It's all sunshine and smiles at Banjo Kazooie and Viva Pinata developer Rare Ltd, according to Microsoft Game Studios VP Phil Spencer, in what I sincerely hope is a reference to that historic franchise reboot the developer has planned for E3. What's more, Microsoft has a very good feeling about its European operations in general, now presided over by former Sony man Phil Harrison.
Harrison "is somebody I've known for quite a long time," the exec told OXM's Jon Hicks at an Xbox One event for (dare we say) select media operators earlier this month, takeaways from which can be read in our definitive guide to Xbox One.
"He and I used to joke back and forth, that we're the two people on the planet who actually had some of the same job, just at different companies," Spencer recalled. "So when we could find a quiet corner at some conference, we'd either commiserate or congratulate each other. He's somebody I've respected for an awful long time. A great spokesperson, a great thought leader and great team builder, which is what I see happening right now."
Microsoft has made some significant moves in European territories of late, he went on. "We announced the creation of Lift London, a new team in London. We've just announced a new leader at Lionhead, John Needham, who has come in, he used to be the CEO of Gazillion, so we're really thinking about services and where games are going.
"Rare has never been happier as a studio," Spencer added. "I spent some time up there." And how did you spend your time there, Phil? Playing games like this one?
Harrison's experience at Venture Partners and Atari together with his wide range of developer contacts outside the UK have been invaluable. "He is very well travelled in studios outside of the UK and knows that community, as we do. So, in a way, we've been able to take our contact lists and kind of merge them. I was over there about a month ago for a week and a half, finding new studios and talking to people about what they're doing.
"The European creative community right now is at a - I won't call it a peak, but definitely a high point. If you're in Copenhagen, if you're in Stockholm, if you're in Helsinki, it is amazing the amount of creativity that is coming out of studios in that space. It is great to see."