Two Top Xbox Execs Leaving Microsoft

BOOM widget 58154Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story that Microsoft planned to shake-up its entertainment division. That prediction played out quickly with a press release today from Microsoft announcing two significant departures from its Entertainment and Devices division -- the home of both Xbox and Games for Windows.

The changes start at the very top with the retirement of the division's president, Robbie Bach. Bach managed the global launches of both the Xbox and the Xbox 360 and has been a key figurehead for the Microsoft's entertainment efforts addressing both E3 and CES attendees on multiple occasions. Bach graciously thanked Microsoft for his time there and said of his decision to leave now, "I'm at the time in my life where I want to dedicate more time to my family and my nonprofit work, including my work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I have the utmost confidence in Steve, Don and Andy and their ability to see through our mission of bringing extraordinary entertainment and mobility experiences to life for people around the world." Though announced today, Bach will remain at the company through the fall to help with the transition.

Also departing is senior vice president of Design and Development for the division, J Allard. Often referred to as the "father of the Xbox" for his role in driving the technical development of Microsoft's console, Allard had been serving in a broader capacity to champion innovations within the company including the recently shelved Courier tablet project. While he is stepping down from the internal position, the announcement states that he will be an official strategic advisor to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. No direct comment from Allard was available but Ballmer said, "we're absolutely delighted that J's role with the company will evolve in a way that lets all of Microsoft benefit from his business insight, technical depth and keen eye for consumer experience."

For the short-term it appears Microsoft plans to handle day-to-day business without much change despite these prominent departures. The announcement confirmed that senior vice president Don Mattrick will continue to run the Interactive Entertainment Business. Mattrick joined the Microsoft family relatively recently, coming over from Electronic Arts in 2007 where he'd held a number of senior positions. He certainly looks to have his hands full as it's just coming up on a year since the head of Xbox Live and Microsoft Game Studios John Schappert left Microsoft last June (ironically to return to EA). Given Mattrick's strong publishing background it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, that has on the future direction of the Xbox and gaming business at Microsoft.