The New Xbox Boss Is... Steve Ballmer?

Former Xbox boss and incoming CEO of Zynga Don Mattrick will not be replaced immediately at Microsoft, according to a memo issued to Microsoft employees from company CEO Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft chief says that Mattrick's top lieutenants — those in charge of games, the hardware, etc — will be reporting directly to Ballmer himself.

Here's the email:

From: Steve Ballmer Sent: Monday, July 1, 2013 To: Microsoft — All Employees Subject: Don Mattrick’s Next Chapter

Zynga announced today that Don Mattrick would be its new CEO, effective July 8. This is a great opportunity for Don, and I wish him success. Don’s directs will report to me and will continue to drive the day-to-day business as a team, particularly focused on shipping Xbox One this holiday.

Since joining IEB more than six years ago, Don and his team have accomplished much. Xbox Live members grew from 6 million to 48 million. Xbox 360 became the No. 1 selling console in North America the past two years. We introduced Kinect and have sold more than 24 million sensors. We released fantastic games, and, most importantly, we expanded Xbox to go beyond great gaming to deliver all the entertainment people want — sports, music, movies, live television and much more.

In the past month, the IEB team showed for the first time here on our Redmond campus, and again at E3, how we are going to continue to transform entertainment with Xbox One. I am incredibly proud of the work and vision culminating in Xbox One.

I’m particularly excited about how Xbox pushes forward our devices and services transformation by bringing together the best of Microsoft. The consoles are incredible all-in-one devices with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Skype. And, just as important, Xbox Games, Xbox Video, Xbox Music and SmartGlass light up Windows PCs, tablets and phones.

Thank you, Don, for setting us on a path to completely redefine the entertainment industry. The strong leadership team at IEB and their teams are well positioned to deliver the next-generation entertainment console, as well as transformative entertainment experiences, long into the future.


The last time Xbox had a switch atop the division, in July 2007, Microsoft issued a press release detailing the replacement of one exec with the next. This time, the top guy has pretty much disappeared. One step closer to the top, Xbox execs!

We'll let you know if/when Microsoft finds a replacement. It's hard to imagine that the company would want to run their console by committee or add that much more labour to Ballmer's workload long-term.


    Please get someone with a real passion for the advancement of gaming and good knowledge of the industry.

      most importantly, we expanded Xbox to go beyond great gaming to deliver all the entertainment people want — sports, music, movies, live television and much more

      The fact that, of all the stuff that has happened under Don Mattrick, they regard this as the "most important" suggests that any kind of knowledge of or passion for gaming is optional. I suspect they're more likely to get somebody from a more general entertainment/media (movie/music/TV etc) background.

        Is the CEO of ESPN interested? After the TV TV TV TV mantra from Xbox recently, it would be a good match for them. Not for gamers though.

      Meh, I see the role of console manufacturers (apart from Nintendo) being less and less important these days.

      We’ve already got, for the next 5-7 years at least, essentially just upgraded versions of the Xbox 360 and PS3 hardware.

      All Microsoft needs to do as far as “the advancement of gaming” is make sure the platform is easily accessible to the developers who are going to make good games, as well as making the platform marketable enough that those developers can turn a profit.

      Maybe a fortnight ago when the Xbone was going to do SOMETHING new Mattrick’s role would have been absolutely critical ensuring that the Xbone functioned as it was envisaged by Microsoft (as opposed to destroying the planet like so many gamers though it would), as it stands Microsoft can just dust off the 360 marketing plan and run a by-the-numbers console launch just the same as Sony intends to do

      It seems odd that people can talk of “advancement” while praising Sony for the PS4 which looks great but brings nothing new to the table, and at the same time get so hysterical about Microsoft’s original plans which while concerning were almost certainly going to bring some new features.

        I'm talking technological innovations as a priority, and not financial innovations. "Kinect 2" despite being mocked, I consider a worthy investment.

        But at the same time you have to remember, not all innovation is good. You have to have a clear approach, Sony made the almost exact same mistake [even worse] back in 2006, which kept me from buying a PS3 until after 3 years of it's launch.

        I bought an XBOX360 instead, and I was a fan of PlayStation before that. Sony only turned things around in the last two years.

        If you ask me it had a lot to do with the PSN hack by Anonymous.

        "The role of console manufacturers to the advancement of gaming"

        What follows is my opinion:

        1. Bring the baseline hardware specs to a suitable standard, with enough flexibility to program for, for the next 5 to 6 years, and If you don't plan to have the next gen ready by that time, YOU are the one in trouble.

        2. Develop and invent standardized development environment and tools to third parties, by pushing the limit from the start using first parties. [Ex: on PS4, First parties can build game engine technology that works on a minimum of 6GBDDR5, 8 CPU cores and 2TF GPU, eventually these technologies will come to other platforms when they are ready]

        3.Advertise and promote the entire gaming culture, more gamers more money for the industry as a whole.

        4. Deliver a properly designed and optimized gaming platform that can bring those high tech games to broader appeal, to those without the technical prowess or the free time. Thereby making high fidelity gaming a financially viable scenario.

        Last edited 02/07/13 12:29 pm

          I’d agree with almost all of that.

          I do think though that it’s important to note that I don’t consider there to be a clear line between ‘financial innovation’ and ‘technological innovation’ and the benefits for the consumer and industry.

          I think you stated in one of the other posts that you consider the original Xbone online requirement to be a financial innovation, I don’t see it that way.
          While potentially excluding some customers (those without broadband), and financially damaging others (people who buy second hand games), the online policy had the potential to put more money into the games industry at a developer/ publisher level and could have led to technological innovation.

          I think potentially the Xbone could have:

          Reduced or removed manufacturing and distributions costs for more types of games (savings to consumer and industry).
          Increasing the amount of single player games which are currently resold and shared (benefit to industry and increase in the quality of games)
          Encouraging console exclusives from 3rd parties- knowing that games won’t be resold and profit margins will be higher (benefit to industry and consumer)
          Increased and new types of online functionality for more types of games, knowing that 100% of customers are online (eg. Forza 4’s AI sharing mode)
          Removal of arbitrary DRM (particularly pre-order bonuses and day-one on disc content) as a deterrent to buying games second hand, this particularly shits me when it’s a key chunk of the story or something similar.
          Removal of physical media (so 2005), bringing the Xbone in line with the major “threats” to consoles such as mobile phones and streaming media. Don’t forget that this console generation will probably run until 2019!

          I guess that’s just a few, and while none of them were guaranteed, neither were people claims servers being crashed for months or the new Kinect recording you while you sleep.

          I honestly think that Microsoft would have delivered a great product with the original Xbone policies in place. They would have known through market research exactly how many people the policy would have outright exclude (broadband penetration rates in their key markets) and in a race as close as that between the 360 and PS3, they know they can’t afford to throw customers under the bus without offering a real benefits from the console.

            Agreed. Those are valid points.
            As you pointed out the difference in opinion comes from our belief in innovation. I believe in good and bad innovation.

            Sometimes it can be too early for the market [3DO, sixaxis, cell, etc.], and sometimes if you believe in it enough you have to push through and persevere [Blu-ray, WII motion, cell]. Sometimes you have to leave the option to the consumer, and entice them towards the newer approach [AMD64 instruction set, PS4].

            To decide all of that who would you choose Businessman or Engineer or if you can find one good enough both? Because let's face it, if everyone fought for the steering wheel you aren't going anywhere.

              It’s both, but if I have to choose I’m going with businessman – given that gamers were so hysterical about the way the Xbone was presented that the engineers didn’t even get a chance to show if their product would work or not.

              If you give the gaming community what they want they’ll take exactly what they’ve had but newer. It’s the larger market that grows the industry and harbours the real innovation. The problem with the hardcore gamer-based assassination of the Xbone is that it never made it out of the gaming community, it was crucified before it ever made it to shelves where (Microsoft were backing) that it would have functioned well for the vast majority of consumers (unlike the products you’ve listed above).

              Instead the Xbone Microsoft wanted to release is dead and with it much hope for significant innovation this generation. When the next generation of potential gamers look at these consoles in 2018 next to their generation 10 iPhones and wonder why the hell it’s still $80 for a piece of (fully sharable!) software that won’t be a good thing for the industry.

                Yes. But most important thing they had to do this year was release capable hardware and may be the four points I mentioned earlier. Financial innovation does it have to happen at release, when you've been warned by a large majority of people, the media and Simcity. :)

                But you are right. They took the "innovation" back to shelves.

                Servers still exist, tech to make that happen has been around for a while.

                I have to say it would still be a mistake to go through with Online DRM.

                Trouble is, the vast majority of consumers aren't the ones who are going to buy a console at launch. It's the hardcore gamers who are the early adopters, and if they'd kept going down the path they were going, it's pretty obvious that they would have been buried by Sony within a year.

                But the fact is that nothing they've changed is going to in any way impede innovation. Complaining that what we're left with now is simply a more powerful 360 is a bit pointless when what we had before was simply a more powerful 360 with a whole bunch of anti-consumer restrictions built into it. DRM is not an innovation.

    I would agree with @manu that you want a games guy with knowledge of the industry but also needs to be bold on where they want the Xbox to be going in the medium-long term

    Maybe Microsoft needs to get a new PR team. The last couple of months has killed the momentum of the Xbone a little bit (Sony was watching them make a fool of themselves and they basically pointed at them and laughed)

    Last edited 02/07/13 9:00 am

    Ohhhhhh boy you know what that means....


      You mean GAMERS! GAMERS! GAMERS! GAMERS! right? This is Ballmer here, he's not a one-trick pony. He's got at least two tricks!

        Woah woah woah, are we talking about the same xbox? I thought they made it perfectly clear that at no point would games be a priority.

    I like how this internal memo reads like an E3 press conference. Are you sold on the Xbox One yet, Xbox One team?

    That pic - Game of xBones? Or are they implying that Microsoft is a giant douche like Joffrey?

      Breaking news: Microsoft kills hookers

    hold the phone...people love Bing and Internet Explorer?

    Pretty sure this isn't good news.

    Has EA gotten a new CEO yet?

    with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing

    Finger on the pulse!

      It's that kind of insight into what consumers love that has helped them hit the target with XBox One every step of the way so far.

    "The consoles are incredible all-in-one devices with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Skype. And, just as important, Xbox Games,..."

    I completely forgot my console does games! I've just be using it for explorer and bing..

    The consoles are incredible all-in-one devices with built-in services that consumers love, including Bing, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive and Skype. And, just as important, Xbox Games

    That just says so much.

    I get the feeling all the all-in-one-device,TV TV TV!,SPORTS!DRM etc. stuff was all cominig from the suits and PR peeps upstairs and He was proberly sick of it.

    Well, ding dong a witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked old witch! But she (he) left plenty of friends with exactly the same ideas back at her place. It is still quite delicious that Microsoft's CEO is effectively killing the Xbone's old policies with fire. Total policy reversal to end the hated attacks on consumers? Check. Firing the guy that championed them? Check. ERASING HIS POSITION IN THE COMPANY COMPLETELY?? Check and check. Steve Ballmer may be a suit and he may have the same ideas Mattick did (he says as much above), but at least he's trying to save the company (which is more than can be said for the new Zynga CEO). It must frustrate them *so bad* that all the destructive and disasterous policies they want to implement are impossible to actually do. Stymied by those dastardly customers! Who could have imagined they'd have self respect and not want to get screwed?! Oh well, perhaps Ballmer will implement (by sheer chance and self preservation) Xbox features people will actually *like*... maybe... *crickets chirping*

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