Talk about crossing the aisle.
Microsoft today announced that it has hired Phil Harrison, former president of Sony’s worldwide game studios. Harrison will be the Xbox group’s top executive in Europe and oversee Microsoft’s three game studios in the U.K.
In its announcement, Microsoft called Harrison a “video games luminary.” After leaving Sony he was president of Atari, board member of Infogrames and general partner of London Venture Partners. He’ll continue to advise the venture firm.
Here’s how Microsoft describes Harrison’s role in its Interactive Entertainment business group:
As the senior IEB leader in Europe, Phil will not only lead the Microsoft Studios European organization directly, but 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.
Harrison’s come around. Back in 2006, when he was launching the PlayStation 3, he said Sony’s Linux-based console did most of the things you do with a Windows PC. He told Der Spiegel that “The PlayStation 3 is a computer. We do not need the PC.”
Later, in early 2007, Harrison also acknowledged publicly some of Sony’s mistakes around the PS3 launch. That experience could be helpful as Microsoft gears up to launch the next Xbox.
Among the studios Harrison will oversee is Lionhead, producer of the “Fable” franchise.
Lionhead was co-founded by another video game luminary, Peter Molyneaux, who was the creative head of Microsoft’s European studios until he quit last week.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said via email that Harrison’s hiring “is completely unrelated to Peter’s departure.” She noted that Microsoft may still fill the European creative director position vacated by Molyneaux, and Molyneaux’s position as Lionhead manager as filled by its chief operating officer, Mark Webley.