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Xbox chief leaving Microsoft for top spot at Zynga

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Don Mattrick (Credit: Microsoft)

Don Mattrick, the leader of Microsoft's Xbox team since 2007, is leaving the company.

Following an All Things D report, it's been confirmed that Mattrick will become the new CEO of struggling social game maker Zynga, effective July 8. Zynga founder and current CEO Mark Pincus will remain on as Chairman of the Board of Directors and its 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 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."

As the public face of Xbox, Mattrick has been in charge of the division during its rise to power this console generation. It was under his leadership that the Xbox division became a profitable one for the company.

He has, unfortunately, also been the center of the storm for the controversy surrounding the Xbox One, whose mixed messaging and policy reversals have left potential buyers confused and upset.

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Zynga, meanwhile, has been in a very public spiral since its IPO in late 2011. As the appetite for social games has dwindled, Zynga has been unable to successfully pivot to the mobile market. Executives (and top talent) have been abandoning ship at a steady pace and the company has had substantial layoffs.

Hiring Mattrick is something of a coup for the company, but the timing is curious. Reports indicate that Microsoft was not ready for this departure and does not have someone in position to fill his role as president of the Interactive Entertainment Business. That's a crucial role with this transition taking place, as the Xbox One is Microsoft's biggest game-related launch in the past 10 years -- and likely will be its biggest for the next 10 years.

One train of thought is that Mattrick left before being forced out over his mishandling of the Xbox One’s initial messaging, but he was actually rumored to be in line for a more powerful role at the company. Earlier this month, All Things D reported Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is working on a massive restructuring of the company that would have resulted in expanded duties for Mattrick and two other senior execs.

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