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Wednesday, July 18, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Microsoft loses Xbox 360 leader to Electronic Arts

Seattle Times technology reporter

Don Mattrick

The former top EA exec has been named to head Microsoft's interactive entertainment business.

Age:43.

Prior experience: Wrote his first game at 17. Founded Distinctive Software in 1982, which merged with Electronic Arts in 1991. Served most recently as president of EA's worldwide game studios until resigning in February 2006. Took most of 2006 off to take a break after 23 years and spend time with family.

At Microsoft: Hired in February as an outside adviser to Robbie Bach's Entertainment and Devices Division to help with the "connected entertainment" strategy. Beginning July 30, he will be senior vice president of the Interactive Entertainment Business, which includes Xbox, Games for Windows and Microsoft Game Studios. He called it "the best job in the industry."

Source: Microsoft

Peter Moore, the Microsoft executive who led the launch of the second-generation Xbox 360 game console, is leaving for game publisher Electronic Arts (EA).

In his place, Microsoft named Don Mattrick as senior vice president of its Interactive Entertainment Business, which is responsible for all gaming efforts at the company.

Mattrick, 43, is an industry veteran whose company, Distinctive Software, became part of EA in 1991. He served most recently as the company's president of worldwide game studios, resigning in February 2006.

"It's almost like a swap, though I really doubt it was intended to work out that way," said Matt Rosoff, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

Moore, 52, is leaving for personal reasons, Microsoft said Tuesday. With Microsoft since January 2003, he wants to move his family back to the San Francisco Bay Area, according to the company.

Moore was not available for interviews, and his scheduled appearance Tuesday morning at the Casual Connect gaming conference in Seattle was abruptly canceled.

He took center stage last week at Microsoft's glitzy presentation at the E3 Media & Business Summit in Santa Monica, Calif., touting the holiday lineup and rocking out on guitar for a demonstration of the game "Rock Band."

Microsoft insisted Moore's departure was unrelated to recent trouble with the Xbox 360.

The company announced July 5 that the failure rate for the console, which was launched in November 2005, was unacceptably high. It extended the warranty covering the failure to three years and announced a $1 billion charge against its fourth-quarter profit, due out Thursday.

Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach said the personnel change was not a strategy to bring in new leadership after the hardware-failure disclosures.

"I don't think of it that way at all," Bach said. "... I don't think of it as something that was needed or something we were actually out looking for."

He said he was sad to see Moore go and talked with him about alternatives to leaving, but that they were unable to find a fit for him in the Bay Area.

At EA, the world's largest game publisher, Moore will head the EA Sports label, responsible for titles including perennial best-seller "Madden NFL."

He will report directly to CEO John Riccitiello.

In an attempt to streamline the business, Riccitiello in June reorganized the game publisher into four labels, each with its own studios and publishing arm.

Rosoff, the Directions on Microsoft analyst, doesn't expect EA to suddenly begin providing Microsoft with exclusive titles because of the personnel moves.

"EA's business is predicated on being multiplatform," he said.

Bach said EA and Microsoft already know each other "exceptionally well" — as is the case with Activision, THQ and other major game publishers.

"I think it will be business as usual between us," he said.

So what does EA's business with Microsoft look like?

The game giant published 29 titles for the Xbox and Xbox 360 in its 2007 fiscal year, which ended March 31, according to the company's most recent annual report. It also published 29 games for Sony's consoles and 11 for Nintendo's.

During the same period, EA's net revenue from Microsoft consoles was $637 million, about 20 percent of its total. Sony consoles generated net revenue for EA of $980 million, roughly 32 percent of the total.

Bach said Mattrick, who has served as an outside adviser since February, will likely run the games business differently from Moore.

As a developer who wrote his first video game at 17, Mattrick brings deeper technical experience compared with Moore's background in marketing.

"I think Don and I will complement each other exceptionally well because he'll be able to focus a lot on the product and the business parts of it, and I can continue to spend some time in the marketing and sales part of the business," Bach said.

No major course changes are planned for the 2008 fiscal year, which Bach and other executives have targeted as the first year the Xbox business and the Entertainment and Devices Division will show a profit.

Mattrick said he was "surprised" Moore was leaving and eagerly accepted the position.

"For me, it presented the opportunity to have what I think is the best job in the industry," he said.

His stamp is not likely to show up on the organization until the Xbox 360 begins to give way to whatever may follow it.

"It might be two, three years out before we notice if Don Mattrick has any real effect on the business," Rosoff said.

Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or bromano@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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