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Archive for March, 2008

Retari

Phil HarrisonIn a move that felt eerily similar to Peter Moore leaving Microsoft for EA, Phil Harrison left Sony Computer Entertainment last week, and immediately resurfaced as the President of Infogrames (ok, he’s actually the Directeur Général Délégué, but let’s not split hairs here). Just about everyone saw Harrison’s departure from Sony coming a mile away – we saw a lot less of him in the news cycle lately, and he was openly critical of Sony brass and their aversion to community-based gaming at GDC in February.

I’ll be honest though, Infogrames is just about the last place I expected Harrison to end up. For a guy that thumps the “let’s all play online together” bible so hard, it seems like Nintendo, Microsoft or EA would be a better fit. Especially considering all three just announced their indie games initiatives. And there are always publishers like Ubisoft, MTV Games and Take 2 that could really use a known personality like Harrison to bring in top-notch talent and keep shareholders from thinking too hard about a re-org or complete takeover.

Ultimately, Infogrames’ fate is bound tightly to its single biggest asset, Atari. And when was the last time Atari was truly relevant (outside of the novelty, retro T-shirt arena)?

2600Sure, Atari will always hold a special place in the hearts of veteran gamers, and every “history of videogames” book/magazine article/made-for-tv movie starts with Nolan Bushnell and Atari. I’ll never forget spending my formative gamer years with Pac-Man, Frogger, Ghostbusters and Donkey Kong on a 2600. Unfortunately, modern-day Atari is barely recognizable from those heady days of one-button joysticks and hardware with faux wood paneling.

Atari’s output has been… schizophrenic in recent history. In the last few months, The Witcher was nominated for a Game Developers’ Award at GDC, their licensed Jenga title wasted a great, practically-made-for-the-Wii license with shoddy execution, and My Horse & Me, uh, came out. And who could forget their history of over-hyped disappointments like the games based on the Matrix movies (even that one where you played as Neo sucked! Why?!?!) and Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure?Neo

Long story short(er), turning around Atari is no small task. As crazy as it may sound, I think Phil H might just have a shot. It wouldn’t be the first time a has-been member of the old guard reclaimed its former glory. After all, the GameCube held a distant third place throughout the entire previous console generation, and now Nintendo prints money.

Beyond all that, Harrison’s shown himself to be an all-around smart guy, and is really progressive about stuff like online delivery, downloadable value-add content, and community interaction. Personally, I’d love to see him pull it off.

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