You might recognize the name Don Mattrick. He served as President of Worldwide Studios at Electronic Arts, among other roles at the company, before joining Microsoft as Senior Vice President of the Entertainment and Devices Division in 2007. Eventually promoted to Pesident of the Interactive Entertainment Business, he ran such projects as the Xbox line at the company. After leaving Microsoft, he assumed the role of CEO at the embattled mobile game company Zynga, creators of the FarmVille phenomena, among others.
But he got his start in the game business by co-founding Distinctive Software in 1982, at the tender age of 17. Mattrick is standing on the right, pictured with his partner in the company, Jeff Sember.
From left: Jeff Sember and Don Mattrick
In this image they are showing off their game Evolution, on the Apple II. As a kind of primordial Spore (software superstar Will Wright’s treatise on the subject, released in 2008), the game has players guiding an entity as a one-celled protozoan to tadpole to rodent to beaver to gorilla to, ultimately, Man. Another big hit for Distinctive were the Test Drive games, hit driving game for the C64, Apple II and PC DOS. Racing games would become a speciality of the company.
During the lead-up and launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One console in 2013, Mattrick became a whipping boy for the gaming community due to the draconian DRM scheme that saddled the console. Initially, trading or selling games was severely restricted on Microsoft’s unit. Particularly in memes created using the photo used as a featured image in this post, Mattrick and the Xbox were savaged. A tremendous outcry from players, as well as some brilliant positioning from Sony, eventually caused Microsoft to remove these restrictions.
From the Apple II to the Xbox consoles. What a long, strange trip it’s been for Don Mattrick.
Ad for Evolution, 1983