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Monday, July 1, 2013

Xbox Chief Is Leaving Microsoft

Just months before Microsoft plans to release a new video game console, the head of its video game business, Don Mattrick, plans to leave the company for another position elsewhere in the games industry.

Mr. Mattrick has been in discussions with Zynga about taking the chief executive job at the struggling San Francisco-based social games publisher, according to a person familiar with the discussions who declined to be named because the talks were private.

Mr. Mattrick has also talked to Electronic Arts, the video game publisher where he spent most of his career, about becoming chief executive of that company, said another person who also declined to be named because the discussions were private.

All Things Digital first reported news of Mr. Mattrick’s departure from Microsoft.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to coment. Dani Dudeck, a spokeswoman for Zynga, declined to comment.

The timing of Mr. Mattrick’s departure is particularly bad for Microsoft, which plans to release a new game console, the Xbox One, in time for the holiday shopping season. Mr. Mattrick, the president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment business, has had a rocky few weeks since the unusual public outcry that followed the unveiling last month of many important details about Xbox One at the E3 game conference.

Gamers denounced Microsoft’s plan to let game publishers prevent the resale of Xbox One game discs in used-game stores, forcing the company to reverse its policy. Although the controversy looked like a setback for Mr. Mattrick, his departure did not appear to be directly related to it, according to one person.

Mr. Mattrick’s job at Microsoft was likely to change soon in the coming weeks. The company is plannin! g a reorganization that could result in a major shifting of responsibilities for the heads of its main business.

Mr. Mattrick, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, joined Microsoft in 2007, after a long career at Electronic Arts. While many top game executives have management backgrounds in other fields, rather than rising from the creative side of the games business, Mr. Mattrick started out as a developer of games. He sold his company, Distinctive Software, to Electronic Arts in 1991, at the age of 17.

Last month, Zynga announced that it was laying off nearly a fifth of its work force as it faces slowing growth and increased competition.