Corporate vice president, Microsoft
What story did you want to tell at E3?
It’s about demonstrating that Xbox One is the only place where you’ll be able to play that number of games to that quality, those exclusives, those blockbusters, that breadth of support from the ID@Xbox programme, at the right price, supported by a great online service and continuous improvements. Over the last few months you’ve seen real added value being brought in to the Xbox system. I think all of that combines to tell a compelling story. We’ve definitely learned a lot over the last year and we have continued to hold ourselves to a very high standard.
The Xbox brand has been reinvented since Phil Spencer took charge back in March. Did that bring with it a degree of cultural change?
I don’t know if it’s a cultural change. I think it’s a reflection of the world that we live in, that your fans are just a tweet away from direct connection to the team members inside the company. We take that feedback and that responsibility really seriously; we want to make Xbox One the place where you can play the best games at the right price with the best service. Yes, there were some things that we had to course-correct along the way, but I think that the future direction of travel is great.
I think it was important for us to show an incredible lineup of games you’ll play this year, and really reinforce the fact that we showed games that will be in your collection in 2014, whether it was Halo: The
Master Chief Collection, whether it was Sunset Overdrive, whether it was Forza Horizon 2… all of which will be exclusive to Xbox One this year. It was also important to show a bunch of things that will be coming in 2015 and beyond, which we hope will [remind] people who have already bought an Xbox One why they’ve bought an Xbox One, and attract new people as well.
What about people who bought Xbox One for Kinect?
We are committed to adding and innovating with Kinect, so everybody who enjoys Kinect on Xbox One will get additional features. We’ll continue to add functionality, to refine the experience on voice, the technology around gesture and ID, and we’ll continue to add additional applications that take advantage of Kinect so it remains a key part of our strategy.
Kinect games were conspicuous by their absence from the show, though. By the middle of April you’d sold five million Xboxes, all bundled with Kinect – which means there are five million people and only two firstparty games. Does that not show a lack of support for Kinect as a gaming device?
I don’t believe so. The breadth of games that we showed here for Kinect is more than we showed last year; we have more games coming both from established, large, traditional publishers as well as ID@Xbox games. We showed a number of innovations there – Fru is one of my favourites. The value of Kinect to Xbox One is partly about games, but also about the way you interact with the device using voice, gesture or biometric login. We will continue to innovate on that; we’ll continue to add capabilities to the whole Xbox One experience.
Given that it allows them to free up a further ten per cent of the GPU power, developers must like the idea of a Kinect-less Xbox.
to developers, and we’re already seeing some very substantial improvements in frame rate, resolution that developers are already talking about it, just in the few days they’ve had access to these libraries.
DX12 is an incredibly optimised API which has graphics engineers excited. In theory, is it something Xbox One could use?
That’s correct, and it’s a long-term commitment. One of the things that we have inside of Microsoft which is not so obvious to the outside world is some of the best graphics research engineers on the planet. That’s their mission: turn code into efficient pixels.
Let’s talk about where you are in the marketplace. Sony is reporting nine million units sold; is Xbox at around six million by this point?
We have announced north of five, and the numbers that we’re happy to talk about is over five million units sold. The key stats are that this is the fastestgrowing console we have launched, more games are being purchased on Xbox One than any other console, and we have five hours of average usage per day, with over a billion voice commands issued.
“Our strategy is to lead in a cloud world. Xbox Live is the highestperforming example of that”
The new libraries that we gave to all developers in June give you the additional ten per cent performance, irrespective of which machine you have. You don’t have to unplug Kinect to get it; every game can take what we call ‘the GPU reservation’ and use it for themselves. Now, when the game finishes and the box hands power back to the console, then all of the connectivity you get with Kinect continues to work as before. You don’t need to unplug Kinect to get it, and it works on every machine.
It’s no secret developers have been struggling to match Play Station 4’s resolution in multiplatform games. If the console is as capable, was Microsoft’s XDK simply not ready for distribution?
This is a fairly standard evolution of any platform. Over a period of time the platform engineering focus is to give as much power as possible to the developer so that the developer can turn that in to an experience that gives as much as fun as possible to the player.
You’d agree that Sony was able to give more power to developers at an earlier point, though, right?
That may be true, but there is no doubt that we are very committed to giving all of the power that we can
Most of those commands are ‘Xbox on’ and ‘Xbox off, yes’, though.
The engagement and usage of all aspects of Xbox One have exceeded our expectations. And the lineup of games that we have announced or shown at our media briefing – and that players will get a chance to play this year – shows that our commitment is unwavering.
There is a gap, but by the end of the previous generation PS3 and 360 drew more or less even. What does it take for Xbox to close the gap faster than Sony did previously?
Some analysts will suggest that we are less than five per cent into this generation, so there is plenty of market opportunity ahead of us. Hats off to Sony, they’ve had a great start; they have been in more countries and – to date, at least – at a lower price. We have announced a new Xbox One at a lower price; we go to 29 new countries starting in September. It’s about games, it’s about Xbox Live as a service, and it’s about value. We think that those three things give us every opportunity, and not just to compete. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to grow the market and build a long-term business for Xbox One in as many homes as we can, delivering the best games and entertainment experiences that we can.
Sony is very good at demonstrating its power as a technological innovator, and Microsoft has been equally innovative technologically, but how will you prove that when the focus is so heavily on games?
Our strategy as a company is to lead in a cloud world. And Xbox Live is the highest-performing example of Microsoft’s cloud strategy, whether it’s the sheer volume and breadth of the service, with 48 million members, or whether it is the very deep technical innovations that have supported games like Titanfall and Forza Motorsport. We’ll continue to scale, and expand to many of the games we saw today, whether it’s Crackdown, Fable Legends, Horizon 2, etc. We think that is a clear place for us as a company to put our technical innovation because that has real impact in gameplay. It has real tangible benefits to gameplay now. It’s not something that will land two or three years from now.
The games you showed today were much broader than anything Microsoft has shown before. Who is the Xbox consumer now?
I think we’ve seen in the last five years an explosion of people who play games, and self-identify as a gamer. Whether it’s somebody playing Clash
Of Clans or Candy Crush on their phone or iPad, or gaming on the console on the biggest screen in the house, pretty much everybody is a gamer and there’s this positive wave moving through the world. As people get older they continue to play games. You may choose to change the pattern of gameplay as you get a family, as you get kids, or whatever, but I think that the lineup of what we shared today is a reflection of the impact that games have in society and will continue to have in the future.
It’s not just about driving, shooting and sports; it’s a much deeper and sophisticated set of consumers who are more discerning in their tastes. The reaction to games like Inside and Ori
And The Blind Forest is phenomenal. I think that confluence of art and gameplay is a great place for us to be leading, supported by all the wonderful work that is being done at the ID@Xbox programme as well. I think the platform can definitely support all game styles and all game designs.