BIG IN­TER­VIEW dave mccarthy

WE SIT DOWN WITH XBOX GEN­ERAL MAN­AGER DAVE MCCARTHY TO TALK ABOUT XBOX ONE X, AND HOW IT WILL SHAPE THE FU­TURE OF GAM­ING

XBox: The Official Magazine - - CONTENTS - JAMES NOUCH

There has been a trend emerg­ing at OXM Tow­ers in re­cent months. When­ever we chat with developers, we ask them what they think of the Xbox One X, and how they think it will change gam­ing. The thing we’ve heard most is how easy it is to get their games up and run­ning on the new con­sole, so when we sat down at E3 with Dave McCarthy, Xbox gen­eral man­ager, we thought we’d ask not only about the con­sole and its games, but about Mi­crosoft’s at­ti­tude to­wards these developers, and how they’ve shaped the con­sole’s cre­ation. One of the things that Phil was say­ing at the E3 brief­ing was that this was ‘the most di­verse lineup ever’. What was the think­ing be­hind that? Where were we go­ing? Yeah, it’s in­ter­est­ing, es­pe­cially if you jux­ta­pose it against, ‘Oh yeah, and it’s the show where we’re un­veil­ing the world’s most pow­er­ful con­sole and talk­ing about all that’. As we shaped up for the show, and we looked at all the con­tent avail­able, it dawned on us that we had ev­ery type of game for ev­ery type of gamer, and so we re­ally started to grav­i­tate to­wards this prom­ise across the Xbox lineup that there are a bunch of dif­fer­ent ways that gamers de­fine them­selves, right? Some love the 4K show­cases like Forza Mo­tor­sport 7 and An­them. But com­mu­nity games are now hugely rel­e­vant to peo­ple, too; you’ve got ex­pe­ri­ences that can use things like Mixer. We showed The Dar­win Pro­ject as an ex­am­ple us­ing that in the eS­ports space. And I thought there was a neat sur­prise in the com­mu­nity space around Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds as an Xbox ex­clu­sive. Some peo­ple re­ally grav­i­tate to the triple-A third-party pub­lisher ti­tles. Some of them go the indie route. We had games from around the world. We had Minecraft, the big­gest gam­ing com­mu­nity in the world, go­ing across all these de­vices. We love telling the story that you as a gamer may de­fine your­self on a bunch of dif­fer­ent av­enues. The good thing is, they’re all work­ing across this lineup of Xbox One de­vices. They’re go­ing to play best on the Xbox One X, but we thought that di­ver­sity fit re­ally well into our nar­ra­tive that we were try­ing to hit.

And how do you fos­ter that di­ver­sity? Do you go to developers or do they come to you? You know, it’s a good ques­tion. It’s a bunch of dif­fer­ent things. I think first and fore­most you need a de­vel­oper-friendly plat­form for them to come to, so we’ve done a lot of work over the past few years in mak­ing sure that the Xbox plat­form was re­ally ap­proach­able to our developers. A lot of their in­put ac­tu­ally led to the de­sign of Xbox One X. They were talk­ing to us about stuff they were do­ing in the PC space with true 4K, and how that was re­ally deep­en­ing their sto­ry­telling, and that led us to a lot of the de­ci­sions we made, like, ‘Okay, we’re go­ing to put 40% more pro­cess­ing power than any other con­sole, and we’re go­ing to go six ter­aflops, and we’re go­ing to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion where they can write to a 2160 frame buf­fer.’ So mak­ing sure that we’re re­ally de­vel­oper friendly [is im­por­tant], and hav­ing a de­vel­op­ment plat­form where they can eas­ily plug into the fam­ily of de­vices with­out hav­ing to do a lot of re­work­ing. In fact, the ex­ist­ing lineup on Xbox One, with a de­vel­oper not even touch­ing it at all, is go­ing to run bet­ter on Xbox One X, is go­ing to load faster, should have smoother frame rates through dy­namic frame rate tech­niques, and you should see the high­est ver­sion of vis­ual as­sets with ti­tles that use dy­namic res­o­lu­tion – which a lot of them do ac­tu­ally. So be­ing re­ally de­vel­oper-friendly is part of it. There are pro­grams like [email protected], which have been re­ally suc­cess­ful for us. Over 500 ti­tles to date have come to the Xbox One fam­ily of de­vices through that. I think hav­ing the PC and Win­dows ecosys­tem is an­other part of that, right? I mean, that’s a half bil­lion monthly ac­tive de­vices there. And we have pro­grams like Xbox Play Any­where that play across them. So it’s a re­ally healthy re­la­tion­ship we have with our de­vel­op­ment part­ners big and small, and I think if you can pro­vide those dif­fer­ent av­enues, that di­ver­sity kind of nat­u­rally comes to play in the ecosys­tem, which is what we’re see­ing now.

Mov­ing onto the box it­self, Scor­pio is the One X. It’s the One X now. I can’t make that mis­take any more! [laughs]

“The good news is that your games li­brary is go­ing to come right over and it is go­ing to play bet­ter”

Al­most all of our read­ers will have an Xbox One. What does the Xbox One X of­fer for those peo­ple? What would you say to tempt them to up­grade? So if you al­ready have an Xbox, the good news is that your games li­brary is go­ing to come right over, your ac­ces­sories are go­ing to come right over, and it is go­ing to play bet­ter from day one. I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced this my­self. We’ve had the early de­vel­op­ment kits at home now for a cou­ple of months, and it was pretty amaz­ing. I was able to ba­si­cally pull my HDMI ca­ble out of my Xbox One S, put it in the back of my One X. I resynced my con­troller. I took my ex­ter­nal hard drive, which I store all my games on any­way, and I plugged it into the USB port. And in five min­utes I was off and run­ning. I was play­ing with my son, but I ob­vi­ously hadn’t told him what ma­chine he had in his house. He said, ‘Dad, why is ev­ery­thing quicker? Why does it look bet­ter?’ [laughs] So that prom­ise of ev­ery­thing not just work­ing but play­ing bet­ter is a nice safety for peo­ple who are con­sid­er­ing the up­grade, I think. If you put a premium on true 4K, so not just 8 mil­lion pix­els on screen but HDR (high-dy­namic range), a wide colour gamut, spa­tial au­dio like Dolby At­mos… If you put a premium on those things you can tell the dif­fer­ence. And even if you don’t have a 4K TV at home yet, we still do things like au­to­matic su­per­sam­pling to make sure that in 1080p the out­put from an Xbox One X looks great. So if you’re an ex­ist­ing Xbox One user, I think when­ever you’re ready to make the jump, developers are go­ing to take ad­van­tage of the high-end ca­pa­bil­i­ties of it. We think it’s a com­pelling com­bi­na­tion of power, per­for­mance, com­pat­i­bil­ity, and also de­sign. By the way, it’s the small­est Xbox to date – that will re­ally pull cus­tomers in. Some of them will be new to the Xbox fam­ily, as well, which I think is great. What ef­fect do you ei­ther ex­pect or hope the One X will have on the gam­ing land­scape? What do you think it will en­able developers to do? I think there’s a round of sto­ry­telling that it’s re­ally go­ing to un­lock for a lot of developers. You saw Pa­trick Söder­lund talk a lit­tle bit about that, both in the EA Play con­fer­ence and when he was in­tro­duc­ing An­them from BioWare [at Mi­crosoft’s con­fer­ence]. There’s an im­mer­sion fac­tor to true 4K. Like, you feel the heat come off those cars in Forza. The weather ef­fects are stun­ningly real, and you find your­self sort of im­mersed in these ex­pe­ri­ences. Then I think you com­bine it with the other in­ter­est­ing as­pects of what we do, right? On Xbox Live we have things

like in­ter­ac­tiv­ity through Mixer, right? You start to com­bine the high-fidelity high­im­mer­sion ex­pe­ri­ences with the power of Xbox Live, and it starts to bring to­gether other com­mu­ni­ties.

A lot of our read­ers will be aware of other 4K con­soles such as the PS4 Pro. For those who aren’t as knowl­edge­able about the tech­ni­cal side of things, how does this con­sole com­pare? Well on some lev­els I think there’s as­pects of even Xbox One S that I’d com­pare [to the PS4 Pro] in terms of HDR gam­ing, 4K video stream­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, 4K Blu-ray support. There are only two con­soles in the world that support 4K Blu-ray, and they’re both Xbox Ones – Xbox One S and Xbox One X. I make more of a com­par­i­son [with Xbox One X] to what the higher end PCs are do­ing right now. There is a big dif­fer­ence with 40% more pro­cess­ing power, in terms of en­sur­ing that con­sis­tent frame rate, in­clud­ing that frame buf­fer that’s go­ing to get you all those 4K tex­tures, en­sur­ing the spa­tial au­dio is go­ing to be at a premium for you. So it re­ally is that top-end ex­pe­ri­ence. But it’s im­por­tant for us to pro­vide both those op­tions in our lineup. And again, you don’t re­ally have to worry with your con­tent or your ac­ces­sories. They’re go­ing to work across Xbox Ones, de­pend­ing on when you de­cide to make the leap, and that’s true with your TV as well. If you don’t have a 4K TV to­day, you’re still go­ing to be okay with

au­to­matic su­per­sam­pling from your Xbox One X down to your 1080p TV. It’s go­ing to look bet­ter on there as well.

Ob­vi­ously this represents a new kind of con­sole for Xbox in a way a mid-gen­er­a­tion, no­tice­ably more pow­er­ful ma­chine. Is this what the con­sole in­dus­try looks like now? Well, I can say this much, I think that cus­tomers are fa­mil­iar now with hav­ing a fam­ily of de­vices. I think that’s a con­cept that’s landed with peo­ple, whether it’s through phones or other de­vices. They’ve sort of seen that hap­pen. Xbox One X was born of developers push­ing us to do the next big thing in the space. We said, ‘Okay, we’re up for ris­ing to those chal­lenges, but we’ve got these con­sid­er­a­tions of com­pat­i­bil­ity and de­sign that we also want to nail along the way.’ We’re go­ing to con­tinue to lis­ten to our de­vel­oper com­mu­nity, big and small, to see where we should take things next, but I like that we’ve landed on a model that’s not too for­eign to cus­tomers but of­fers this broad choice. They don’t have to give ev­ery­thing up, and they can do it when they’re ready and when they see the proof points that re­ally res­onate with them per­son­ally. For me, Forza Mo­tor­sport 7 al­ready does it. I love rac­ing games, and so it re­ally speaks to me. But I think peo­ple are go­ing to see developers in­tro­duce ex­pe­ri­ences quickly that re­ally push the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the box, be­cause one of the things we keep hear­ing back is how re­mark­ably straight­for­ward it is to get stuff on Xbox One X – they’re get­ting games up and run­ning in a mat­ter of, like, one to two days. The ex­cit­ing thing there for us as gamers is that means they have a lot of time to fig­ure out what else they want to do with [that power]. I think we’re go­ing to see a range of ex­pe­ri­ences pop out of that.

One thing that is al­ready kind of a dif­fer­en­tia­tor for Xbox is com­pat­i­bil­ity, and when you an­nounced back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity with the orig­i­nal Xbox it got a huge cheer. [Laughs] It did get a big cheer, yeah.

Will that work with discs? Will there be dig­i­tal down­loads as well? We’re work­ing through all that stuff now. I can tell you this much – it’s go­ing to be a li­brary of games. So it’s not just Crim­son Skies, which we showed [at the con­fer­ence]. You know, we un­der­stand that there’s ob­vi­ously a de­liv­ery model we have to sort out. We have a plan on it, we’re just work­ing through the de­tails, and we will be shar­ing stuff more through­out the year on ex­actly how it’s go­ing to work. I’m just glad we were able to de­liver on the prom­ise of more. You know, I think games are this re­ally mean­ing­ful en­ter­tain­ment medium to our gen­er­a­tion, and it’s the only one where the gen­er­a­tional boundaries have be­come an is­sue. It’s not the case with mu­sic or movies or books. And to be able to go back and tap into some of those prod­ucts that have great mem­o­ries for our fans on Xbox, I think it’s an awe­some thing to do. I know they wanted it, be­cause we see it on our user feed­back site all the time, and we’ve seen heavy us­age in our Xbox 360 back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity pro­gram. So I’m ex­cited to see some more smiles and cheers when we an­nounce the next round of ti­tles that’s com­ing in the li­brary as well.

Do you know when we’ll be able to hear some of that? We haven’t set the date, but it will be later this year we’ll an­nounce some stuff there.

“I think developers are go­ing to in­tro­duce ex­pe­ri­ences that re­ally push the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the box”

Above We can’t wait for Play­erUn­known’s Bat­tle­grounds, which is set for a 4K re­lease next year.

Right Minecraft will be get­ting a 4K up­grade this year, with bet­ter tex­tures and beau­ti­ful graph­i­cal ef­fects.

Top right You’ll get the lat­est Xbox One con­troller de­sign with the Xbox One X.

Top left The Dar­win Pro­ject is aim­ing to be one of Mi­crosoft’s big ti­tles in the eS­ports space.

above An­them will be one of 2018’s big­gest and best-look­ing ti­tles for Xbox One X.

Be­low Forza Mo­tor­sport 7 is the show­case ti­tle for the One X – it’s drip­ping in 4K gor­geous­ness.

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