Zynga hires Microsoft gaming head as CEO

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus confirms that Interactive Entertainment Business head Don Mattrick will take over his position next week.

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Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
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Zynga founder Mark Pincus (left) with soon-to-be CEO Don Mattrick. Zynga

Don Mattrick, the man who oversaw Microsoft's gaming business, will start his new job as CEO of Zynga next week, Mark Pincus, founder of the social gaming company, announced Monday afternoon.

The struggling company confirmed the appointment on its blog after All Things Digital reported the news earlier in the day. In addition to replacing Pincus as CEO, Mattrick -- who was in charge of gaming and entertainment at Microsoft including the popular Xbox gaming system -- will also become a Zynga board member. He starts at Zynga on July 8.

"As I reflect on the past six years, I realize that I've had the greatest impact working as an entrepreneur with product teams, developing games that could entertain and connect millions," Pincus wrote to his employees. "I've always said to (Kleiner Perkins venture capitalist) 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. I'm confident that Don is that leader."

Pincus noted Mattrick's ability to turn around a struggling network. Under Mattrick's leadership, the Xbox grew from an installed base of 10 million to 80 million and became the top-selling console in North America. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also sent out a note on Monday to bid Mattrick farewell and noting Mattrick's accomplishments at Microsoft.

No doubt, Pincus is banking on Mattrick to help Zynga bounce back as well. The company recently had another round of layoffs in an attempt to make the company lean and mobile-focused. Its faltering stock, a result of its poor performance in the eyes of Wall Street, was up more than 10 percent after the announcement.

Mattrick said he's admired Zynga "for years," according to a note sent out to employees after Pincus' announcement.

"I joined Zynga because I believe that Mark's pioneering vision and mission to connect the world through games is just getting started. As Mark was recruiting me to come here, I was impressed by his creativity, drive and the clarity in which he sees the future of games and entertainment as a core consumer experience," Mattrick wrote.

Update, 2:21 p.m. PT: Adds Mattrick's note to Zynga employees.