Harrison says <i>oui</i> to Atari

Recently departed Sony Worldwide Studios chief taking new gig as president and general director of troubled publisher's parent Infogrames.

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Phil Harrison must like a challenge. Why else would the executive resign his post as president of Worldwide Studios at Sony--where he had worked for 16 years--just as the PlayStation 3's fortunes seem to be improving? And why then would he take on one of the most unenviable tasks in the game industry: turning around Atari, the once-mighty publisher that has seen itself drown in red ink for the past several years?

Why is this man smiling?
Why is this man smiling?

Questions may still linger about Harrison's exit from Sony last week, but rumors of him jumping ship to Atari have now been confirmed. Today, Atari's parent company Infogrames SA announced that the executive has signed on to be its president and director general, effective immediately. He will report to David Gardner, Infogrames' recently installed CEO.

"I am pleased to welcome Phil to Infogrames," Gardner said in a statement. "He has an outstanding reputation in the industry, as one of the key leaders behind the success of PlayStation. We have been seeking an opportunity to work together for some time and I am certain he will be able to make a significant contribution to [Atari's] publishing strategy."

Indeed, Harrison's main duties at Infogrames will be to "lead group publishing and game development into the network era." Harrison's task may prove a Sisyphean one: In mid-February, the French company's New York-based Atari subsidiary reported it lost $300,000 on a 13 percent revenue slide during the quarter ended December 31, 2007. The lackluster report came three months after Atari--which is facing delisting on the Nasdaq exchange--itself said it has "substantial doubt about [its] ability to continue as a going concern."

For his part, Harrison is unfazed by Atari's woes. "This is the perfect time to join Infogrames and help shape the future of Atari, one of the industry's legendary brands," he professed in a statement. "As the game business moves rapidly online, I believe we have an outstanding opportunity to create amazing network game and community experiences for players the world over."

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