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Video game brain drain: Top execs leave industry

As the video game industry says goodbye to one generation of hardware, it's also saying goodbye to a number of high-profile names.

In the past several weeks, well-known, high-ranking executives at Microsoft's Xbox division and Sony's PlayStation unit—as well as other less familiar names—have announced their departure, and some analysts say these could reflect broader shifts in the industry.

The exodus started quietly earlier this year, but it was the announcement that Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, was leaving that brought the shift into the spotlight. Tretton was, for all intents and purposes, the public face of PlayStation as well as the person calling the plays since 1995.

And, for many gamers, it was his heartfelt and nonscripted apology for the PSN hacking incident at E3 in 2011 that began the corporate healing process. His next move has not yet been announced.

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This week, Marc Whitten, chief product officer of Xbox (and, as a 14-year Xbox veteran, one of the most senior members of that system's team) announced he would be leaving to join wireless audio company Sonos.

Analysts say the departures of Tretton and Whitten from the console industry—as well as executives at other companies, including Steve Carlin (who left Ubisoft to become global head of strategy for gaming at Facebook) and Jeff Brown (who left EA to join GoPro)—are not directly related, but could still reflect an underlying trend.

"It's no secret that the dynamics and skills set required to be successful in gaming have evolved dramatically in the last five-10 years," said John Taylor, managing director at Arcadia Investment.

"As the publishing model has been increasingly displaced by free-to-play and the product model has begun to morph into games-as-a-service type of offering, many of the senior folks, who were comfortable in the box-based world are now trying to manage businesses that are radically different than what they grew up with—and trying to manage skill sets that are foreign to them."

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