Former PlayStation front-man Phil Harrison has joined Microsoft as head of its European Games Studios following the departure of Peter Molyneux, but Microsoft has insisted he hasn’t replaced the Lionhead legend.
All-change at MGS – timeline
March 7 – Peter Molyneux, creative director of Microsoft Studios Europe and founder of Lionhead 15 years ago, leaves his job to set up indie developer 22 Cans.
March 12 – Lionhead staffers assure Fable is in good hands after Molyneux’s departure.
March 13 – Ex-Sony president of Worldwide Studios Phil Harrison joins Microsoft’s “Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) leadership team as corporate vice president with an emphasis on growing the division’s European business.” Harrison worked at Sony for 15 years and eventually headed PlayStation’s development effort in its entirety. He quit Sony to move to Atari in February 2008.
Microsoft has confirmed that Phil Harrison, formerly Sony’s head of Worldwide Studios, “has joined the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB) leadership team as corporate vice president with an emphasis on growing the division’s European business.”
The news comes after the departure of Lionhead Peter Molyneux as the creative director of Microsoft Studios Europe last week.
Microsoft has claimed the appointment is “completely unrelated to Peter’s departure.”
A spokesperson added: “Phil will lead Microsoft Studios European organization, but will also influence the broader performance of IEB’s European business. We will continue to rely on our stable of first party developers as we determine if and when the Microsoft Studios Europe creative director vacancy should be filled”
Harrison will lead the Microsoft Studios European organisation directly, and will “also influence the broader performance of IEB’s European business through strategic partnerships and by bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future.”
Microsoft pegged Harrison’s experience with mobile and social games as a plus,. He is now in charge of Lionhead Studios, Soho Productions and Rare.
“I am excited to be joining the senior team at Microsoft at a pivotal time for our industry,” said Harrison. “I am really impressed with the company’s long-term vision for growing the market for interactive entertainment globally and also with the incredible wealth of talent, technology and resources the company has available to succeed.”
“We are honored to have Phil join a team that boasts a wealth of talent from across the industry,” said Phil Spencer, corporate vice president at Microsoft Studios.
“Phil is one of video gaming’s true visionaries, and his experience overseeing global studios and deep industry relationships make him the ideal person to lead our European efforts. Under his leadership, we look forward to continuing cultivating the best talent and growing our business in the region.”
“Phil has played an instrumental role in shaping modern console history through his keen insights into both hardware and software strategy,” said Don Mattrick, president, Interactive Entertainment Business.
“Phil’s role on the IEB leadership team is completely unrelated to Peter’s departure. Phil will lead Microsoft Studios European organization, but will also influence the broader performance of IEB’s European business.”
“His addition to our leadership team will impact our global business in innumerable ways, as he aligns our studio development and growing portfolio of entertainment experiences in Europe to drive our continued growth worldwide.”
Harrison will take over the position vacated by Peter Molyneux, who announced his departure for 22 Cans during GDC last week.
A partner at London Venture Partners for the last two years, Harrison was involved with games investment after tenures at both Atari and Sony.
Phil was a front-facing figure at Sony for many years, eventually rising to the position of president of Worldwide Studios.
He personally announced many PlayStation initiatives, such as Home and LittleBigPlanet, and was a familiar face in Sony press conferences. He was part of the notorious “599 US dollars” conference at E3 2006.
He sensationally quit Sony on February 25, 2008, after 15 years at the firm, saying his time with the company had been “the defining journey of my life so far.”
SingStar boss Paulina Bozek followed Harrison from Sony to Atari in September 2008.
Harrison, Gardner and Bozek quit Atari together in April 2010.