Division to be integrated into Computer Ent.
Big changes continued at Sony Pictures Digital on Thursday as its vidgame division Sony Online Entertainment left the studio and was re-aligned with the conglom’s Playstation group.Move comes just a day after Sony Pictures Digital topper Yair Landau announced plans to ankle in April. With the unit’s primary asset, f/x shop Imageworks, also up for sale, confluence of events raises significant questions about the future of SPD. Unit also oversees Sony Pictures Animation, which works closely with Imageworks and shares many of the same artists and technology, and the studio’s websites. A source at Sony Pictures Digital said some clarity on the future structure and direction of the division will be coming shortly. Though the timing has raised eyebrows, integration of Sony Online into Sony Computer Entertainment, which runs the PlayStation business, make organizational sense. Best known for its pioneering online game “Everquest,” SOE is one of the leading makers of multi-player PC vidgames and has also expanded into console titles recently. Unit was long championed by Landau, but has never been closely tied to the rest of Sony Pictures. In fact in recent years it has worked much more closely with Sony Computer Entertainment, building much of the technology for the PlayStation 3’s online network as well as making games for the PS3 and PSP. Sony Online Entertainment topper John Smedley will now report directly to SCE head Kaz Hirai instead of Landau. “I am excited to be able to work with SOE even more closely, as online games and services become a more integral part of the PS3 entertainment experience,” Hirai said in a statement. Nothing is expected to change for San Diego-based SOE as a result of the realignment. In addition to continuing to operate online games like “Everquest” and “Star Wars Galaxies,” it recently released “Pirates of the Burning Sea” and is making spy game “The Agency” for PCs and the PS3, as well as a multi-player online game based on DC superheroes and one based on Virgin Comics property “Ramayan 3392” aimed at the fast- growing Indian market.