Microsoft explored acquiring Zynga as early as 2010, sources claim, with former entertainment division chief Don Mattrick driving discussions around the company he would, most recently, go on to lead as new CEO. Mattrick, who was named Zynga’s chief executive in a multi-million job jump earlier this month, opened negotiations in 2010 with the social gaming company’s founder Mark Pincus, sources tell Bloomberg, in what was believed to be an attempt to boost the range of titles on Xbox Live.
According to the insiders, Mattrick’s move to the helm of Zynga is the culmination of a growing friendship between the former Microsoft exec and the social game founder. Discussions about Mattrick taking on the CEO position began in March 2013, it’s claimed.
Microsoft’s ambitions in so-called casual gaming have long been a topic of speculation. Back in 2011, the company was tipped to be approaching developers of games like Zynga’s FarmVille to discuss free-to-play titles for Xbox Live, with in-app upgrades paid for with Microsoft Points.
However, acquiring Zynga outright would have been a shortcut to that, though the studio’s fortunes since have struggled. The rise of mobile gaming has forced Zynga to shutter studios and shed part of its workforce, as it attempts to recapture the heady days where its titles were a Facebook mainstay.
That’s the challenge Mattrick now faces, with the promise of a compensation package worth in the region of $50m in total to spur him on. According to reports from a recent visit to Zynga’s HQ last week, Mattrick is playing his strategy cards close to his chest, telling staff that he was focusing on what would happen in the next 30 days, as well as listening to their ideas rather than necessarily forcing his own approach on the firm.