Game changes at Microsoft as vp Moore exits

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In a move that caught the video game industry by surprise, a key Microsoft Corp. executive overseeing operations of its Xbox 360 said Tuesday that he will leave the firm to take over the sports division at top game publisher Electronic Arts.

Peter Moore, corporate vp interactive entertainment business at Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, is departing less than a week after he served as the public face of Xbox 360 during the E3 Media & Business Summit in Santa Monica, where he touted the console's ability to attract mass-market and hard-core gamers and its introduction of TV and film downloads via Xbox Live Marketplace.

Microsoft immediately said that Moore will be replaced by Don Mattrick, a former EA executive who had been working on video games at Microsoft for the past six months.

Critics have contended that Microsoft has failed to take advantage of the stumbling launch of the PlayStation 3 by rival Sony Corp., and now both consolemakers find themselves trying to head off the momentum Nintendo has with its Wii home console and DS portable system.

Microsoft also recently has been plagued by a large number of faulty Xbox 360 consoles, forcing the company to take a charge of up to $1.2 billion. But the company vehemently denied that Moore, the former head at Sega of America, is being forced out.

"Peter's family is in the Bay Area, he has a son at Berkeley, and he wanted to get back to them," Microsoft spokesman David Dennis said, adding that Moore's departure will not trigger a change in company strategy regarding the Xbox. "We believe we have a great strategy in place, and we're just going to continue to execute on it."

IDC games analyst Billy Pidgeon said that Mattrick, who formally will take over as senior vp Microsoft on July 30, is a good choice to replace Moore.

"Mattrick is a really good executor and will help them attract development talent and build up the organization," he said. "But who are they going to get to replace Peter on the marketing side?"

Even Microsoft conceded that Moore's departure will hurt. "Peter has contributed enormously to the games business since joining Microsoft in 2003, and we are sad to see him go," said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division. "Since that time, he presided over the global launch of the Xbox 360, spearheaded a revitalized and reframed Games for Windows business and helped steer the console's ascent."
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