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Top exec exits Microsoft vidgames unit

Fries ankles 19-year career at software giant

Microsoft’s No. 2 vidgame exec, VP of game publishing Ed Fries, has ankled for undisclosed reasons.

Fries had been with the tech giant since 1985, when he started as an intern. As second-in-command of Microsoft’s gaming division, reporting to Xbox chief Robbie Bach, Fries oversaw development of games for the PC, Internet and Xbox under the Microsoft Games banner.

He also signed up a number of publishers, including Electronic Arts and Activision, to make games for the Xbox when it debuted in 2001, helping push Microsoft’s first entry in the console market to second place behind Sony’s PlayStation 2.

No permanent successor was named, but Fries’ temporary replacement is Shane Kim, who had been chief operating officer of Microsoft Game Studio, working directly under Fries.

“Ed leaves Microsoft Game Studios on a solid path with a great strategy,” Bach said in an email announcing the move.

It’s not the only exec shift to take place in the gaming world of late. Game publisher Namco Hometek, the U.S. subsid of Japanese vidgame giant Namco, named a new VP of research and upped three of its top officers.

Nobuhiro Kasahara, previously president of Namco Hometek, was upped to CEO. Other promotions were Robert Ennis, who was named chief financial officer on top of his chief operating officer duties, and Garry Cole, previously head of North American sales, now is exec VP of sales.

They’re being joined by Rod Nakamoto, who was veep of production at Vivendi Universal Games, which recently underwent layoffs and an executive overhaul (Daily Variety, Jan. 13). Nakamoto becomes VP of research and development, overseeing company’s internal and external game development.

Namco is publisher of the hit “Soul Caliber” and “Tekken” titles, among other games.

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