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Harrison to leave Sony, join Atari?

Sources have indicated to <i>GamesIndustry.biz</i> that the head of Sony Worldwide Studios, Phil Harrison, who will leave the company at the end of this week, is set to leave the company and join Atari in the near future.

Sources have indicated to GamesIndustry.biz that the head of Sony Worldwide Studios, Phil Harrison, who will leave the company at the end of this week, is to join Atari in the near future.

Harrison, who recently expressed his frustration at Sony Japan's lack of foresight on the casual games front - ceding ground to Nintendo in the process - will apparently join up with ex-EA executive David Gardner and spearhead Atari's push into the casual space.

While at Sony, Harrison - one of the most respected people in the games industry worldwide - has overseen a large number of high-profile successes, including titles such as EyeToy, SingStar and the forthcoming PlayStation Home project.

That talent for spotting and evolving more mainstream products on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 platforms would be most welcome to a company that previously indicated that it would re-focus its business on the online and casual games spaces.

And following the departure of former CEO Patrick Leleu recently, his replacement, David Gardner, who arrived in January, has stated his ambition of seeing the Atari brand back in favour following a lengthy troubled spell for the iconic publisher.

"My goal is to help rebuild that passion around the company," said Gardner. "First, with the employees and then very quickly to spread it virally on the internet to millions of new customers. I have a personal challenge to create a world-class company that is European in flavour but reaches global markets.

"This will take some time of course, but here we have fantastic gaming DNA formed at the birth of the industry, access to creative talent and a company with the working capital to make the necessary investments to realise this vision," he added.

If Harrison does make the move to Atari it would be a massive shot in the arm for the publisher, and a sure sign to investors that the board is very serious indeed about the prospects for recovery.

Kaz Hirai, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment International will assume Harrison's duties, and said in a statement: "As one of the founding members of SCE, Phil played a key role in the development and growth of the PlayStation business and our industry."

"It is sad to see him departing from SCE, but I wish to express my gratitude for his many invaluable contributions and also wish Phil the very best of luck in his future endeavors."

Harrison, who has not yet confirmed his possible move to Atari, added: "The past 15 years at Sony Computer Entertainment has been the defining journey of my life so far.

"I am grateful to all the PlayStation family for their incredible support, guidance and friendship. It has been a privilege to serve as part of the team and be inspired by them on a daily basis.

"I am so proud of everything PlayStation has achieved and will continue to support its future in every way I can."

UPDATE: There was some confusion previously over Atari Inc and the Infogrames companies, which are not the same entity. David Pearce was the former CEO of Atari Inc, while David Gardner replaced Patrick Leleu at Infogrames. It is Infogrames that is the possible destination for Mr Harrison, not Atari Inc. GamesIndustry.biz would like to apologise for any confusion arising from this.

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