Phil Harrison….GONE from Sony? Wow.

Engadget is reporting that Sony Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison is…well, gone. And not a week after the Game Developer’s conference, where he apparently said some ‘not so nice’ words about Sony’s Senior Management and their inability to respond to what he felt was an obvious trend of more mass market gaming. During his tenure, Sony showed signs of coming around with things like Home, PlayStation Eye and future potential of the device, Buzz (the buzz-in four player game) and, his big achievement, SingStar (sort of a souped-up Karaoke that’s way more popular around the world than it is here in the U.S.) Wow. I guess the less learned is, “don’t throw your boss under the bus.” But perhaps the frustration he expressed about Sony not being responsive to the mass market trend in the way that Nintendo has been came after the decision to leave. Or not. Regardless, I don’t think is exactly great for Sony.

Gaming culture is so strange to outsiders — I was talking to a friend of mine on the way home about this. She kind of looked at me and tilted her head to the side.

“Why is it such a big deal that an executive leaves the company? Does that, like, lessen the value of your PlayStation 3 any?”

“Well, no — but see, each of the gaming companies have these ‘hype men’. They make you feel good about owning your system. They speak directly to the concerns of the constituency. For Sony folks, he was kinda that guy….

“I still don’t get it.”

And she’s not alone. Honestly, I kinda don’t understand why it should mean that much to us either — but it does. Because consoles have this need to continuously make you feel good about what you’ve bought….and then sell you on the future direction of the box, this not only has to depress some Sony folks, but it outright has to concern some. Losing Phil is big because he was outspoken. Sometimes you need a guy to just give it to you as straight as he possibly can, coming just short of violating any SEC rules. And Phil was that guy for the PlayStation. Quite honestly, over the years he was the only guy. Kaz Hirai comes out, but he can bore you to tears with all of the business speak. Even though he can laugh at his “Riiiidge Racer!” comment made at the announcement of the PS3, he still is the “business guy”.

Funny thing, but Microsoft is kinda going through this same thing. When Peter Moore resigned from Microsoft and went on to work at EA, it was (and is) a big blow. Peter is incredibly charismatic. He’s a real guy. He has that unique quality of being able to speak to the concerns of gamers and the stockholders. Peter was an even better mouthpiece than was Phil. Phil was more of a cocky guy. For one, he’s about six feet nine and he walks around and talks with this unbelievable confidence. (Read: cocky). You just get the feeling when hearing the guy that he’s not going to be anywhere near a loser. Sure it’s a total fanboy sentiment, but when you’re dealing with technology that you’re going to have to live with for the next few years, you wanna hear occasionally from somebody who makes you feel comfortable about your purchase.

Regardless of the ‘fanboy’ sentimental feelings around the guy leaving, this can’t make Sony fans feel comfortable. Or stockholders for that matter. Why is a guy who is as entrenched as Phil Harrison leaving Sony? And could it have anything at all to do with lack of confidence about the future direction of the platform? How about poor progress with PlayStation Home? And speaking of Home, who are they gonna stick out there at E3 to make me feel comfortable about the progress? It can’t be Kaz. Lord, please don’t let it be Kaz.

This is a very interesting development in gaming. It should be interesting to see who they get to step in as the front man for Sony. Someone who can really speak effectively and inspire and excite gamers. Wouldn’t it be funny if Peter Moore found himself somehow in the role? Stranger things have happened….


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