He will remain at Microsoft through the summer and help transition his responsibilities before taking on a new role outside of the company. Mr. Bell wouldn't elaborate on the new position, which is expected to be announced in early fall.
In a statement, he said: "The time is right for me to pursue my life's passion of consumer brand marketing and the creative and services that drive it. Coming from automotive, and now technology and entertainment, I am excited to expand to new industries and categories."
In the interim, Mr. Bell's day-to-day product-marketing responsibilities will be tackled by Matt Barlow, general manager-business group global marketing; Charlotte Suyvenberg, general manager-global marketing communications; and Jim Merrick, senior director-marketing and consumer strategy. Mr. Bell's departure was announced with a series of internal moves: Shane Kim will assume the new role of corporate VP-strategy and business development in the interactive entertainment business and six-year game studio veteran Phil Spencer will lead all first-party development and publishing. Both will report to Don Mattrick, senior VP-interactive entertainment business.
Mr. Bell, an Oklahoma City native, came to Microsoft from Chrysler, where he oversaw advertising for the Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler brands since 2001. He was known as a sharp marketer who wasn't afraid to push the envelope. At Chrysler he moved quickly, reviewing its urban marketing and pressuring BBDO, Troy, Mich. to up its game.
As corporate VP-global marketing for Microsoft's interactive entertainment business, Mr. Bell championed the role that games play as part of a larger marketing plan. While at Chrysler, his games strategy resulted in the development of more than 40 online games and a user base of more than 3 million.
Since he'd been at Microsoft, Mr. Bell had actively used games as a marketing tool as well as in-game ads to reach particularly the Xbox target.
In a recent CMO roundtable hosted by Ad Age that focused on media fragmentation, scale and interactivity, Mr. Bell talked passionately about what he saw as "this movement toward greater fragmentation and greater focus on individual and the one" in media.
"Technology today, whether it's a cellular phone or it's an iPod, it's all becoming increasingly fragmented and about individuals consuming media individually," he said. "I think we're going to see that people are tiring of the fact that the family does not sit down together as a family and consume television. The content itself to me is fundamentally not drawing together community."
He added, "We believe that there is a watershed moment occurring in interactive entertainment, and it's fundamentally being led by physical play. So today, a 'Rock Band' or a 'Guitar Hero' is the Twister of the 21st century; it's a chance for people to come together and laugh and to enjoy content together."
Contributing: Andrew Hampp, Jennifer Rooney