Summary:

After six years at the helm of the Xbox, President Don Mattrick is leaving for a “top role” at social gaming site Zynga.

DonMattrick
photo: Microsoft

With the Xbox One coming to stores sometime this holiday season, it looks like Microsoft will have to find a new leader to oversee the launch. Don Mattrick, President of the Interactive Entertainment Business and go-to guy for all things Xbox, has left the company for a top (possibly CEO) role at Zynga, AllThingsD reported Monday. (UPDATE: At 1:00 PM PDT, both Microsoft and  Zynga confirmed that Mattrick will take the helm as CEO. Zynga Founder Mark Pincus remains on staff as Chief Product Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors)

Mattrick came to Microsoft as SVP for Xbox 360 and PCs in 2007 after retiring from Electronic Arts. While his reign included a massive expansion of the Xbox 360’s user base and rise in overall popularity, Mattrick himself is credited for the success of the Kinect in 2009. Shortly thereafter he rose to the position of President, answering only to Steve Ballmer himself.

Mattrick unveiled the Xbox One onstage at this year’s E3, and was also the source of many comments during the ensuing backlash about the device’s restrictions on used games. He’s infamously credited for telling GameTrailers, regarding the always-online nature of the Xbox One, “Fortunately, we have a console for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, and it’s called the Xbox 360.”

There is still relatively little information regarding Mattrick’s new role at Zynga, but the report suggests that he might take the top spot as CEO, replacing founder and current CEO Mark Pincus, who would stay on in some other role. The FarmVille and CityVille publisher has experienced rocky times since its high-profile IPO in 2011, with major executives jumping ship (most recently the company’s CIO) and outposts closing up (including the dismissal of the OMGPOP team). Without a blockbuster game in months, the company is making a gamble (literally) in establishing online casinos, although it must wait for the government to open the doors and make it legal.

But after the report about Mattrick’s move, Zynga’s shares rose more than 10 percent to $3.09, indicating that at least Wall Street is backing the new job. This will either be a great hire for Zynga or a terrible choice for Mattrick, but Microsoft will have to fill in the gap quick to ensure there is someone at the helm for the Xbox One.

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