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The Biggest Stories Of The Week (July 6, 2013)

We hope you all had a fantastic Independence Day. Even if you aren't an American, you were able to celebrate with us as we recounted our tales of games that consumed huge portions of our lives. If you didn't get a chance to check out our Time Sinks series, there's no better time than right after you finish this week's recap.

If you haven't been by this week, as you're looking through the recap, you'll notice a new section in our news stories. It's called "Our Take" and we've got an explanation of how it works.

 

Don Mattrick leaves Xbox team for Zynga.

Following an utterly atrocious set of missteps that started at the Xbox One reveal in May and continued through E3 2013, one of the top executives on the Xbox team has departed Microsoft. Don Mattrick, now former president of the interactive entertainment business, will be starting in his new role as CEO of Zynga on Monday.

Mattrick is, in part, responsible for masses of angry gamers who were incensed by a perceived assault on ownership rights and flippant remarks about those that simply didn't have the means to comply with frequent online check-ins. While some have joked that he's jumping from the frying pan to the fire, it's become clear why (at least in part) he made this move.

His compensation package is $50 million dollars (over $17 million in year one). It's also worth remembering that Zynga just laid off over 500 employees.

Microsoft has been rumored to be headed toward an organizational shakeup. In combination with the bad press, this was the right time for Mattrick to bow out. Reportedly, he would have been tapped to head up a new hardware division that would also be responsible for the Surface tablet line, which apparently is not in line with what he wants. Should this reorganization happen as we expect, it will separate hardware development and the elements that surround it from developer relations, a key component of building a successful gaming platform.

Right now, it appears that current Windows chief Julie Larson-Green will be elevated to lead that hardware division. The head of Skype, Tony Bates, would be responsible for the software side, handling deals with developers and publishers. This seems to fracture the interactive entertainment business, which would be folly. The Xbox brand has been spread in so many directions that the one thing it needs right now is focus. It also needs leadership that understands the market and someone to whom the consumer base can relate. 

Regardless of his position in the company post-reorganization, Phil Spencer should be the face of the Xbox One. Having spoken with him, his interest in the success of the platform comes from a love of gaming. He's smart, likable, and can do one thing that so many Microsoft spokespeople have failed to do so far. He can stay on message.

Mattrick's appointment at Zynga also has ramifications for EA, who was reportedly courting him for their chief executive positions. This puts the publisher back at square one, and could push interim boss Larry Probst to stay on longer than he committed to. I expect that EA might turn inward and select Frank Gibeau, president of EA Labels, or Peter Moore, COO.

 

The case of Justin Carter and the obscene Facebook post.

There has been a lot of news lately about a 19 year old named Justin Carter. The young man was arrested for posting on someone's Facebook page that he was going to shoot up a kindergarten and someone tipped off the police, who took the matter very seriously. It turns out that Justin's father (whom police initially believed he lives with) resides 100 yards from an elementary school.

Police tracked Justin to his place of employment and arrested him. He now awaits trial for making terroristic threats, a third-degree felony that could see Carter in jail for two to eight years. 

If you haven't been following this case, you might be wondering why I'm talking about it. What I just relayed to you is exactly how police in New Braunfels, Texas are looking at this matter. The reason it's appearing on some game enthusiast outlets is because Justin was playing a game online at or around the time this comment was made.

The police do not care. It is irrelevant to their investigation. In fact, we never would have reported on this story if it hadn't been so badly misrepresented due to the originating piece, which only quotes Carter's father and not the actual statement or a representative from law enforcement involved in the case (the latter of which we spoke with extensively).

The developer of the game in question has been unfairly associated with a young man who is obviously unwise enough to make detailed and descriptive threats about harming young children mere months after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. There are those who suggest that police should never have been involved. Had police not acted and Carter were serious, we would all be asking why no one acted on the tip that came in. Whether Carter was planning on taking action or was simply making a sick joke is a matter for the courts. 

He has not been tried yet. His bond is currently set at $500,000, which is more than the family can afford, and his experience in jail has apparently been harrowing. A hearing is set for July 16 to reduce the bond and allow him out until trial.

If the investigation and evidence presented show that Carter is only guilty of making a foolish, obscene joke, then he should be set free immediately. However, none of us know the truth, and we won't until the case is presented. One thing is for sure, in the wake of a spate of violence in our schools, police find absolutely no humor in jest about harm coming to children in what should be the safest of places. These days, threatening to go on a killing spree in a school is no different than shouting "fire!" in a crowded theatre.

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