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Harrison joins Microsoft as Interactive Entertainment Business leader

Former Sony executive and investment guru to lead European games biz - UPDATE: Microsoft confirms

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 will step into the role vacated by ex-Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux, who announced his departure last week to join indie start-up 22-Cans.

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.

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Latest comments (17)

I suppose enough time has elapsed that Phil can go straight into the arms of microsoft?
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Rachel Weber Senior Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
Really exciting for Microsoft, so much of the interesting stuff that appeared on PlayStation, LittleBigPlanet, Flower, was a direct result of Mr Harrison.
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James Brightman Editor, North America, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
I've always enjoyed talking to Phil. He's a very savvy games person and should be enormously helpful to Microsoft's Xbox strategy.
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Show all comments (17)
Dan Pearson Product Marketing Manager, Genvid9 years ago
Phil and Peter occupy very different parts of the executive spectrum for me, but I'm very pleased to see them both adopting their new roles. Both have a zeal and vision which is rare in any field, but especially welcome in ours.

Can't wait for E3!
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent9 years ago
I am happy about this.

I have always enjoyed chatting with Phil.

And then... there was that time in Paris...
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Microsoft buys Rare, Sega goes 3rd party and puts games on Nintendo platforms, Phil Harrison joins Microsoft.

One can never say the behind the scenes action of our industry does not throw us unexpected curve balls every now and then.
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Ben Furneaux Principal Designer 9 years ago
Considering how hard Phil has been banging the mobile/social drum in the last few years I'd half expected him to end up at somewhere like ngmoco or Zynga. Perhaps that'll be his focus at MS...
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Joel Benton Vice President Business Development, Fuse Games9 years ago
That boy gets around! Very exciting for MS - Phil is an incredibly charismatic leader. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with in his new role.
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Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
Great moves for both Phil and Peter. From my perspective, these new roles will make better use of their distinct and considerable talents.
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Matthew Handrahan European Deputy Editor, GamesIndustry.biz9 years ago
Also, @Dan Howdle - Good to hear from you, buddy. Hope you're well.
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Kyle Rowley Associate Design Director, CD Projekt RED9 years ago
Very much respect Phil Harrison. A good hire for Microsoft fo'shure.
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Steven Pick Lead Graphic Designer, Atomhawk Design9 years ago
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Tim Browne Game Studio Design Director, King.com9 years ago
I think Ben's point about social gaming could very much be on the money.

I did wonder what would happen after the announcement of Peter Molyneux leaving his position and it was very quickly answered.
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Fyzard Brown Sales Associate, VideoGameAdvantage9 years ago
Can I have Killer Instinct now.
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Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire9 years ago
Ahh, he's playing Industry Pokemon, Apple next? :-)
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 9 years ago
When Sony lost Phil they lost a guy who really cared about originality and gameplay. It hurt them and it showed. Sadly that's how Japanese business works. they rarely value the outside thinkers and have only recently (last 5 years I'd say) begun to realise why they need them so badly.
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Well, here is hoping Phil can bring back originality and something decent to the current stable of MS games. Or at least provide strong visionary leadership and consolidate the technological, software and storytelling/gameplay aspect of things.
i.e original IP
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