Mattrick new head of Xbox vidgame biz

Two of the vidgame industry’s biggest execs are hitting the restart button.

Peter Moore, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox vidgame biz, unexpectedly ankled Tuesday to take a job at Electronic Arts as head of its lucrative EA sports business.

Replacing him is Don Mattrick, who coincidentally left EA as its head of worldwide studios in February 2006.

Mattrick takes his new post July 30, while Moore starts at EA in September.

In February, Mattrick joined Microsoft as a part-time adviser to Moore. Insiders say there’s no indication that Mattrick was hired with the intention of moving him into Moore’s spot. Rather, his existing connection to the company along with his long history in the vidgame biz made him a logical choice for the role.

“I had no idea Peter was considering leaving the role he was in,” Mattrick told Daily Variety. “I think this is the best job in the industry, so I am a little surprised.”

Moore was seemingly not pushed out given that his new job as prexy of EA Sports is one of the most important in the industry. Insiders said that he had already decided to leave before Microsoft announced two weeks ago that it is taking a $1 billion-plus writedown in the wake of the high number of defective Xbox 360s.

However, it’s likely that the 360’s hardware problems, as well as surprisingly strong competition from the Nintendo Wii, played a role in Moore’s decision to leave for a less stressful post as head of the industry-leading sports games biz.

Job is a logical one for Moore, who marketed athletic shoes for Reebok before moving to Sega in 1999. He was tapped to head marketing for Microsoft’s vidgame business in 2003 and took over the unit in 2005. Exec also said he wanted to move his family back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Redmond, Wash.

His appointment fills the last remaining top spot at EA since new CEO John Riccitiello divided the company into four divisions. He also named another well respected outsider, former Activision exec Kathy Vrabeck, to lead EA Casual Entertainment.

“Peter Moore’s proven record of leadership in games and sports makes him a terrific fit for heading up EA Sports,” Riccitiello said in a statement. “As a partner at Microsoft and earlier, as a competitor, we’ve learned to respect his vision and leadership.”

Mattrick takes over as Microsoft is trying to put its hardware problems behind it and focus on a strong slate of games for the 360 this holiday season, most notably “Halo 3.” It is attempting to vanquish Sony as the leading brand among hard-core gamers while also reaching out to the expanded audience of casual gamers who have, thus far, flocked primarily to Nintendo’s Wii and DS.

“My first order of business is to execute on the plans already created for the holiday, and then afterward, I’ll spend time with the senior leadership team to figure out ways we can hopefully accelerate our leadership position,” Mattrick said of his priorities.

Beyond pure gaming, Microsoft is also trying to use its vidgame console as a digital entertainment hub. The 360 can already download TV shows and movie from numerous networks and studios. Other media capabilities are in the works.

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