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Analysts applaud Mattrick’s move to Zynga

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Don Mattrick and Mark Pincus (Credit: Zynga)

There aren't a lot of genuine surprises in the video game world these days, but Don Mattrick's jump from Microsoft to Zynga Monday certainly qualifies as one.

Zynga has been struggling mightily since its debut as a public company, and many people felt Mark Pincus would never relinquish the CEO spot. But will Mattrick taking those reins be enough to turn the company around? And who's taking over Xbox at Microsoft?

Wall Street analysts are applauding Zynga's bold move, loudly praising Mattrick's abilities as a manager. They're not 100 percent sold, though, on whether even someone as capable as he will be able to right things at the company.

"In our view, Zynga still faces execution challenges in a pivot from social to mobile, although now with a more credible leader at the top," said Colin Sebastian of R.W. Baird. "We also note one potential risk will be the ability for Mr. Mattrick and Mr. Pincus to agree on strategic priorities and decision making."

"We view Mr. Mattrick’s appointment positively, although it is not without challenges," adds a slightly more optimistic Michael Pachter from Wedbush Securities. "Mr. Mattrick has a history of accomplishment at Microsoft and EA, has consistently surrounded himself with capable executives, and has consistently extracted solid performance from his co-workers. We expect him to repeat this history at Zynga."

While Mattrick doesn't have experience in social and mobile games, he does have a long track record in the gaming industry and has been particularly successful in building successful teams, something analysts note will be critical to Zynga's future success.

Meanwhile, plans continue to move forward for the Xbox One. Microsoft was apparently caught flat-footed with Mattrick's departure, without a candidate to step into the job.

For now, all of the people who used to report to Mattrick will report to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. That's not likely to be permanent, though. Ballmer has reportedly been working on a reorganization at Microsoft that will likely see someone new overseeing the Interactive Entertainment Business.

Some have suggested director of marketing Yusuf Mehdi could be a candidate for the job, but Pachter says he's hopeful that John Schappert, who has held the COO positions at both EA and Zynga (and used to run the Xbox Live division at Microsoft), is a candidate.

It's likely to be a while before that's settled, though.

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