Last week, the president of Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment unit, Don Mattrick, abruptly announced he was leaving the company to become CEO of Zynga, the flailing social gaming company perhaps know best for "Farmville." The move took everyone—even Microsoft—by surprise. It wasn't his departure that was unexpected—Mattrick never totally fit in at Microsoft, as even his co-workers would admit—it was his destination. If Mattrick was going to go anywhere, people thought, it would be to go back to EA.
But look back a few years and it seems Mattrick's move to Zynga wasn't such a huge surprise, after all. Bloomberg reports that he's seen potential in the company for at least three years. In 2010 Mattrick was in talks with Zynga founder Mark Pincus to buy the company, using Zynga's social gaming success to improve Microsoft's Xbox offerings. The talks came to nothing, but Pincus and Mattrick kept in touch.
Now Mattrick, who started his new gig today, faces the uphill battle that is digging Zynga out of its rut. Earlier this year it laid off 520 employees and saw its stock price tumble. Does the company still hold the potential it did when social gaming was huge? And what is Mattrick, who has a 10-car garage and a house worth $27 million, getting in return for his efforts? A compensation package worth potentially $50 million.[Photos by Rainer Hosch]