Hidden away in a Sony Online Entertainment press released issued at close of business Pacific time yesterday is the shock news that Ed Fries, former head of games for the Xbox project, has joined the Internet-focussed Sony offshoot.
The news comes as SOE opens a new studio in Seattle, right on Nintendo's and, more importantly, Microsoft’s doorstep.
The press release reads, “Matt Wilson will serve as Executive Producer of SOE-Seattle. Wilson had been with Microsoft for over 10 years, leaving to form FireAnt, Inc. with John Smith, Alex Pfaffe, Craig Link and Ed Fries in order to create cutting-edge massively multiplayer online games,” which, given the profile of Fries, indicates that Sony clearly wants to keep the appointment as low-key as possible.
As Fries was with the Xbox project from the off, his knowledge of Xbox Live will be exemplary, albeit with the recent 12 month hole since his departure from Microsoft. Although Fries will certainly have non-compete clauses hanging over him, it’s highly likely that Microsoft’s legal team will be watching what emerges from SOE with great interest.
It’s also worth pointing out that Sony Online Entertainment has had almost nothing to do with Sony Computer Entertainment, holder of the PlayStation brand. Given rumblings from the top of the corporation regarding closer co-operation between internal departments, this move could well be the start of a more focussed, dare we say it Xbox Live-inspired approach to online console gaming across the PlayStation brand.
Stay tuned for updates on this interesting piece over the coming weeks.