SOE folded into SCE, Landau exits

Formerly semi-independent MMOG specialist now officially part of Sony Computer Entertainment; Sony Pictures exec departs.

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During last year's E3 Media & Business Summit, Sony Computer Entertainment had more than a few industry watchers scratching their heads on the announcement that South Korea-based massively multiplayer online aficionados NCsoft had been signed on to create games for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable. Sony, after all, already has its own internal online-focused studio, Sony Online Entertainment, and the announcement left some to question the future of the MMOG publishing house.

However, it now seems as if SCE has no intention of distancing itself from the MMOG publisher after all. Far from it, given that Sony announced today that SOE would now report directly to SCE group president and CEO Kazuo Hirai as of April 1. Previously, San Diego-based SOE was a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

According to today's announcement, SOE's integration into the Japanese giant's computer-entertainment business will "mutually benefit both companies by further accelerating the PlayStation business through SOE's strong online-gaming expertise." SCE also plans to keep SOE on the MMOG beat, developing games for the PC and PS3. SOE president John Smedley will retain his role at the publisher, reporting now to Hirai.

SOE's stable of games has grown dramatically in the past year. In addition to flagship titles EverQuest, EverQuest 2, Star Wars Galaxies, and Planetside, the publisher has picked up the publishing rights to Flying Lab Software's Pirates of the Burning Sea and Virgin Comics' Ramayan 3392 A.D., and also announced its in-house-developed espionage-themed MMOG The Agency for the PS3 and PC.

SOE's "strategic" departure from Sony Pictures Entertainment isn't the only shake-up at the Hollywood production studio today. According to The Hollywood Reporter, longtime Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Yair Landau, who presided over SOE among several other divisions of Sony's film business, announced he would be ending his 17-year tenure with the company as of April.

Landau has been instrumental in the marrying of Sony's games and film businesses, notably brokering the Metal Gear Solid movie deal with Studio Kojima in 2006. The Hollywood Reporter notes that Landau plans to continue in the games and animation space, with the exec saying, "Online entertainment from all formats--(be it) animation, live-action games on the PS3--is going to be relevant to what I do."

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