Report: Zynga's Mattrick tried to buy company for Microsoft

It turns out that Don Mattrick, Zynga’s new CEO, has had a long-term relationship with Mark Pincus.

Mattrick and Pincus first started talking games back in 2010, according to a report in Bloomberg citing anonymous sources “with knowledge of the matter.” As head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, Mattrick negotiated with Pincus to buy Zynga for the software giant.

The talks later fell apart, but Mattrick and Pincus stayed in touch. This March, the relationship got a little more serious as the two started going on bike rides together and discussing potential opportunities for Mattrick at Pincus’ company.

Microsoft’s effort to buy Zynga wasn’t previously known. The purpose of the purchase would have been to boost the Xbox’s game lineup at a time when Microsoft’s game console was still vying with Nintendo’s Wii, which was known for its casual games, for leadership of the gaming market.

San Francisco-based Zynga announced earlier this month that Mattrick would be replacing Pincus as its CEO. Over the last two years, Zynga has struggled with disappointing earnings, declining popularity of its Facebook games, the departure of numerous executives, at last two rounds of mass layoffs, a plunging stock price and, most recently, falling sales.

Mattrick comes to the company after leading Microsoft’s games division from being chronically unprofitable business to one that is consistently making money and leading the U.S. market in sales. Prior to that, he served as president at Electronic Arts.

In 2007, the same year he joined Microsoft, Mattrick and some other former EA employees founded BigPark, which specialized in free casual games for the Web. Two years later, Microsoft purchased BigPark.

Photo of Don Mattrick (left) and Mark Pincus, courtesy of Zynga.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (251 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.