Don Mattrick: The Real History Of The Wronged Xbox Visionary

2013 was unquestionably one of the worst years in Xbox history. The failed Xbox One reveal event coupled to a TV-based marketing sparked a strong backlash from the public. So, who was held accountable for this? The then-Xbox head, Don Mattrick.

However, does he really deserves all this criticism? This article intends to present to you another way of seeing Don Matrick: as a visionary ahead of his time. The Canadian businessman played a huge part in the formation of EA Vancouver and the rise of the Xbox division as a whole. His history goes beyond 2013.

Before You Criticize Him, Know His History

Donald Allan Mattrick was born in 1964 in the city of Vancouver, Canada. At only 17 years old, Don and his business partner, Jeff Samber, founded a gaming company called Distinctive Software. Surprisingly enough, in the near future, this company would be aquired by Electronic Arts and become EA Vancouver.

Distinctive Software released dozens of games before it joined EA, including Castlevania (1990), After Burner, Metal Gear, and many others.

To refresh your memory, EA Vancouver is responsible for the development of Fifa, UFC, NHL, and other sports games.

Yes, you read that right. One of the biggest gaming companies in the world was founded by a 17-year old teenager. As said before, he’s a man ahead of his time.

After selling Distinctive Software, Don remained at EA, where he eventually achieved the office of President Of Worldwide Studios. The Canadian businessman superintended the development of multiple blockbuster games, including Medal Of Honor: Rising Sun, 007: Everything Or Nothing, and Battlefield 1942, just to name a few.

It’s clear that Don Mattrick played a major role in the formation of studios, games and franchises that made history in the gaming industry. The fact that an adolescent funded a company of this size is stunning.

The Xbox 360 Became a Huge Sucess Under Don Mattrick’s Wings

Don Mattrick took over the role of Head of Xbox in 2007 — 2 years after his departure from Electronic Arts. It is an accepted fact hat he spearheaded the Xbox 360 to become one of the most sold consoles in the world.

When he arrived, the Xbox 360 was around 2 year old, with an install base of 7 million. When he left, around 80 million units had been sold worldwide. In 2013, the console hit 30 consecutive months as the number one console in the U.S.

Xbox Live jumped from a player base of 7 million in 2007 to 48 million users in 2013. Yes, the internet natural growth is mainly responsible for this broadening, but strategies such as new features and blockbuster games by Microsoft played a big part in it as well. At E3 2013, Microsoft announced 2 free monthly games as part of the Gold subscription, similar to what Sony had implemented before.

First and Third Party Games

Under the Mattrick administration, many legendary games were born. Fable III, Halo 4, Gears Of War 3, Forza Motosport 4, just to name a few.

One great example of a third-party partneship is Alan Wake. The game, developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Microsoft, marks the beginning of a historical bond between both companies. Subsequently, in 2013, Remedy began the production of Xbox’s new IP, Quantum Break.

Forza Horizon, regarded as one of the best Xbox IPs in the recent years, was launched in 2012 and remains one of the highest rated racing game franchises.

It’s worth noting that, even away from the Xbox One Generation, Don Mattrick had participation in the settling of games such as Sunset Overdrive, Ori And The Blind Forest, Forza Horizon 2, Halo 5, Titanfall, Dead Rising 3, Ryse, Killer Instinct and last, but not least, the formation of “The Coalition“, previously named Black Tusk Studio.


Even though Kinect didn’t last for many years, its financial success is undeniable.

It’s clear that Kinect could’ve been a bigger sucess during the Xbox One era if Microsoft had not put it aside.

What Happened To Don Mattrick

After his departure from Microsoft, Don Mattrick joined Zynga. He left the company in 2015 to join Prometheus Venture, where he still is the CEO to this day. In 2016, he became Co-Chair on Premier’s Technology Council for the government of British Columbia, where he sat until 2018. In 2017, he was named by the University Of Victoria as the Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year.

The reason why Mattrick left Microsoft remains unclear. While the Xbox One recepction must’ve been the main cause, there were rumours that he wanted to take a higher role in the company. By joining Zynga, he could achieve that goal and become CEO.

According to NY Times’ Kyra Swisher, Eletronic Arts also approached the Canadian businessman in 2013. However, according to her, “Zynga was a better turnaround”.

You can check more in-depth information about his career on his Linkedin profile.

You Either Die As a Hero…

To summarize, Don Mattrick is certainly a visionary who changed the course of the gaming industry. He helped to turn the Xbox 360 into one of the best-selling consoles of all time and played a part in the foundation of one the biggest studios in the world, EA Vancouver.

However, his blundering decisions in 2013 contributed to shaping a portrait of himself as an evil person and a bad businessman.

Every single human is prone to making mistakes through the course of their lives, including yourself. Don Mattrick had success and failures throughout his career, and hence he doesn’t deserve to be crucified for his mistakes.

Don Mattrick is a farsighted business man whose career was affected by a series of bad decisions. It’s such a shame that a visionary like him is no longer involved with the gaming industry.

If Phil Spencer eventually goes through the same situation, would it be fair to forget his accomplishments and solely focus on his bad decisions? Absolutely not. Bad periods will neither erase your triumphs nor make you bad in what you do.

“You either die as hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” — Batman.

This is a quite controversial topic, so what’s your opinion? Let us know over in the comments or on our Discord server.

Check out Generation Xbox for more Xbox related content.

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