Last month 360Monster was invited as part of the Microsoft Xbox Community Network (XCN) to submit a selection of questions, which would be answered in a Q&A session with fellow Brit and Microsoft Corporate Vice President – Peter Moore. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. Five of the most interesting and inventive questions were selected and submitted towards the Q&A interview.
What follows an in-depth Q&A exclusive to XCN members, with Peter Moore at this years X06 in Barcelona.
Has the PS3 delay changed your plans for Christmas?
We still want to have a great holiday in Europe and there are a lot of countries in Europe where we’re still establishing our brand. Italy, particularly the southern European countries, Portugal, Greece, areas where we have an opportunity to build our brand much more progressively than we could have done if Sony had been in the marketplace.
Nothing’s really changed. We had a strong commitment to being powerful in Europe this holiday. Showing great games is one part of that and a lot of retailers are doing bundles that I think will excite the marketplace. So nothing has really changed, dramatically.
You’ve said you want to broaden the Xbox market, but your rivals still have more casual games that use peripherals.
We’re looking at opportunities right now, certainly maybe in the second or third year where we can bring the equivalents of what you guys would see as Singstar or Buzz, Guitar Hero-type things. Certainly the camera will be shipping and there will be lots that we will be doing with the camera in the future that will be a lot of fun. I got to play World Series Poker the other day and digitally mapped my face onto the dealer’s head. That was hilarious just seeing myself playing poker – just sitting back and there I was at the poker table. We are looking at it, certainly in years two and three. We recognise that that is an important part of the mix in Europe. To do what you call peripheral based games.
You’ve had both arms tattoed – where’s the next one going and what will it be?
Ha ha! Well I’m already out of arms so I’m not sure where I start with the third tattoo! Maybe wait until next year and we’ll see what we can do.
What games are you personally looking forward to in the next year?
Boy, that’s a tough question. To start off with Banjo was fun, everybody loved the idea of Banjo coming back after what’s been like four or five years, since we’ve seen Banjo on any platform. Viva Piñata, I’ve got a lot of equity in that game, as regards doing the animated series with 4Kids, our teams have been great. Delighted to see the numbers in TV viewings for US and Canada and we will get it out in Europe as soon as can. I don’t know it’s tough not so say Gears of War. I mean I was getting worried Cliffy wasn’t going to give us any chainsaw action there because we had a couple of dry runs on that demo. I don’t know how well you were watching the game, he was struggling. Did you watch his power? That shows you how good the game is. You’ve got a guy who knows the game inside out and backwards. I mean there’s so much going on there. When you’re watching what was going on I think he missed a couple of emergence holes because the fire was coming in so heavy that he just couldn’t get there. That’s why this game is great. Here’s a guy that’s just battling away at this game and he may have been on insane mode or something. It’s a tough game. I’m very lucky to have a nice home theatre with nice surround sound and I know that game is just going to kick ass. Really is.
Microsoft Games Studios has made some high profile developer acquisitions recently. Who’s next?
Well if you were thinking about somebody you wouldn’t say it out loud. But I think that we certainly feel very comfortable about where we are now. I mean when you think of Ensemble, and hopefully you enjoyed that little taste of what’s to come from Halo Wars at the end. Lionhead, Rare, Bungie, I mean I think we’re feeling pretty good about the portfolio of studios we have. Turn Ten is our racing studio that’s doing Forza Motorsport. The great relationships, the deep relationships, with studios outside our family – Bioware, Bizarre Creations, Epic, Silicon Knights. You look at studios and think “here’s a studio we should acquire”. Then you look at other studios and think “here’s a studio we should have a great relationship with but acquisition doesn’t add anything to the mix”. We are very very conscious of where we’re at today as regards the quality of the studios we’ve got. There are no plans right now to acquire any other studios. We’re feeling very good about the mix we have of internal studios plus studios we have great relationships with externally.
Are you considering making the gold membership free when the PS3’s reportedly free online service is launched?
Here’s one thing that would be very clear and you guys should probably know. If you’re a Gold member: The experience you get for being a Gold member and what you pay on an annual basis is great value for money. I watch the boards a lot and see other Xbox Live Gold members talking and never hear any complaints about it not being worth $60 a year.
But will the market change when you have a competitor offering a free service?
One of the interesting things is, free online service… is it really a free online service? I don’t think it is. But are they saying that third parties won’t charge you for online access? We’ve got a four-year headstart and this is a software issue and we’re a very good software company. I have to wait and see what they deliver. You’re an Xbox Live member, right? [yes] Then you know how good Xbox Live is. I’m not sure Sony could replicate that. They’re clearly intending to. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Look at everything that we’ve done. But there’s a very deep experience in Xbox Live that you just don’t do like that *clicks*. Achievements, Microsoft Points, global service, data centres we’ve built around the world, Achievements built into every game. Yet you see the ads this week, this game won’t have PS3 online, this game won’t have PS3 online. I’m not going to worry about it until I actually see it.
Where does 360 fit in with Zune?
We have a long-term vision for connected entertainment. Certainly bringing together Xbox, Zune and Vista and everything those platforms will provide us with, we plan to maximise that. We have no firms plans yet. You get your Zune and plug it into your Xbox, like you can any MP3 player, and use it to play your music. But from the point of view of integrating Zune deeper than that, yeah I think you’ll see us talking a little bit more about that in the future. It would be stupid not to with the power of the Xbox and what that can do for that platform and the consumer. That’s our third ring of digital lifestyle. But you know the iPod killer and everything else they talk about… it’s focused on being a great media player, a great video player and ultimately we have a broader vision for it but nothing to discuss right now.
With PS3 on the horizon how do you plan to keep up the momentum for the next year?
Well I think it’s fortuitous that you’ve got a lot of games coming out after the holiday. Forza, once we start announcing some ship dates, Crackdown which I just wish I could have shown last night but we didn’t have the time, Mass Effect, Too Human, Shadowrun and there’s still a thing called Halo 3 on the horizon. So you feel good about the holiday but equally you feel you’ve got a steady flow of titles coming after that and that’s important as well because we didn’t have that this year. One of the challenges turning the corner of the holiday was that as we were catching up with hardware flow, we didn’t have those killer titles. Then we had Ghost Recon in March and that helped us. Then it wasn’t until you had Dead Rising, Saint’s Row, Madden in the US. We had a dearth and we don’t want that to happen again, particularly if the PS3 is on the market then and starts to gain momentum. You want to have good reasons for people to choose Xbox 360 and I think we’ve got a bunch of good reasons why they should.
So it is all about the games then?
Yeah, yeah. Why wouldn’t it be about the games? I mean it’s a beautiful box and it does a lot of great things but if it doesn’t have great games then I don’t know what it should do. Quite frankly that’s a strategy that is different from our major competitors right now.
When you launced the Xbox 360 did you expect the Live Arcade to be such a success?
We expected it to be a success but we didn’t expect it to be as successful as it’s turned out. It’s been phenomenal. Last night Doom being available was a big deal and I don’t know what the download figures are but they’re huge.
In the future what do you want for Live Arcade?
I want to keep putting more and more games up there. There are plenty of games in development for Live Arcade.
Will it feature old PC games like, for instance, Dungeon Keeper?
Yeah you could look at some of the intellectual property we have and you could say, in the example you just gave, “that would make a great Arcade game”. That’s not an announcement. It’s not our IP but I’m sure EA would publish it for us. When EA bought Bullfrog they probably got that game. There are 50 examples of game like that. You saw the reaction to Sensible Soccer, you know. There are a hundred games where you say “we’re going to bring Altered Beast to the Live Arcade” and people say “yay”. That’s the great opportunity for Live Arcade. It’s a great opportunity to bring old games back to life again.
After a year, how are things going in Japan?
It’s a slow start. I mean it’s challenging there but we’re in for the long run. But Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, you’ve got to believe they are two games that can make a difference.
What if they aren’t as successful as you hope?
Keep going and try something else. It’s an important marketplace on so many different levels and for many different reasons. We’ve made enough of our own problems where we haven’t content that is applicable to that market place but we have that now. We’re an American company coming into the domain of Sony and Nintendo and trying to make a difference. We struggled in the first generation but I think we have a much better chance in this generation. But we deal with the Japanese market, not only on a consumer basis, but also to deal with the overall eco-system in Japan and that includes the publishers. Our commitment to Japan often shows itself in different ways and in this case, if you can look at Capcom with Inafune-san and Dead Rising and Lost Planet coming as a result of our commitment to Japan. Two great games by the way.
When can we expect to hear about more Japanese titles?
Well we don’t have a huge amount but the commitment I made last night is sincere about bringing both Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey to Europe and I think they are both beautiful games. We need to localise them and we need to make sure you’ll buy them. They’re not cheap to localise because these are very deep RPGs that take a lot of localisation. If we’re willing to do it then you guys have got to go out and buy them because if you don’t buy them…
Gamers seem really interested in sales figures in Japan. Do you think Western gamers should be as interested as they are?
They see a gaijin (foreign) company going into Japan and going at it. I think there’s a little bit of gloating. It’s a company that’s gone in there and even mighty Microsoft struggles in that particular market. Yeah I ask the question a thousand times a week about Japan. But something I’ve learned in the three and a half years of being at Microsoft is that it’s a company that just sticks to it and pounds away. It’s an important market for a number of different reasons and we’re going to be there for the long run.
How do you feel about the downsizing of E3?
Quite frankly I think it’s necessary. I, in particular, know how much money is spent on E3 and this past E3 in particular. The ability for us to do business there is almost zero. We spend an incredible amount of money at E3 and you have to look as someone who owns the business about the return on that investment. All of the companies agreed that in the end this thing had gotten out of control and was not meant to be what it’s at. You will have something of an equivalent to E3 this next summer season but it won’t be what you’ve had in the past. It’s ridiculously expensive.
Many thanks for your time Peter!