OK, here we go with the last portion of my roughly half-hour interview with Microsoft’s Moore on April 19.
There’s an occasional contribution from me (flowing naturally from the conversation), but this is mostly Moore responding to questions that readers hoped I could squeeze in.
The first question was about Xbox 360 backwards compatibility, and, only by coincidence, Microsoft had made an announcement on that subject a few hours before the interview. So I put the released info on this blog the following day (April 20), and therefore I’ll skip the question here and just attach the info for your convenience.
In a day or so, I’ll also combine all three parts of this into one for-the-record post (although I generally try to stay away from posts of such length).
Q (from reader): Gosh darn, all this talk about the portfolio, but all I see on Arcade are more shooters, and every other game announced for the system seems to be a shooter.Whatcha gonna do about that? I feel like I need to purchase a Wii just for some variety. I loved “Viva Pinata” but there’s gotta be more than just shooters and racers right?
A: So, they should have gone out like 290,000 people did in the first five days and bought “Guitar Hero II,” which is my latest addiction, ’cause i love it. And a old guy like me picking up a guitar and playing, if I can do it, anybody can do it. And then they should start looking at all of the movie games that are coming out. I just looked at all of our blockbusters for movie games — “Ratatouille'’ and all the stuff that’s coming out this summer. They should go to Xbox.com and take maybe a little bit more of a deeper look at all of the games that are coming out.
Q (from reader): Has Microsoft given any thought of producing a CG animated “HALO” series? The CG footage at the end of the “Gears of War” game was awesome. If Halo produced something of this standard (or the even the CG effects from the Halo Wars RTS game footage) and maybe started out by following the scripts from the Halo novels, it would be a big winner for all (Microsoft, “Halo” fans and animated fans in general).
A: So, CG isn’t cheap, and if read into that, you’re almost saying, “Let’s get the ‘Halo’ movie back on track again.'’
Q (Antonucci): Well, “Star Wars'’ fans, for instance, get all that “Star Wars” animation. So I think he’s just hoping that “Halo” will have the kind of animated outlets that . . .
A: And I would love to talk about “Halo 3,” but I can’t talk about “Halo 3.”
Q (Antonucci): But that’s not animation (in the context of the question).
A: No, it’s not animation, but there’s enough stuff in there, in the stuff that I’ve seen, that’s going to get people excited. And y’know. I’ll back down a little on getting into detail on this because we’ve got some stuff (but) I just don’t want to give the game away.
The next question was about the Xbox Live Diamond Card program, but there was some confusion about what the reader meant, so we mostly put it aside. Some e-mail exchanges with the reader followed and I’ll eventually deal with those in a separate post.
Q (from reader):With the success of the Wii Controller and the encouraging words from developers about the (Sony) Sixaxis does Microsoft plan on, or have the ability to, adding a motion sensitive controller to their system?
A: We certainly have the ability. Whether we believe it’s something that we need to do, in the current state of where we think our business is, is probably a better question. We have already done this before with a controller called the Freestyle, which many of your
readers will remember, which actually had a very similar motion to the Sixaxis. It was for the PC. . . . We admire — I’m on record ad nauseum — what the Wii is doing with the Wii remote. And the Sixaxis, I’ll maybe be a little bit more critical of the reader’s comment that there’s a lot of positive (momentum), because I don’t see a ton. But I’m sure I don’t know what’s in the pipeline from developers working on the PS3. But I feel pretty comfortable where we are.
At this point, I made reference to feedback I’d been getting about a story I’d done on the PlayStation 3 being used in medical research, with PS3 owners running software simulations as part of Standford University’s Folding@Home project. I rephrased a blog question into something a bit broader:
Q: Are we overlooking or is there anything in the works that would make the Xbox that kind of multi-purpose device?
A: We continue to look at this and see whether there’s real value. (Moore mentions that Bill Gates “quite frankly has had a conversation about this” and notes that Gates is interested in applying “philanthropic processing power to big problems'’). But I’m not quite sure yet whether we’re seeing real tangible results from the PlayStation 3 Folding@Home initiative.
Q (Antonucci): There seems to be an enormous amount of participation that’s leading to a lot of speed-up in that research.
A: Then if we truly believe that we can in some way marshall the resources of a much larger installed base of Xbox 360 owners, with a processer that’s of equal power to the PS3, then you have my commitment that we’ll look at that. And if we believe we can add value to solving a gnarly problem such as the medical problems and the health problems that Folding@home seems to be doing, then we’ll certainly look at that very strongly.
Q (from reader): I’d like a straight answer on issues with hardware quality (have suffered through 2 defective 360’s in a 7 month span and am about to call it quits with this system). MS claims an ‘accceptable’ 3% failure rate but I imagine the actual number to be much higher — perhaps 2x or 3x more?
A: I can’t comment on failure rates, because it’s just not something – it’s a moving target. What this consumer should worry about is the way that we’ve treated him. Y’know, things break, and if we’ve treated him well and fixed his problem, that’s something that we’re focused on right now. I’m not going to comment on individual failure rates because I’m shipping in 36 countries and it’s a complex business.
Q (from same reader): Also, will future models be designed to run quieter? The fan noise generated from my 360 is so loud as to distract.
A: Noise is something I don’t bury my head in the sand about, and it’s primarily the DVD drive. People get confused with the fan noise, but it’s actually, in some instances, the 12x spinning of the disc that annoys some people. The great majority of people actually don’t notice it, but it’s something we continue to look at. We take that
feedback very seriously from consumers, and we’ll continue to look at it. Can’t tell you, can’t make you any promises, that it’s something that’s going to be fixed overnight. I don’t notice it, but maybe I’m different. But I am not oblivious to the fact that some people do.
Q (from reader): What is the most important thing for Microsoft to accomplish in this calendar year?
A: Contrinue to broaden our base. . . . If you have an installed base that continues to grow, then good things happen. If we can maintain our attach rate as strongly as it is, (good things happen) for the eco-system, the multi-billion-dollar eco-system that surrounds us, whether it’s our publishing or development partners around the world. We need to continue our momentum. We of course need to have great success with games like “Halo 3,” which I think will be the story of 2007.
Q (from same reader): It seems like consumers are identifying with the Wii. What do you believe are the current reasons for the Wii success and how is Microsoft positioned to address these?
A: So I think the Wii is a combination of innovative input — and I’ve been on record (about that) for two years since I first saw it in Tokyo when Iwata-san brought those controllers out — but price is also a major advantage for Nintendo. Their intellectual property has always been strong, has been for a decades. The question is going to be, as we get further down into the life cycle, how sustainable the experience is going to be, how much third party support is going to continue to grow for the platform. And we’re not blind to the fact that we continue to need to make our platform more approachable. Our work with Activision in making “Guitar Hero” such a success over the last couple of weeks, I think, is the tip of the iceberg of some of the work you’re going to see around a more approachable platform. At the same time, I don’t want to lose my hard-core guys, who I love to death and who are huge fans of what we do.
Q: (Antonucci): Last question. I’m going to let you read this one out loud yourself, because there’s a name in here that apparently this reader thinks you’re going to be familiar with (but) that I’ll
probably butcher the pronounciation of.
A: “What is Microsoft’s current relationship with Tomonobu Itagaki and why not purchase a Japanese company to gain a foothold in Japan? “
Itagaki is a great friend of mine. Itagaki-san is the key developer behind such great games as “Dead or Alive'’ or Ninja Gaiden.'’ And of all the Japanese developers, from the
very git-go, he believed in the Xbox platform. I’m talking Xbox,
not Xbox 360 . . . and more recently through Xbox 360. I’m a huge fan of his. I’ve spent a lot of time with him in Japan. Y’know, he’s a unique individual with the glasses and the long hair. And his games are always interesting of course. The way that the DOA girls show up is always popular within the gaming ranks. . . . I’m a huge fan because of the commitment he gave us early, particularly in the face of ridicule from the Japanese developers and publishers who thought he was an idiot for getting behind Xbox. We now look at great cases like Capcom, who have come to the fold and are are doing phenomenally well with Xbox 360. . . .As regards purchasing a Japanese publisher, we’ll never comment on our acquisition plans at all.
Q (Antonucci): But the larger issue is making more headway in Japan.
A: And you may argue that purchasing a publisher would do that. I’m not totally sure that would be the case, because if you purchase someone, that makes them a first party, and that actually dilutes the value of what you’ve just done, so there’s a business reason why that becomes difficult. I would rather focus on what I’ve done for many many years, which is travel on a regular basis to Tokyo and build relationships with those publishers. One thing I’ve seen — and I’ve been going to Tokyo now for eightyears, probably 50 times in the last eight years – is there’s a more global outlook now from Japanese publishers than there has ever been. Capcom (is) the best example of that with “Dead Rising” and “Lost Planet,” with which they’ve done incredibly well. They realize the Japanese domestic market is insufficient to sustain them without globalizing, and, quite frankly Westernizing the way that they go to market. Konami, Sega, Capcom, Namco — all doing that same thing. And that bodes well for us, because obviously they see our strength in the Western world and they’re becoming great partners of ours.
———————————————————————— Here’s the April backwards compatibility release, referencing www.gamerscoreblog.com:
Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility List Updated
posted Thursday, April 19, 2007 11:13 AM by johnporcaro
Another Backwards Compatibility Update! The emulation ninjas have been hard at work, putting the finishing touches on the latest version that just went live. I’m personally pretty excited to be able to pull out copies of Star Wars Republic Commando, Munch’s Odyssey, and Panzer Dragoon.
Here’s the list of new games. For details (including how to download an ISO), check Xbox.com.
Tenku (Japan only)
Avatar: The Last Airbender (US)
Avatar: The Legend of Aang (EMEA/ANZ)
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
Call of Duty 3
Crash Bandicoot 5: Wrath of Cortex
FIFA Soccer 2007
Full Spectrum Warrior
Guilty Gear Isuka
Innocent Tears (Japan only)
Jet Set Radio Future
King of Fighters 2002
King of Fighters: Neowave
Mad Dash Racing (Japan only)
Mech Assault 2
Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction
Nascar 2006: Total Team Control
NFL Fever 2004
Oddworld Munch’s Oddysee
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Petit Copter (Japan only)
Return To Castle Wolfenstein
Rugby League 2
Sengoku Warriors (Japan only)
Soul Calibur 2 UPDATED
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
Tony Hawk’s Underground
Ultra Bust a Move /ULTRA Pazzle Bobble
Unreal Championship 2