Update 2: In a follow-up with US PR for Microsoft, the company stressed that Phil's hiring "is completely unrelated to Peter [Molyneux's] departure." The spokesperson added, "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. Peter's previous role as Lionhead Studio Manager is being filled by Lionhead COO Mark Webley."
Update: Microsoft has just confirmed the news. The official word is that he's been appointed corporate vice president at the Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB), tasked with growing the division's European business. He'll lead the Microsoft Studios European organization directly and will "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."
The role includes overseeing UK-based developers Lionhead Studios, Soho Productions and Rare Ltd. Harrison, who co-founded London Venture Partners, will continue as Special Advisor for the investment firm as he switches his focus to Microsoft.
"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. "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."
Original story follows:
GamesIndustry International understands that Phil Harrison, previously of Sony, Atari and London Venture Partners, is joining Microsoft as head of Microsoft Game Studios Europe.
Several sources have confirmed the appointment to GamesIndustry International separately and Microsoft is expected to confirm it publicly later today.
Harrison is expected to take direct overall responsibility for all Microsoft-owned UK studios, with a broader remit in Europe as a whole. He is also thought to be retaining an advisory role at current company London Venture Partners.
Two years ago, Harrison co-founded that company, specialising in games industry investment along with David Gardner and David Lau-Kee. Before that he was a board member of Atari, as part of the team which were recruited in an attempt to rejuvenate the flagging publisher.
Harrison's most famous role, however, is his time at Sony, where his ebullient on-stage conference performances and confident brand evangelism earned him a great deal of industry kudos and respect. GamesIndustry International looks forward to him reprising his role for Microsoft at future shows, perhaps as early as E3 2012.
More news on this as it happens.