Xbox Exec Flees Microsoft To Fix The Failing Virtual Farm That Is Zynga

Zynga has added Mattrick to its company masthead, but hasn't given him a cute little avatar yet.

Zynga has added Mattrick to its company masthead, but hasn’t given him a cute little avatar yet.

A couple weeks back, Microsoft’s Don Mattrick defended the Xbox One’s most controversial aspects – and irking a number of military personnel in the process — by saying that people who wanted to play a video game console without connecting to the Internet could just buy an Xbox 360. He then had to take it all back when the company decided it didn’t want to lose customers to Sony. Now Mattrick is jumping off the U.S.S. Microsoft to go tend virtual fields as the CEO of another much-derided gaming company, Zynga.

Zynga is the company most notable for the annoying “Play Farmville with me” requests you got on Facebook from people you vaguely remember from high school. When it went public in 2011, the company’s stock performed okay, rising from an initial price of $9.50/share to nearly $15 in three months. But since that peak in March 2012, the Zynga stock price has sunk and continues to hover between $2-3 per share.

Thus, company CEO and co-founder Marc Pincus has decided to step down from the CEO spot (while remaining as Chairman) and hand the reins over to Mattrick, who gains a spot on the board.

“I’ve always said to [Chief Creative Officer Bing Gordon] and our Board that if I could find someone who could do a better job as our CEO I’d do all I could to recruit and bring that person in,” said Pincus in a statement to Zynga employees. “I’m confident that Don is that leader.”

AllThingsD was the first to report on the news, saying Mattrick’s exit had been long in coming and was neither in response to the negative reaction to the Xbox One nor part of Steve Ballmer’s big-time shakeup at Microsoft, a notion backed up by the fact that no replacement was named to head up the Xbox team.

For his part, Ballmer has told employees that he wishes Mattrick well and that the Xbox team is to continue to focus on getting the Xbox One to market on time this fall.