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Phil Harrison leaving? Is Atari changing strategy again?
The rebirth of Atari seems to be very painful, if the latest corporate shenanigans are anything to go by.
Today’s announcement by Atari sets out a change of senior management. Phil Harrison becomes a non-executive and Jeff Lapin (former CEO of Take-Two and representative of investors Blue Bay) becomes COO. The new executive board is:
- David Gardner, Chief Executive Office and Director
- Jeff Lapin, Chief Operating Officer and Director
- Fabrice Hamaide, Chief Financial Officer
- Jim Wilson, Chief Executive Officer at Atari, Inc.
- John Needham, Chief Executive Officer at Cryptic
This looks like a “boxed-product” board, not a “new online business” board. Even Cryptic, which is a successful MMO developer, tends to focus on the World of Warcraft-style model of a paid-for game plus a subscription, rather than the radical new world of browser- and Unity-based games that Atari previously seemed to be espousing.
The release also appears to confirm my suspicions that the delay in receiving regulatory clearance – and hence the cash payment of more than €30 million – for the disposal of Atari’s remaining stake in Distribution Partners to Namco Bandai meant that Atari did not have the cash resources to publish Ghostbusters, and had to sub-contract the game to Sony in Europe instead:
My conclusion is that David and Phil had originally thought that Atari would be a great launch pad for a new kind of online games destination, complete with a powerful and historic brand. Unfortunately, Atari may have turned to be much more dysfunctional than anyone realised and needed huge management attention to fix. As a result, Phil has not had the cash or management resources to build “a leading 21st century online gaming company”.
So he has moved on. But I suspect that the ambition to build that new 21st century games company remains as strong as ever.