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4 Reasons Mattrick Might Have Left Microsoft For Zynga

Mattrick could turn things around for Zynga, leading the infamous company and Mattrick himself to new heights, but it still seems risky to leave a place like Microsoft.

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The hot rumor of the moment is Don Mattrick; rumored to be leaving Microsoft to take a position at Zynga.  I have one very curious question to ask.

Why would Mattrick choose to leave his position at Microsoft to work for Zynga?  

Zynga is not a tiny company by any means, pulling in millions with its various mobile and Facebook games.  However, the company has had more than its fair share of controversy.

  • Early issues involved simple spam problems, with players rewarded for messaging other players constantly with advertising.  
  • Issues with server stability and poor customer service compounded these problems.
  • Later the company suffered multiple legal attacks accusing them of, to varying degrees of severity, ripping off social games with at most subtle changes made to them. 
  • Zynga has also come under fire for accusations of insider trading and data protection violations.

After all that, it's unsurprising the company has also been losing in stock price recently, with the overall price down by over half where it was last year.

This paints a picture that would inspire few to actively jump ship from one of the most firmly-established names in the digital industry to join one that might actively be sinking. So why would Don Mattrick, already in such an incredibly prominent position at Microsoft, leave the company to join a troubled business like Zynga?

 

Incentive?

The most obvious answer would be the offering of an incentive package he simply cannot ignore, but this seems less likely the more one looks at the two companies side by side.  For all the money Zynga has made Microsoft is clearly the more stable company, and after having had Mattrick on staff for years, it seems implausible the smaller company, which recently laid off 18% of its total number of employees, could seriously afford the type of incentive one would expect to be needed to draw someone from a job like Mattrick's.

Stock options and the like are all well and good, but would all be based, at this point, on Mattrick's ability to turn the company around.  Which leads into the second reason that comes to mind:

 

Challenge?

Don Mattrick started his own company at the age of 17.  Since he took his position at Microsoft the number of people online on Xbox 360 has multiplied.  It is entirely possible Mattrick is looking to move to Zynga purely for the challenge of actually turning the company around.

He is not a poor man, so monetarily it is likely less of a gamble for him than it would be for Zynga itself, and it is possible, even likely for his terms of employment to include safeguards to protect him from the company's failure.  Maybe Don just wants to stretch his business-running muscles again with a company he gets to actually run.

 

Control?

Microsoft is a big company.  Even someone in a position as high up in the decision-making process as Mattrick has much of what he can do restricted or second-guessed by others.  Even at the top, there are people to answer to.  Zynga, however, is a company clearly having issues of the economic sense.  Mattrick might see a chance to really stretch out his creative control a bit by moving to a company hampered less by its own size.

At Zynga Mattrick could be given more direct control in the company's efforts to reverse its fortunes, and that would make him look very good in the future if things turned out well.  Though the idea of them not does propose another possibility.

 

No longer welcome at Microsoft?

No beating around the bush: it takes a pretty serious screw-up to get a company the size of Microsoft to backpedal as hard as it did on the Xbox One and its DRM issues. A change in direction at the point it was made was clearly damage control, an attempt to prevent a sales catastrophe.  If Mattrick had a direct hand in pushing the original DRM and online requirements for the Xbox One, he might be suddenly finding his days at Microsoft numbered.

If Microsoft is unhappy with him, it would make perfect sense to jump ship before any accumulated goodwill or patience is used up.  Zynga is a risky bet, but even a risky gamble is more assured than a closed door or ticking clock.

Ultimately, this is all just supposition and guesswork.  Only Mattrick himself would be able to give the full reasons behind such a move, and given the modern corporate culture, I wouldn't expect to hear it.  Hopefully things will become clearer soon.

Originally Published Jul. 1st 2013

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Writer, gamer, and generally hopeful beneath a veneer of cynicism.



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