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Ed Fries leaves Microsoft

From intern to vice president of games publishing in 18 years.

Ed Fries, vice president of games publishing at Microsoft Game Studios and second only in the Xbox hierarchy to Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach, is leaving the company to pursue other goals after 18 years of loyal service.

Friends and colleagues were informed of Fries' departure in a letter from Bach, who told them "it is with regret that I inform you that I have reluctantly accepted Ed's resignation." CNN/Money reveals that the departure comes after months of discussions between Fries and Bach. Microsoft was so keen to hold onto him, in fact, that they offered to change his job responsibilities to convince him to stay, but the two parties could not reach an agreement.

Microsoft Game Studios' chief operating officer Shame Kim, himself a 14-year veteran of the company, has stepped into Fries' role for the time being. Bach told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes to announce a permanent replacement before E3 in May. "We're going to look at things over the next 30, maybe as long as 90, days," he said.

Fries' is the highest profile Microsoft Game Studios figure to leave the company since Seamus Blackley departed in 2002, and will be sorely missed. "Because of Ed's efforts, Microsoft Game Studios has never been stronger," said Bach. "Although we'll miss Ed, we hope he takes this opportunity to sit back, relax, and allow himself a moment to relish the contribution he's made to the company and the industry. We wish him the very best, and look forward to Shane carrying forth the sceptre of excellence and innovation."

Fries was the chief architect of Microsoft's first party software strategy for Xbox, and rose to prominence as a key figure in the launch of the console, orchestrating the acquisitions of Bungie, Rare and Ensemble Studios during his time at MSGS, and guiding the production of key series like Flight Simulator, Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, MechAssault, Crimson Skies, the Project Gotham Racing games and of course Halo.

All of which is a far cry from what he got up to on his first days at Microsoft in 1985, when he began as an intern in the Applications group, responsible for upgrading a system used to create and display online tutorials. In contrast, his successor at Microsoft Game Studios, which he joined in 1995, will inherit the responsibility for more than 1200 programmers, designers, artists and producers across several continents that he leaves behind.

Speaking to CNN/Money, Fries shed a little light on the circumstances surrounding his departure. "For me, I'm looking for a situation where I have a lot of freedom around the development of our products and the way those products come to market," he said. "I've had some of that to date, but not as much as I would like."

"I'm very grateful to everything Microsoft has done for me," he said. "The closest thing I can relate this to is graduation. It's exciting to go on to something new but it's sad to leave at the same time."

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