The veteran Microsoft executive who headed the company’s push into console video game software and is credited with launching hits like the PC favorite “Flight Simulator” and “Halo” for the Xbox has resigned, Microsoft said on Tuesday.
Ed Fries, who joined Microsoft in 1985 as an intern, had headed the company’s game studio since 1995 and was responsible for cementing key relationships with game software publishers when Microsoft introduced its Xbox video game console.
Robbie Bach, senior vice president of Microsoft’s games division, said that Fries had resigned to pursue other opportunities but might return to the video game business and possibly in some future alliance with Microsoft.
Bach told Reuters that he hoped to name a permanent replacement for Fries before E3, the video game industry trade show in May. “We’re going to look at things over the next 30, maybe as long as 90, days,” he said.
Shane Kim, chief operating officer for the game studios, will replace Fries until a successor is named.
“Frankly, I think the biggest challenge is when you lose someone of Ed’s stature, the important thing is for there not to be a vacuum of leadership,” Kim told Reuters.
Bach has said the games division has just had its best holiday on record, boosted by sales of Microsoft Game Studios-published games “Project Gotham Racing 2,” “Crimson Skies” and “Counter-Strike.”
Fries joined Microsoft’s game studio in 1995 when the company had only a PC game software operation and remained years away from a major presence in the console market.
He was credited with overall responsibility for key franchises like the PC titles “Flight Simulator” and “Age of Empires” and the Xbox smash “Halo.” The Xbox launched in November 2001.
Fries is the highest-profile Microsoft games executive to leave the company since Seamus Blackley, the co-creator of the Xbox, who resigned in 2002. He later co-founded a game development financing company and currently works at Hollywood talent firm the Creative Artists Agency.