With Don Mattrick Gone, Microsoft Closes Victoria Game Studio

Less than two years after opening a game design studio in downtown Victoria, Canada. This was an initiative led personally by Don Mattrick who had previously lived in Victoria, Canada.  Microsoft has closed its doors, leaving at least 30 people out of work.The Redmond based software giant said it was part of a plan to consolidate its resources.

“This was not an easy decision, but one guided by our desire to centralize development in our Vancouver studios,” the company said. “We are working closely with all employees affected by this change to identify open positions in other studios, and we remain committed to doing business in British Columbia.”

“It was great to have a large, well-known brand like Microsoft come to town and we’re sorry to see them go, but in the end it wasn’t a giant studio,” said Dan Gunn, executive director of the Victoria Advanced Technology Council. “Fortunately, we have seen the game-design sector start to expand here since 2007 and I think a lot of these people will get picked up by other studios, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two of them started a studio of their own.”

Gunn wouldn’t theorize on why Microsoft shut its doors, though he dismissed the idea that it could be tied to Oak Bay resident Don Mattrick, the head of Microsoft’s gaming division, leaving the company earlier this year to join game developer Zynga.

“I think we all hoped they would continue to expand. Don Mattrick was obviously a massive champion for that office and seeing him go caused us to take notice, but it’s tough to know the inner workings of a large corporate giant like Microsoft,” he said. “When a head office is in another country and making large corporate decisions, often a smaller outpost can be a victim to a broader strategy.”

Microsoft opened the Victoria studio in early 2012 in the Dogwood Building at 1019 Wharf St. At the time, the company said there were plans to expand to as many as 150 employees over the next three years.  The company initially leased four floors in the building at the corner of Wharf and Fort streets, but the studio used only two of them.  Microsoft said it chose Victoria for its proximity (5 hours) to company headquarters in Redmond, Wash., and its livability, which was expected to help attract the best and brightest in creative, production and design in the global gaming industry.  The closing was met with some surprise within the game-design sector, which has grown to 18 local studios employing about 240 people.

I have not heard too much about Mattrick since he become CEO of Znyga.  You may recall this from his bio by Fast Company:

Mattrick is married to a Canadian Telecom heiress (Nanon de Gaspe Beaubien-Mattrick) and earned $21 million from EA stock options alone. His home, the largest in British Columbia, is worth an estimated $28 million. Among its amenities is a 10-car garage, which Mattrick, who bought his first Ferrari before he turned 20 with some of the proceeds from his first game sale, has filled. When I ask him exactly how many cars he owns, he just smiles. “A dozen?” I ask. “Ish,” he replies, acknowledging his taste for not only Ferraris but also Lamborghinis and Lotuses. Mattrick only reinforces this reputation of being “not present enough,” in the words of one former Microsoft executive, by preferring to work at home in Vancouver, where Microsoft has a gaming studio. He commutes to Redmond, when he has to be there, in a private jet.

He drops the names of people like Steven Spielberg and Wayne Gretzky. (Examples: I’m going to the game tonight with “my friend Wayne.” Or, “Steven would just drop by” to play video games.)

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 Source: Times Columnist

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