Talking tech since 2003

Don Mattrick, the former head of Microsoft’s entertainment division, has reportedly been chomping at the bit for at least three years to run all of some of social-gaming company Zynga.

According to Bloomberg News, Mattrick, who takes over as CEO of Zynga today, negotiated with Zynga founder Mark Pincus back in 2010 about buying the company, which is best-known for its popular Facebook game “Farmville.” The buyout discussions, which ultimately fell apart, were aimed at bolstering Microsoft’s Xbox lineup with social games that then were adding millions of users on Facebook’s network each week.

Mattrick’s new leadership role could help revive Zynga, which recently laid off 18 percent of its workforce and lowered its bookings outlook as its games underperformed expectations.  The company has been pulling the plug on numerous games in recent months as it attempts to shift its focus to the growing mobile market to boost revenue and slow player defections.  Zynga has faced a decline of its Web business, especially on the Facebook platform, which was initially its key money-making partner.  At the same time, the growth of its mobile business has been slower than needed to appease Wall Street.

According to a Zynga filing last week, Mattrick will receive a $5 million signing bonus, $1 million salary, $25 million in restricted stock vesting over three years, and additional restricted shares and options valued at $15 million.  Pincus will remain as Zynga’s Chairman and Chief Product Officer and retain 61 percent voting power over the board.

Mattrick greeted employees at a companywide meeting in Zynga’s San Francisco headquarters last week, according Bloomberg News, citing a person in attendance.  When one employee asked the new CEO what he plans to accomplish in the next six months, Mattrick responded that he’s focusing on the next 30 days, using the mantra “two ears and one mouth,” to describe how he plans to prioritize listening to staff.  The response isn’t surprising considering Mattrick has a reputation of having high standards and of being a no-nonsense leader.

According to Bloomberg News, while at Microsoft, Mattrick told one team that the first iteration of the Xbox Music service didn’t meet his expectations and quickly assigned a new manager with his own group to fix it, moving them to Seattle from Microsoft’s nearby headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to help them focus.

Microsoft is likely not happy about losing Mattrick, especially since the company just announced its next generation Xbox, the Xbox One, and will soon be competing in a high stakes game against Sony in the latest iteration of the console wars.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an e-mail to employees last week that Don and his team had “accomplished much” at the software maker and set the company on a “path to completely redefine the entertainment industry.”

Before Microsoft, Mattrick founded Distinctive Software,  which was acquired by Electronic Arts in a deal worth $11 million and became EA Canada. While heading up the North American division of EA, Mattrick managed to triple sales while slashing the number of games in half.  After he moved to Microsoft, Mattrick was widely credited for turning around Microsoft’s gaming division and launching “Kinect.”


Comments

Sign in or become a BestTechie member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.

Subscribe to BestTechie Plus

You've successfully subscribed to BestTechie
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Great! You've successfully signed up.
Your link has expired
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.