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Can Xbox Guru Don Mattrick Turn Zynga Around?

Can Xbox Guru Don Mattrick Turn Zynga Around?
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Don Mattrick, 49, spent six years at Microsoft -- the last three as president of the Interactive Entertainment Business. In that role, he was responsible for the team that grew Microsoft's Xbox 360 global installed base by 700 percent to more than 75 million consoles. Now he's turning his talent to reviving Zynga.
 

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Don Mattrick is being positioned as a rock star who can bring the magic back to Zynga. But can Mattrick, who left Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business to serve as CEO of the social games company, fix what is broken?

It will take some time to find out. Mattrick takes his seat in the CEO's chair -- and at the board of directors table -- effective July 8. He has an impressive resume. He's been at the forefront of the gaming industry and boasts more than 30 years of experience developing, building and managing profitable entertainment businesses.

"Don is unique in the game business," said Mark Pincus, founder, chairman and chief product officer at Zynga. "He can execute in multiple domains -- hardware, software and network, and he's been the person responsible for game franchises like 'Need for Speed,' 'FIFA' and 'The Sims.' He's one of the top executives in the overall entertainment business and he's a great coach who has inspired people to do their best work and build strong, productive teams."

Mattrick Believes He Can Do It

Mattrick, 49, spent six years at Microsoft -- the last three as president of the Interactive Entertainment Business. In that role, he was responsible for the team that grew Microsoft's Xbox 360 global installed base by 700 percent to more than 75 million consoles. Now he's turning his talent to reviving Zynga.

"In its short history, Zynga has redefined entertainment and brought social gaming to the mainstream," Mattrick said. "More than 1 billion people across Web and mobile have installed Zynga games, and franchises like FarmVille and Words With Friends have become a part of people's daily lives.

"I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark's pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started. 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."

Skeptical

Billy Pidgeon, an independent video game analyst, said he's skeptical, not because Mattrick can't work miracles but because Zynga is in a tenuous position without many assets.

"Zynga has had good people working for them. They've bought some great companies and they've even had a couple of somewhat successful forays into mobile, but they lost the position on Facebook and other companies have superseded them," Pidgeon said.

One of Pidgeon's beefs with Zynga is its attitude toward audiences. Zynga may have great games, he said, but the company has not developed relationships with all customers equally. Meanwhile, forward-thinking, free-to-play publishers are treating free players with the same respect as players who shell out cash.

"Hopefully these are things Don Mattrick can help with. But they have a long way to go," Pidgeon told us. "They couldn't have chosen a better person as CEO but I will believe it when I see it because of their past performance."
 

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