XBOX Monday, August 22, 2005 | 7:03 PM

GC05: Interview with Chris Lewis

GC05: Interview with Chris Lewis

On the second day of the Game Convention, Microsoft invited Xboxyde and a few select Xbox fansites to a joint interview with Chris Lewis, the European MS vice president for Xbox. Here is the transcript of the interview, hopefully without too much mistakes as the noise level was very bad during the session.

Each site got to ask one question at a time. I don't know who asked what (except for me obviously), so if you were with me at this session, please let me know and if possible send me the exact questions you asked.

Q: What are the reasons for launching the console worldwide at the same time? It's a first in the industry and ... (inaudible)

A: Yes it's a first, in Europe we are particularly proud of the fact that we will launch at the same time and everybody at Microsoft knows how important Europe is. I think this is great to be here in Leipzig and make the announcement here at a very appropriate time, Germany is a big market for us anyway as you know. So yes it's gonna be tough but I'm confident we will have the all the right products in all the right places to launch well in time for the Christmas season. So this is going to be really exciting.

Q: What did you learn from the old Xbox (rest inaudible)?

A: We learned a lot! (big smile) We learn all the time actually. As an organization we've got big ears and we listen a lot to what's important. Gamers, consumers told us a lot about Xbox. It's critical that we work with the right partners, that we have the right product in the right place. That's a lesson that we continue to make sure we learn. I think the other point might be that we need to get the right price point and this price point needs to resonate well everywhere in Europe. And one of the main things that we are able to talk about, pleased to talk about here in Leipzig is the choice that we offer with Xbox 360. And in fact for the Xbox 360 Core System and the Xbox 360 the price has just gone down really well so we feel very happy that we established that, and that's the lesson we've learned from Xbox. And of course to continue to bring really competitive content and that people want to do more with the Xbox. They want a game console to just play games, but they may also want to connect other devices, any consumer device. So we've learned all those things and they are reflected in Xbox 360.

Q: Speaking of the Core System you talked about yesterday, without the hard drive. Will the gamers be able to play (inaudible...) without the Hard Drive?

A: You'll certainly be able to play high definition games straight out of the box. If gamers want to use Xbox Live or if they are looking for storage for other parts of the digital entertainment scenario that we talked about yesterday at the press conference, there is the flexibility to scale the system either through a memory unit that will be available through retail as an accessory, or through the 20 GB Hard Drive that's also available as an accessory in retail. So they will be able to scale with these elements at the time that they want to. Or if they want the greatest value, if they want the full experience then we think they will go for the Xbox 360 system.

Q: Microsoft is really pushing the high definition Era in the United States. Will you do exactly the same thing in Europe where for the moment there is almost no high definition TVs available and the channels are just starting to announce their plans for high definition content?

A: I think the high definition Era is really upon us. I think that right now as you say there is a relatively low level of penetration and adoption. But I think this number will change really fast. We feel we'll play a part in that, that high definition gaming will start to compel people. And the experience of Xbox 360 high definition, even on a standard television is a lot more (?). The graphics are a whole step better, even on a traditional non high definition television. But I think you'll start to see a much faster adoption of high definition. Broadcast companies will start to push high definition to a much higher level than before and I think generally the growth of high definition in Europe will be much faster than projected. And it's important that we build Xbox 360 now with the future in mind.

Q: Without being too corporate, can you tell us why we should buy Xbox 360.

A: Xbox 360 is about a number of things. It's about always in high definition, it's about a personalized system that is always connected into communities, into a broader digital entertainment lifestyle experience. It's about the best hardware, it's about the best software, and it's about the best services. And it's a combination of all these factors that will be a fantastic compelling reason to move to the Xbox 360 platform. The best games, immersive games, better characters, more believable storylines, more life-like graphics, all of those things plus the ability to plug in hundreds of different consumer devices types that will all talk to each other seamlessly. It all just works. This is gonna be amazing.

Q: We all know about what happened to Dreamcast. Do you think this is an argument for gamers not to buy Xbox 360 right now? (inaudible)

A: Well five and half million people already bought an Xbox in Europe. And this number is growing all the time. So we have great momentum, great progress, great support from retail, publishers and developers. So in terms of the timing, we think it's great timing to start the next generation for the market. We think Xbox 360 is the next generation, is the high definition experience, it's available now and people want it now. Gamers want to experience that, consumers want the flexibility of choice now. I'm very confident based on the reactions we've seen, of what we've heard. There is a huge pent up demand for the platform. And that next generation is coming this Christmas.

Q: Playstation 2 is much better than Xbox when it comes to racing wheels. Will Xbox 360 support true force feedback?

A: We haven't announced anything yet, and our partners haven't announced anything yet. But you can certainly expect something like this coming in the near future.

Q: Are things easier for third party developers with Xbox 360? (not sure this was the exact question)

A: We are working with all the third party developers, all developers, everyone on the planet are writing and excited about writing games for the Xbox 360 platform. It's an easy platform to write for, very flexible. It gives these guys this fantastic blank canvas to just paint the pictures that they want to paint in the way that they want to paint. I think with XNA and the flexibility of the development, of writing for the platform, it's very compelling. There is a massive amount of enthusiasm to write to the Xbox 360. So yes I think it's a great platform for the developers.

Q: We all know that Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo are two big titles for launch, are we going to see any other titles for the launch wave, new titles?

A: We are not going to announce the lineup quite yet. You will hear more about the launch and portfolio of software that will be available (?). I would say that there will be anything between 25 and 40 games for launch. There is hundreds in the development pipeline. (inaudible). And announcing more about that would be X05.

Just to clarify, when we say launch, we say launch window so that's from launch to the end of the calendar year.

Q: What are Microsoft's expectation regarding Xbox Live's user base in Europe for the next 12 months? Do you believe that Xbox Live can be as successful in Europe as in the United States?

A: A good question. I think we have pockets around Europe where we already have quite large online communities with Xbox Live. The UK is a good example of that, clearly there is a language factor there. My own sense is that with Xbox 360 the online experience just gets a whole lot deeper, a whole lot more compelling. I think the community will get bigger, people will be compelled to get unto the live service just to get access to the Xbox Live marketplace. They will want to download trailers and demos and new characters. They will want to chat with their friends, they can send text and voice messages, ultimately there will be video messages. All of that will start to quickly build a much broader user base. And I think that with Xbox Live that once the community gets to a certain point it just blossoms. To get to that point it's kind of slow and suddenly there is always enough people to get to play a particular game with, like minded individuals that will be online when you will be online. That's when it really starts to mushroom out. And I think with Xbox Live on Xbox 360 the experience will be that much more compelling, we will be able to build on the base that we have right now.

Q: What about game prices? Will they be more expensive?

A: We have that question a lot. There is no game pricing announcement yet. You should talk to the publishers as I guess you will. The key thing here is to make sure that we bring game to the market at the right price so that the consumers will feel good about it and think that they are getting great value for their money. We are committed to that. That's not to say that we might not have titles where you have premium content, customized packaging, extra trailers and demos, behind the scenes footage. That will command a premium price. In the way that we did with Halo 2 with the limited edition. The market is key for that. Users like that and will be compelled to buy that. You will see more of that with Xbox 360. But in terms of the actual price point for the games we are not yet announcing any of that. But we are committed to make sure that this is the right price. I think the games themselves without a doubt will be more expansive, deeper and more compelling than the games that exist today. So it's important that we secure the right price point.

Q: How do you want to get more female gamers on Xbox 360? (inaudible)

A: There is a lot of women already playing, I don't remember the statistics but there is really a lot of women playing games (inaudible). But I think you are right and we have established ourselves very well with the hardcore base, broading out rapidly. It's important that we bring games to market with innovation, that broadly appeal not only to both sexes but also in terms of value appeal (comment from the press relations: Actually 29% of gamers are females in Europe according to a report). 29%... But yes, we want that number to be as big as possible. We recognize the importance of that. And you will see games coming to the market that are compelling to both sexes and all ages.

Q: What consoles do you own and play with?

A: Me personally? Well it may surprise you to know that I have an Xbox. I've played on all platforms, it's important for me to understand all of the platforms types out there and also I like gaming. I'm not a hardcore gamer , but I'm reasonably enthusiastic about driving games. I'm an enthusiastic amateur (inaudible). My children both play console games. My son particularly is a huge Xbox fan. He's only 11 so I can't let him play some of the games he wants to play. A personal favorite of mine would be Project Gotham Racing, both versions. Forza is amazing but is a quite difficult game because I'm not as skilled as I'd like to be. But you know I play Fuzion Frenzy with my children still. My daughter has completed Simpsons Road Rage, I can't beat her. I try to play as many games as I can. I've completed Halo, but I won't tell you which level (smile). So I'm an enthusiastic gamer, but I'm not as skilled as I'd like to be.

Q: There has a been a lot of negative talk from for example Team Ninja about the space on the disc. Will we see games that span other two or even more discs?

A: There are one or two publishers that want to write enormous and immersive games with very very detailed graphics. I think these guys will always start to move to the extremities of what's available from the technology. But generally speaking all of the publishers I talked to are really happy that they a have fantastic opportunity, a very broad canvas available to write the games they really want to develop. And they don't feel constrained by Xbox or Xbox 360 in that area.

Q: Developing games is now a more and more risky bet. The next generation of games will cost even more than before. What can Microsoft do to help the developers to create new concepts and and franchises?

A: I think it's about making sure that the platform is easy to write to. That it's flexible. And everything we hear from the publishers is that they love the platform as great and easy to write. XNA is a major step in that regard. And that's what I think we can do, to ensure that the platform is easy, flexible, customizable, and technically seamless to write to.

Q: What's your favorite game on Xbox 360 so far?

A: Well I think that I've just hinted about it. Project Gotham Racing 3 is probably the one that when I look at and think ... WOW! You know, it just blows me away, the way the suspensions move, the details on the cars. Just when you look around some of the tracks, so movie like. The realism of the scenery and the people that are watching, it's fantastic ! So for me, it's Project Gotham Racing 3.

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