"Atari is gaming's best opportunity" - Phil Harrison

First speech from new president.

12 hours after being unveiled as the president of Infogrames, Phil Harrison this morning delivered his first speech to colleagues and key press in Manhattan's Ritz-Carlton hotel.

After an informal introduction by new CEO David Gardner, who spoke of "the vision Phil and I have been sharing and really enjoy, the idea of the future of a network-centric gaming world", Harrison described Atari as "the best opportunity that exists in the industry today to redefine, refocus and re-energise an incredible brand, an incredible group of people towards that networked future."

Explaining why he quit his former role as head of PlayStation development, he pointed to "the things that excited me the most, the things that turned me on as a gamer, and as a business person, and as a creative person were the future of our industry, the connected community experiences - all the things we're starting to see emerge that are really exciting players around the world.

"And those are the things I started thinking about in terms of creating a company or getting involved with a company to really shape and direct a business towards that future."

During the relaxed session, both Gardner and Harrison were keen to stress that their ambitious plans for the rebirth of Atari would also be "fun", the former EA exec insisting he did not want to "create a big corporate entity", with Harrison - who, like Gardner, was notably suitless and tieless, jesting: "as you can see David and I are the suits".

Harrison closed by talking up Eden Studios' Alone in the Dark, itself a bold rebirth of a classic brand. As Eurogamer revealed yesterday, Harrison arrived at Atari's New York HQ hours before the announcement of his new role, with one of his first tasks to sit down with Eden for a private demo of the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Gardner added: "This product will really make it clear where we're going, from a technology point of view, and a product quality point of view."

Since you're probably interested, here's the full transcript of Gardner and Harrison's introduction:

David Gardner: It's a pleasure to be able to welcome you personally. As you know I joined Atari at the end of January - well, actually, I joined Infogrames, just to continue the confusion - as the chief executive. And I spent about 25 years in the computer games business, most of that time with Electronic Arts, where I started in California but very quickly moved to Europe to get it started up there. I had such an emotional time, such a great time - my wife is English, my kids were born in Europe - that I wanted to move back.

I quit Electronic Arts in August last year and went back to Europe, and I found a great adventure to join Atari. I know a lot of people have asked me, why have I been interested in joining Infogrames/Atari a company with also a great history and heritage. But what I found was a great collection of assets to help with the vision Phil and I have been sharing and really enjoy, the idea of the future of a network-centric gaming world. If I think about the Atari brand and the emotional response you get when you see that Mount Fuji logo, it's a great place to start. It's the home of where gaming was invented, it brings so many positive connotations about what it should feel like when you're playing games.

I thought about the franchise, and I thought about the people, a lot of whom have stayed together over they years, a lot of hard years, and starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, and this product [Alone in the Dark] will really make it clear where we're going, from a technology point of view, and a product quality point of view. But I think it really puts together a great collection of people assets, product assets and the brand, together with a company that's recently been recapitalised so they have a good financial situation to invest in the future.

So for me that was why I was really excited to get to do that and really to have fun - to not create a big corporate entity, but to really create the sense of gaming throughout the company culture as well and that's why it's fun for me to be chief executive and to help that company culture come alive.

I just wanted to leave a few minutes for Phil to say hello, as he just joined the company yesterday as you may have seen - it seemed to be well rumoured. They even seemed to know we were going on a plane together to New York, so somehow you guys are so wired into the world, Google seems to be our best friend and worst enemy, but Phil, maybe you want to say hi.

Phil Harrison: Thank you, David. It's a great pleasure to be here. As you may know I had a different job last Friday, and I have a new job today. After 15 years at Sony Computer Entertainment, where I had the chance to be part of something really special, and I'm incredibly proud of everything that company has achieved, the things that excited me the most, the things that turned me on as a gamer, and as a business person, and as a creative person were the future of our industry, the connected community experiences. All the things we're starting to see emerge that are really exciting players around the world. And those are the things I started thinking about in terms of creating a company or getting involved with a company to really shape and direct a business towards that future.

David and I have been talking about this for a long time and the Atari opportunity is the best opportunity that exists in the industry today to redefine, refocus and re-energise an incredible brand, an incredible group of people towards that networked future. And to do it in a fun way - as you can see David and I are the suits, and we're looking forward to working with a tremendous group of people all around the world, not just here in the US, over in France and all our countries around the world. Eden Studios have got an incredible presentation to show you today. I had the privilege of seeing it yesterday, and I think David [Nadal, game director] and Nour [Polloni, producer] are really going to impress you with the production values and the compelling story they have put into this game. And I'm looking forward to hearing your reaction and feedback, and looking forward to spending more time with you over the months and years to come. But since today is all about Alone in the Dark, I think we should get on with the presentation. Thanks very much.

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Johnny Minkley

Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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