What’s next for Xbox? Ballmer in charge in buildup to Xbox One launch

The departure of Microsoft executive Don Mattrick to become the CEO of Zynga brings a leadership transition to the Xbox division at a less-than-ideal moment, as the company prepares to launch the Xbox One this fall.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft didn’t name a successor yesterday. In a memo to all Microsoft employees, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote, “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.”

Day-to-day business aside, that means Ballmer will have a more direct role in strategic decisions in the build-up to the Xbox One debut. I have a hunch we’ve already seen the impact of this, as Microsoft — less than two weeks before Mattrick’s departure — decided to change course on some of its most controversial Xbox One policies in the face of intense opposition from gamers. For better or worse, Ballmer is known for listening intently to customers.

The Xbox group has veteran leadership, including Xbox One chief product officer Mark Whitten; Microsoft Studios chief Phil Spencer; and Yusuf Mehdi, the chief marketing and strategy officer, all of whom have been with the company for many years in a variety of positions.

But the wild card is the company’s impending reorg, which could see the Xbox become part of a broader hardware group under different leadership at higher levels of the company.

Meanwhile, FastCompany has an in-depth profile of Mattrick. Also see this Financial Times piece about Mattrick’s prospects for turning around Zynga.

  • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

    Ballmer has the power to defeat PS4 in one move.

    Announce a new pre-order deal with no Kinect, and thus undercut Sony on price.

    This would destroy Sony’s marketing advantage overnight.

    • Guest

      If they really believe Kinect adds value, I don’t think cutting it just to get the price down $100 makes a lot of sense. In order to get devs on board you have to show them it will be ubiquitous, not optional. People didn’t “get it” because MS did a pathetic job of demonstrating the advantages. If they address that, and assuming the case is compelling, justifying the extra $100 shouldn’t prove too difficult. If I was MS, I’d rather be selling a clearly superior experience at a 20% premium versus slogging it out on price with a less differentiated product.

      I’m impressed that Ballmer got back to you. As Todd says, he’s good about listening to customer feedback. Butter better than being responsive to customer complaints after the fact, would be ensuring they don’t keep recurring. And he’s frankly sucked at that.

      • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

        Of course Kinect has intrinsic value, but the whole point of my comment is that people don’t see past the price. It’s hopeless trying to explain the details, when Sony is taking out full page newspaper ads comparing the consoles on price alone.

        “Butter better than being responsive to customer complaints after the fact, would be ensuring they don’t keep recurring. And he’s frankly sucked at that.” [sic]

        What customer complaints? You mean concerns after E3. These have been addressed. What did you think are the complaints now, exactly? Credit where it’s due. The whiners got exactly what they asked for. A huge u-turn. And Mattrick is out. What more do you want?

        A classic anonymous unaccountable nonsense anti-MS troll comment. It’s troll like this who created all the PR issues and deprived the industry of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to evolve.

        • guest

          If you think all the “complaints” re: Xbox One have been addressed, you’re high. Only the DRM/used game sharing issues have been addressed, all the other issues (lack of indie support, price, creepy always-on kinect watching you have sex and sending data back to the mothership) are still there.

          • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

            Troll comment noted.

            Those are not genuine concerns.

          • Guest

            Price not a concern? Ha! That’s pretty funny.

          • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

            Your failure to answer my questions is noted. Check-mate.

            “Price not a concern? Ha! That’s pretty funny”

            Last time I checked, immediately after the DRM issues was addressed, Xbox One overtook PS4 pre-order sales:

            http://www.vg247.com/2013/06/20/amazon-uk-xbox-one-pre-orders-pass-ps4-after-drm-u-turn/

            Why attempt to debate a topic you clearly know so little about? Are you even a gamer? N00b.

        • Guest

          I mean the comments after E3, the ones after W8, after WP8, and numerous other MS product announcements or launches. It appears the negative reaction to E3 went far beyond just whiners. If it hadn’t, MS wouldn’t have bothered doing a U-turn and so quickly. And Mattrick is out ostensibly because he chose to be. Not sure why you’re implying there was some cause/effect there. Your last paragraph is simply drivel and unworthy of a response.

          • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

            The comments after E3 were very obviously addressed.

            Which comments after W8 and WP8 are you referring to?

            List the “numerous other” product launches, with examples of the criticisms you have in mind.

            Posting anonymously you undermine any credibility you mat have had. You can freely post any vague unsupported nonsense you wish then when others take the time to blow you out of the water you can pop up somewhere else and do the same thing.

          • Guest

            Oh, obviously [sarcasm]. That would explain why all the game sites continue to kick the sh*t put of ms for the points noted by the commenter above. Polygon, kotaku, gamespot, joystiq, etc etc.

          • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

            Your failure to answer my questions is noted. Check-mate.

            So what are the issues, etc? Game sites devote half their articles to praising certain games and platforms and half their time criticising. That’s what they do. Nothing has changed. What really counts is what gamers buy and play and Xbox is still winning both on next console pre-orders and on game pre-orders.

            Why attempt to debate a topic you clearly know so little about? Are you even a gamer? N00b.

          • Guest

            Clearly you don’t know what your talking about. Are you even smart? The PS4 has multiple bundles as well as the stand alone console itself on various websites up for preorder. Whereas Xbox One mainly has only the console itself up for preorder. What does this mean? It means that the Xbox One is beating the PS4 on a stand alone basis but if you combined all of the preorder numbers for the PS4 from every single bundle that is being offered, then the PS4 surpasses the Xbox One in preorders vastly. So stop chewing on Microsofts dead legacy.

          • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

            “Are you even smart?”

            You have exposed yourself as a time-wasting troll. Your comments are a waste of people’s bandwidth.

            Bundles are irrelevent. The fact that Xbox One is leading the pre-order war has been announced by retailers. Trust me, they have a better grasp of the stats and their own bundles than you do.

          • guest

            How much is microsoft paying you to post on sites like this?

          • Ryan Parrish

            The fact that this person posts anonymously is enough to ignore most of what they have to say. It’s why to this day Slashdot still labels “guests” as Anonymous Coward. Disqus should do something similar.

          • Guest

            The numerous concerns and complaints about W8 and WP8. Do you really need me to list them all? What do you think 8.1 is primarily about? Even Ballmer concedes they didn’t get the blend right the first time, so why are you taking such an indefensible position and trying to pretend they did? Posting anonymously doesn’t add to or detract from my credibility. I supported by comments and unlike you didn’t revert to ad hominem attacks. Oh, and down voting everyone you don’t agree with doesn’t add to your own credibility.

    • http://www.timacheson.com/ Tim Acheson

      Knew it! Xbox One sales doubled without Kinect. Sadly, price matters most.

      http://metro.co.uk/2014/07/17/xbox-one-sales-doubled-after-kinect-less-release-says-microsoft-4801161/

  • Guest

    Given the long-established record of poor financial performance and lack of accountability prior to Mattrick, it’s unclear you’d want to give the replacement nod to any “veteran leadership” who predated him. Mehdi, for example, is quoted by another site saying (about Mattrick) “If people don’t deliver, they’ve got to go. He doesn’t have the
    patience for that.” That sort of management style may come as a shock to Mehdi, who has ostensibly bungled one assignment after another yet still remained at MS. But it’s the norm in most successful companies and exactly what MS needs more of, not less.

    • Guest

      Oh, this going to an MS old time insider, I promise you that. No more outsiders running Xbox or devices. Those days are over.