Love him or hate him Don Mattrick has pushed a lot of innovation out of the games industry during his time at Electronic Arts and more recently Microsoft. This is the man who brought Will Wrights vision of a “life simulator” to reality with The Sims, a move which brought EA many, many millions (or billions) over the past decade. He is also the man who made Microsoft a force to be reckoned with in the casual game space by pushing for a dream project known as Natal. Natal turned out to be the Kinect which has been one of the most successful peripherals of all time and one of the key components of Microsofts upcoming Microsoft One console.
So, when I heard that Don had made the jump from Microsoft to Zynga I was more than a little shocked. Don had been the official mouthpiece for Microsoft during the Xbox Ones unveiling and subsequent battering. Don himself came under attack for statements like “We have a product for people without Internet, it’s called the Xbox 360” and “Backwards compatibility is backwards”. Still, my belief was that surely Don would have no reason to jump ship. I mean, if his belief was that the Xbox One was going to blow up the gaming space, he would stand everything to gain from sticking with Microsoft. But maybe, just maybe, this jump to declining social giant Zynga makes more sense than we all realize.
Zynga haven’t had a good run of it recently, what with huge layoffs and plummeting stock, but still the social giant has potential. I mean lets forget how zynga invented Facebook gaming with Farmville and turned mobile gaming on its head with titles like words with friends and their purchase of draw something. The more I think about it, Mattrick stands everything to gain by turning Zyngas fortunes around. Sure the Xbox One will be a success, but looking at things from Mattricks point of view can Microsofts new console really compete, at least financially, alongside the ever expanding social/mobile market. Also given his track record, if anyone can turn things around at Zynga HQ it could be Mattrick.
It’s hard to imagine that Don wasn’t offered John Ricatellos position at EA… But having accomplished so much in his time at EA, would Don Mattrick really want to go back and potentially sully his legacy. Don has always looked to the future of gaming. Just look at his comments regarding the Xbox One. This could be exactly what Zynga need and I strongly believe that despite some of my reservations regarding the Xbox One and Mattricks approach to criticisms of the platform, Microsoft have lost an incredibly innovative and forward thinking critical member of staff. And well, Microsofts loss is Zyngas gain in this instance and potentially a boon for anyone interested in the mobile game space or casual gaming.
Looking forward to seeing what Don will do in his new role and the effect it has on the gaming ecosystem.