. When your message is "Buy an Xbox 360" when your competition is rolling out a new console with none of the same restrictions, you've blown your legs off with a shotgun.

Zynga?

But of all the places to flee, Zynga is probably the strangest. Microsoft fumbled the Xbox One terribly, but after a decade in the business, it's proven that it can deliver strong hardware and software. It's got franchises, fans, and a devoted slice of gamer culture. Zynga has annoying pop-up games that go through players faster than water through cholera patients. It openly celebrates a culture of "See what other people are doing, than copy it. And gouge them for money."



It recently closed studios in New York, Los Angeles, Austin, and Dallas. Supposedly Mattrick may have been tapped for the CEO position, which might be interesting -- at the very least, it suggests that the company might transition from Facebook-fueled parasitism to actual independent IP development. It's still an odd and humiliating move for Mattrick, who has moved from the proverbial head of an industry titan to working for -- or possibly heading up -- the Zytanic.

Regarding Mattrick, all we can say is that we hope his Microsoft departure has cleaned the wax out of his ears. A more nuanced approach to the Xbox One would have left it as a major winner coming out of E3 rather than the whipping boy for everything that's wrong with the modern game industry.

Update:  As of late this afternoon, Zynga has confirmed that Don Mattrick is now the CEO of Zynga. Mark Pingus remains chairman and Chief Product Office.
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...Whaaa?

What the heck is going on? I do not understand this decision whatsoever

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Joel H replied on Mon, Jul 1 2013 4:27 PM

He probably got fired after everything that went wrong.

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Dave_HH replied on Mon, Jul 1 2013 5:11 PM

He probably got an offer he couldn't refuse. :)

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I suspect the man has made more than enough money to retire quite comfortably and got a good offer that puts him on a short run to never needing to work again with the Zynga deal.

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It's almost hilarious that a company would want to pick Mattrick up and place him in a CEO position after that massive debacle. He was with Microsoft as an exec for quite a while though, so to see him leave - debacle aside - is quite notable.

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I wouldn't call it a "massive debacle". Despite all the nerd rage that was flung hither and thither, a whole lot of XBox One's were pre-ordered and continue to be pre-ordered. In fact... it was pretty much a massive success as was Sony's. The only 'failure' was the Nintendo, which seems to have been almost completely ignored.

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But do you have numbers? Sure I kept reading that xbox one demand exceeded the expectations and pre-orders were selling out, etc, but without concrete numbers, all these things mean nothing. Maybe they expected demand to be ten. Maybe they only had 50 available for pre-order. No one knows.

I know that we didn't receive any pre-orders for the xbox company wide until after ms fix their entire used game situation. I know that the gamestop near me had no pre-orders either. PS4 has been steady since announcement.

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they seem like a perfect fit, both full of ****

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Well... At one point I saw a number saying 1.4 million XBox Ones pre-orders sold in the first 24 hours of availability but nothing saying how many since then (and can't even find where I originally found that info). I have seen no numbers on how many PS4 pre-orders have been sold so far at all. Also, the PS4 pre-orders have been available and on the market since February. So that would skew things a bit as well.

What company are you claiming had zero pre-orders "company wide"? PS4 has been steady since February or since E3? I'm having a hard time taking your post seriously... I mean come on... You don't really believe Microsoft thought demand would be 10 units, do you? Or that they only made 50 units available for preorder?

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I love PC gaming!!

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I think Mattrick presented wrong and lost the confidence of some and/or most of his long time customers. Either he figured that out on his own or he was told so. Looks better to walk out on your own to another very lucrative job then to get fired later.

I think overall Xbox will be fine in the long run...they will always have ways to persuade or manipulate the masses and make their money.

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Amazing! What a perfect company for this guy to end up at.

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Joel H replied on Tue, Jul 2 2013 4:37 PM

I don't think Mattrick necessarily deserved to get fired. I do think he bungled nearly everything related to the Xbox One, and that his initial presentation and backflip are examples of deep problems at Microsoft. But I could be wrong about that.

Johnny3D,

I submit to you that pre-orders are now a meaningless measure of console popularity. The Wii U sold like *crazy* in terms of pre-orders. Vita put up good pre-order numbers. So did the 3DS. The problem, in EVERY case, is that after the first week or two of sales, demand dropped like a rock.

The 3DS recovered thanks to price cuts and new games. The Vita is selling slightly better in the wake of PS4 tie-ins, but still not well. Wii U sales remain low. The lesson here is that pre-orders no longer signify sustained demand for a product. If anything, they tell you what your dedicated fan base looks like at the moment of launch, but precious little else.

Whether Microsoft sells 5 million units to Sony's 8 million on launch day or the other way around is remarkably unimportant. What matters is whether Microsoft is shifting 500,000 Xbox One's a month three months after launch, or 150,000. And that goes just as much for Sony.

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this wasn't a massive debacle. It is pretty funny that he went to zynga though.

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This move is probably good for matrick i hope it works out for him. Dave was probably right he got an offer he couldn't refuse from a company trying to throw off their parasitic shackles.

they are likely moving to a new genre of games with the promotion of matrick to their ceo.

Who know maybe microsoft wont be such a hag when it comes to letting us have features, in fact we may even get electronic share! i have been incredulous through this entire ordeal and have had a bad taste in my mouth since the beginning of Xbox one.

The kinect has always been interesting, adding it into every console was a good move and the improved hardware and software with the new design might be a large enough boost to pull microsoft out of the no go zone of most gamers, I cant wait to get an xbox one and see what type of incredible games it can handle.

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