It was a big surprise that Don Mattrick, the former head of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business who just addressed the gaming nation over the DRM changes regarding the upcoming Xbox One console, stepped down from his role to become CEO of struggling FarmVille developer Zynga. Yet it shouldn't be a surprise: after all, sources foretold of his departure last week as part of Microsoft's supposed restructuring plan.
For now, Microsoft reportedly doesn't have anyone lined up to fill Mattrick's shoes, so Ballmer himself is taking control of the IEB unit. Currently it's unknown if Ballmer's self-appointment is only temporary, or permanent.
"Don’s directs will report to me and will continue to drive the day-to-day business as a team, particularly focused on shipping Xbox One this holiday," Ballmer said in his email to employees.
Zynga said on Monday that it had named Don Mattrick as its new CEO and a member of the Board of Directors, effective July 8, 2013. Mark Pincus, Zynga’s founding chief executive officer, will remain Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Product Officer of the Company.
“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," Mattrick said. "I’m proud to partner with Mark to deliver high-quality, fun, social games wherever people want to play."
Both announcements seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, especially just weeks after Xbox One went live at E3 2013 and Mattrick settled the dust of controversy over the console's DRM setup. But with Ballmer now in control of the IEB, there's now concern that he's not the right person to lead the Xbox One launch four months from now. He's a charismatic businessman to say the least.
As previously stated, Mattrick's departure was actually reported last week as part of the restructuring plan Microsoft will supposedly undergo. Ballmer was slated to reveal this plan on Monday, and the announcement conveniently falls on that date. Sources noted that there would be significant departures from Microsoft, and many executives will have larger roles, as business units will be moved around into new divisions.
In addition to Mattrick, the shift supposedly includes Satya Nadella, president of Microsoft’s Servers and Tools division; and Tony Bates, president of its Skype communications unit. Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services unit, and Terry Myerson, who runs the Windows Phone division, are also in the picture.
That said, more changes within the Redmond walls are expected to arrive soon. Whether Ballmer has revealed his restructuring plan to employees is unknown at this point, but the plan seems to be unfolding nevertheless. Ballmer may wait to fill Mattrick's role with another Microsoft executive until after the console launches in November.