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E3 2012: Xbox’s Chris Lewis on 360′s now and the future

Tuesday, 5th June 2012 22:31 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Microsoft has just delivered what is likely to be its final E3 press conference before announcing its next generation. We spoke to Xbox Europe boss Chris Lewis on the state of 360′s game.

Xbox 360 and E3 2012

Microsoft’s press conference’s main stars were Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, Forza Horizon, Splinter Cell and Tomb Raider.

It’s widely expected that both Microsoft and Sony will announce their next generation consoles at E3 next year.

You can get full coverage of all the E3 press conferences here.

E3 2012 is likely the last before we see Microsoft’s vision for its next console generation, and it was always going to be a contentious year for the Xbox project. Some have criticised Microsoft for spreading its software too thin and focusing on non-gaming aspects too greatly in the run-up to the hardware switch, but with the likes of Halo 4 and Forza Horizon out this financial year it’s a charge Chris Lewis, Microsoft’s Europe vice president of interactive entertainment, strongly denies. He believes Xbox 360′s game line-up’s in the best place it’s ever been.

We spoke to Chris on the phone from LA this evening on the past, the now and what comes next.

VG247: How do you think the conference went in general?

Chris Lewis: We’re very happy. I’m bound to say that because I’m biased, but generally, over the course of the last 24 hours since our press conference, the reaction from people has been very encouraging. They like the mission we’re on in terms of making the entertainment people love even more amazing. They like the line-up. We’re very proud of the fact that this is such a powerful line-up, the greatest line-up of games ever. We were unashamedly putting Halo 4 up there front and centre. We’re very pleased with the reaction, not only to that title, but to Gears of War, Forza Horizon and Fable: The Journey, of course. Having Usher on stage to help us talk more about Dance Central 3 we thought was powerful and worked very well.

The reaction was great. People are intrigued and excited about what they heard from us around Xbox SmartGlass. Again, the reaction to that was very positive, about the flexibility that it offers and the way in compliments the gaming experience. Very happy so far. There’s a lot of the show still to go, but my personal view is that people will get even more positive when they get their hands on the games.

“I think the line-up is first class, and very deep and very wide. I think this is not only a pretty powerful line-up, but we deliberately complimented these announcements with entertainment partnerships right across the region of Europe, as well as globally, and the connection point was Xbox for Windows 8 and SmartGlass.”

Your line-up this year does seem slighter than normal. You don’t seem to have as many titles, and I assume that’s because you’re about to enter a hardware transition.

I’m not convinced I agree with you. If I’m allowed to disagree with you, then I’ll take the opportunity. I look across the line-up of the sequels, the new IP, Wreckateer, Matter, LocoCycle, and all of the third-party line-up; especially for Europe, FIFA 13 looks amazing; what we have by way of our deep relationship with Activision and what we’re doing there with Call of Duty; I look at Ubisoft.

I think the line-up is first class, and very deep and very wide. I think this is not only a pretty powerful line-up, but we deliberately complimented these announcements with entertainment partnerships right across the region of Europe, as well as globally, and the connection point was Xbox for Windows 8 and SmartGlass. And the browser: being able to talk about that at this show, we think, gave a very good portfolio of announcements.

A lot of people have been saying you may have focused too heavily on services this time as opposed to software. Do you think that’s fair?

No I don’t, actually. We do have an embarrassment of riches, I think, in terms of the things that we have at our disposal to discuss, and as you can imagine in the run-up to this event we have to think very hard about the time available and how best to use it. But I think if you look back at what we covered, there is a lot of games content there, across the titles that I described earlier.

Whilst we’re excited about the vision to see the Xbox 360 central as that entertainment hub in the home, we remain committed to great content, great games, for the core and for the casual. Kinect: 19 million units and growing. What we’re been able to achieve with the Kinect technology around voice as well as gesture, I think, again, is something that we really wanted to talk about here at E3.

I like the balance of what we announced, but clearly you’re bound to get a positive opinion from me. People I’ve been speaking to here in the last 24 hours have given me a very strong sense of confidence based on what they heard from us.

I wanted to talk to you about Kinect. As far as I’m aware, the only two motion products that were shown in that presentation were Fable and Dance Central, and everything else was voice-related. There’s been a big focus on Kinect in the last few years, and it seems to me that in this presentation you really pulled back. Is this end of the “rush to motion”? Are you still completely committed to Kinect?

“Kinect, and all aspects of Kinect, are very central to what we’re talking about now and in the future.”

Kinect, and all aspects of Kinect, are very central to what we’re talking about now and in the future. Our relationship to Nike, for example, and what we showed for the fitness genre in that respect is very important. As well, as you say, Fable: The Journey is centrally orientated around Kinect. We’ve already had good success with Mass Effect and other titles with Kinect, so both for the core and the broad audience, Kinect, and very complimentary experiences to the game in question, is very important to what we’re doing.

So no: there’s no dropping back in any respect. Kinect has given a gravity-defying shot in the arm to the life-cycle, Pat, and we’re enjoying genuine growth year-over-year. Last year was bigger than the previous year, which is not something you expect at this point. We’re proud of what it’s doing for us, and it’ll remain very central to what we’re doing both from voice and physical gesture standpoint.

You gave over a lot of time to SmartGlass is the presentation. We’re seeing similar messages from Nintendo and Sony about connected eco-systems in the living room and the second screen. Do you think this is a trend that’s going to be central to Xbox in the future?

Our goal is to continually change the way folks consume their entertainment, and we listen very intently to what they’re looking for from us. Now, with SmartGlass suddenly tablets and phones, devices that you already have in the home, become great companions devices to the experience. They can hook up to the TV, they can share video, they can provide complimentary and additional information. We think it’s elegant and simple, a fluid way to navigate across the whole Xbox experience.

If you’re telling me that you think that’s a natural evolution of the way people want to consume digital entertainment, then I completely agree with you. I think people do a lot of that now. Often when people are watching a movie or the football, or whatever, often they have the laptop open and the phone going. I think being able to link your devices to what you’ve already got, via Xbox SmartGlass, opens up another dimension we can offer that no one else can.

You’ve done some more DLC deals this year. You’ve managed to tie up exclusive Call of Duty content again, and you’ve grabbed content for Tomb Raider. You’re very good at doing this. Why do you think publishers like putting their content exclusively on 360? Is it just because you pay more?

“We’re still growing. We were up last year over the previous year. The partners love the length of the life-cycle, because it means they can really stretch out the boundaries of the technology. Retail likes the longevity, and that we attach more games and experiences than any of our competitors.”

No. I think some of these titles are so enormous in their own right that become platforms in many ways. The additional, very compelling elements made available via DLC are very important to the consumers and the consumption patterns of the game. Why do they like working with us? Honestly, I think they’re pleased with the Xbox Live service, with the richness of experience that it offers their users. I think those exclusive windows are mutually very beneficial for both us and our third-party publishing partners. They’ve always been, and will continue to be, an important part of the mix, recognizing that there are a number of massive franchises now which, as I said, are almost like platforms in their own right.

And about the Xbox 360 hardware itself? There was no new SKU this year, there was no price cut and there was no peripheral. Is the end for 360? Are we seeing its death throes?

No, not at all. As I said earlier, we’re still growing. We were up last year over the previous year. The partners love the length of the life-cycle, because it means they can really stretch out the boundaries of the technology. Retail likes the longevity, and that we attach more games and experiences than any of our competitors. So no, we haven’t talked about the things that you reference simply because we think we’re in a very good place at the moment. We’re competitively priced. We enjoyed the number one position globally in 2011, which is what Don prophesized at E3 last year. Europe, as you can imagine, needed to play a very central part in that. Our business health and general economic health is fabulous. We’re pleased where we are. We’re in a very enviable position, I think, and our partners would agree.

Finally, then, the general consensus is that this is the last year of the current generation. Are you looking forward to moving on now, or are you a little bit nervous about heading out onto a new machine?

I’m genuinely proud of the progress we’ve made in terms of listening to what our consumers want. The architecture of the first version of Xbox, with the Ethernet port and the vision for online gaming, was a marvelous prophesy. I think we were very well placed back then, and I think we developed our proposition in a really powerful way, to the point where we can talk about connected and digital entertainment in a way that we might never have dreamt possible ten years ago.

I like where we are now. I like the fact we’re still growing. The economic model’s very good. Our partner eco-system is probably the healthiest it’s ever been. I think the challenge of the economic climate makes it tricky for everybody. of course, and there are pockets of European where that’s a little bit more of an exaggerated problem than others, and I think that’s choppy water for everybody to sail through, not just us. But I like where we are. I like the position we’re enjoying. The future’s very bright, but we’re enjoying great momentum right now, and long may that continue.

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21 Comments

  1. Lewis247

    All the xbox conference reminded me was that I really, really want halo 4.. and to see a new xbox to make the conference more interesting than just 90% blah blah blah kinect can speak spanish and so on.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Moonwalker1982

    They really need to come with the new console next year, and all the signs show it too. Last year they ended their E3 with Halo 4 announcement and they ended this year with NOTHING for 2013 in terms of exclusives. Ok, the new Gears game but that’s it. That has to mean they are gearing up for next gen reveal at E3….i hope.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. daytripper

    MS underwhelm me somewhat these days, maybe its gaming fatigue on my part.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Night Hunter

    This year was kinda bad for them, next year they really have to rock out with their cocks out! Show a lot of amazing stuff, we know that they have a couple of things in their pipeline, their Soho Studio, we haven’t heard anything from Rare in a long time, their AAAA game, Microsoft LEAP, both their Studios in Canada, the stuff Lionhead is doing besides The Journey …

    But most of all, and I know this comes from a gamer perspective right now, they really have to step up their game in terms of Worldwide Studios. Sony has absolutely great first party developers who really are interconnected and working well together. MS on the other hand has got a ton of money, they should use it, hire new talent, build up new or expand existing studios etc. etc. First Party doesn’t have to be an endless money pit if you just make the right games. It could really pay off.

    So Microsoft, you know I love you, but step the fuck up or step the fuck off! You can’t just rely on Forza, Gears, Halo and Fable for the rest of your lives because eventually people will get tired of it.

    Just my 2 cents.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Telepathic.Geometry

    He didn’t half dodge those questions did he…

    #5 2 years ago
  6. daytripper

    @6 yep

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Patrick Garratt

    Heh. They’re not allowed to say anything “definite”. When you’re as senior as that it’s classed as an announcement if they give a solid detail, so they can only reiterate what’s been officially announced by the corp. Like, if I asked him for projections for Xbox for the coming year he wouldn’t be able to answer because it’d go on the record as “Microsoft”. You need to read between the lines a bit. It’s not just him. Same for any senior exec.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Telepathic.Geometry

    Yeah, I get that, but it kind of means that interviewing someone who can’t give you anything but the company line is pretty much worthless, right. That must be frustrating…

    #8 2 years ago
  9. daytripper

    @8 understood. if possible pat, any chance you can upload the actual conversation as downloadable mp3 for these interviews in the future? be interesting to listen to i think.

    and how confident are you we will see new xbox/playstation system announcements next year?

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Patrick Garratt

    @9 – I always love doing these big interviews because it gives a good insight into how the top tier’s feeling about it all right now. I mean, yeah, he’s always going to say, “It’s amazing,” but there’s some hints in there. The stuff about Kinect is one of them. He said “future”. Also, the stuff at the end about the financial trouble is very interesting. He just came out with that. Does that mean they’re going to shrink their business away from countries like Greece, Spain, etc?

    Also, he vehemently opposed the suggestion that the games line-up was soft. I know he has to, but they’re not normally so bullish about it. And I asked him some stuff about bringing the $99 Xbox 360 subs model to Europe – I left it out as it’s not directly relevant to the E3 stuff – and he said they were looking at it.

    So yeah, sometimes it can be annoying, but if you understand the rules, as it were, you can still get great stories. I’ll do the subs model stuff tomorrow.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Patrick Garratt

    @10 – I won’t for this one – there’d be some editing involved and I’m slammed – but in the future I can do if you’re interested, sure.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. daytripper

    @12 yeah, would be good thanks. the interviews on the podcasts you used to do were good, especially with rocksteady and the justaddwater guys

    #12 2 years ago
  13. speedxl01

    “The economic model’s very good” translation (charging for for something free like online play model’s very good)

    Seriously I hope they offer free online play for silver accounts, it’s really not difficult.

    “Also, the stuff at the end about the financial trouble is very interesting. He just came out with that. Does that mean they’re going to shrink their business away from countries like Greece, Spain, etc?”

    I think it really says that they have trouble with European users to see the value of paying for live gold and that they prefer other options..

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Ireland Michael

    “The greatest line up of games ever.”

    Hahahahahaha…. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    Funny joke.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Night Hunter

    “I think it really says that they have trouble with European users to see the value of paying for live gold and that they prefer other options..”

    And why should they, all they announce is mainly for americans, european users can’t take advantage of a lot of these features

    #15 2 years ago
  16. slayernl

    I loved the interview but you really should have asked him all the services NOT coming to Europe.
    So terrible because most of them are just internet services from companies that you can just watch on you pc now……………..

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Pytox

    Pc doesn’t like longevity

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Da Man

    Ahahahaha. Ahaha. I feel so secure now that thearse is gone. What a time to be alive now. Ahha, full caps mode.

    Anyway I didn’t get what they’re saying on TR dlc, is it permanently exclusive like Underworld was..

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Ge0force

    “The greatest line up of games ever.”

    It’s the same line-up as last year. And the year before. And the year before that. And…

    Now I think about it: it’s even the same as the original xbox line-up :)

    #19 2 years ago
  20. OrbitMonkey

    ^ Now your just trolling…. The origional Xbox had more games ;-)

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Henry

    @19 Should be timed exclusive. Chris Lewis said “exclusive window”.

    #21 2 years ago

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