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Xbox One at GC: Chris Lewis on FIFA, indies and keeping course

Wednesday, 21 August 2013 09:53 GMT By Patrick Garratt

After a tough year Xbox One is back on track with FIFA 14 for every pre-order and some real initiative towards courting indies. Xbox Europe boss Chris Lewis spoke to Patrick Garratt in Cologne.

“Look, it may surprise you to hear that we’re not as fixated on our competition as you guys are. That’s not to say they’re not credible, important, fabulous companies, but I’ll tell you what we’re fixated on: our goals, our consumers, our plan, what our consumers want from us and when they want it.”

Microsoft’s announcement that a copy of FIFA 14 is to be bundled with every Xbox One pre-order dominated gamescom yesterday, with the assembled press corp nodding collective approval. It’s a big deal, and Chris Lewis, Microsoft Europe’s VP of Interactive Entertainment, is well aware of the fact. Sitting in the middle of the evergreen Cologne Xbox showcase, he looked pleased.

The Xbox project needed to return to positivity. It’s been a very tough year for Microsoft. Buffeted by a number of major back-tracks on system policy and an unparalleled response to Sony’s exploitation tactics from early adopters at E3, the Xbox brand has struggled to keep the considerable momentum of Xbox 360 in the run-up to next-gen launch.

But success over adversity is nothing new to a grizzled Xbox team, a unit which, over two generations, has shown incredible tenacity and built one of the greatest gaming ecosystems ever seen. The announcement of FIFA 14 for all European pre-orders and the launch of indie dev programme ID@Xbox at gamescom yesterday granted the Xbox team a far punchier outlook than it had in LA this summer.

I spoke to Lewis about launching, back-pedalling and more.

VG247: How do you think it went this morning in general?

Chris Lewis: Here’s what I love about it. This is the first time, anywhere on the planet, that you get to play the games. It’s not just you listening to me saying, ‘Oh, it’s great, Pat.’ What I love about it is that it’s a very strong statement we’re able to make here – not only about the line-up with its 23 titles at launch, of course I’m excited about all of that – but I’m more excited that everyone gets to get their hands on it, finally. I think that’s the strength of gamescom, and we’ve been very deliberate, as I hope you can see, that we’ve tried to tell our story through a series of beats. We used the event in Seattle to talk about the event at the strategy; E3 was more about the entertainment content; this is about the games. Europe’s so important to your global aspirations, that making a statement from Cologne is, frankly, more important that making a statement from London. That was a long answer, but that’s why I’m excited about it. And I think the reaction so far has been very, very good.

The FIFA announcement, in particular, I think is very strong. That’s a real stand-out. Do you plan on making any more exclusivity announcements before launch, and why did you focus on FIFA specifically for Europe?

Football’s a religion here, Pat, you know that. It has such impact, and such momentum generally. I think for us it was a relatively obvious choice to get behind in a way we haven’t in the past. We’ve always had a great relationship with EA across all of their portfolio, globally and specifically in Europe, but it was clear to us many months ago that being able to make such a strong statement with FIFA, that to be able to reward those zealots who’ve pre-ordered and flocked to the platform, but also to reinforce the power of our partnership. There’ll be others. We will announce more exclusivity over time. We’re not going to announce any of that today, but watch this space.

You’ve maintained your relationship with Activision and Call of Duty. That’s very much a core announcement there, with the dedicated servers for Ghost. Have there been any difficulties in maintaining the relationship considering your Titanfall exclusive?

We’ve enjoyed our partnership now for so many years, and it’s a mature, professional, genuine partnership with Ubi, Activision, EA and many, many others, as you know. Quite genuinely I can tell you that we had a good objective journey to get to where we are now, and everybody’s very happy with the outcome. These are win-win solutions. In fact, it’s a triple-win: they’re happy, we’re happy, and, probably more importantly, the consumers love what we’re doing. I’ve been very deeply involved with most of them, and I can tell you that they’re all very, very happy with the outcome, excited about what we’ve been able to announce here.

The ID@Xbox initiative is really interesting, and I’m sure a lot of people looking to get into games development will be excited about it. How important is independent development to Xbox One?

I’ve been asked that a lot today, actually, which is a good thing for two reasons: one, it means our message is clearly resonating; and two, that was clearly a much asked-for piece of uptake from us. The plan has been the plan for months and months and months, but we thought gamescom was a good opportunity to describe it in more detail. To your question: it’s crucial that we incubate new content, that the creative talent feels that Xbox One is the best platform to flock to. Finding the next FIFA, the next CoD: it’s so important to the future of our industry. And, also, I have to credit people like Phil Harrison. He’s brought more of that DNA to the way we think about things. I’m not saying we didn’t before, because we did, but Phil’s pushed hard to make sure that side of things is reinforced as it’s evermore important to our portfolio. It’s great people have reacted to it so well.

Would you say that there’s been a culture shift this year in the top-tier Microsoft team? Does it feel different now compared to last year?

I think what’s great about the division, and at a risk of personalising this, you’ve got good long-term institutional knowledge, like me. I’ve been around since Xbox was a twinkle in our eye. And then what we’ve done over the years is layer in fabulous industry talent, senior, middle and in the true rank and file. I think it’s the combination that keeps things vibrant, and people like Phil and Don come in and they challenge rooted thinking, and their DNA compliments our existing approach and strategy. I love that combination. I think it’s all very helpful, and we’ll continue to do that, we’ll continue to recognise the need to bring in external talent when we need it, as well as making sure that we encourage the foundation of talent to keep delivering the results we’ve always enjoyed. I think that’s a good, healthy situation. I’ve done a few launches now, and this one, for me, feels the highest energy, the most exciting, where we’ve got a true, left-to-right, digital and physical proposition of which we haven’t had in the past.

While today was generally positive, it’s impossible to pretend that it hasn’t been a difficult year for Microsoft. How important was it to come out of gamescom with early adopters – and I use that term to mean our readers and the readers of the other sites which follow everything you say and everything Microsoft says – feeling more positive about Xbox One?

“No, I’m not disappointed at all. I’m genuinely excited, and I think we’ve in an unrivalled position. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody right now, and I see nothing that’s going to make me feel any different.”

A couple of things. I think it’s crucial that we stay tuned into our gamers and our consumers, that we listen and that we adapt. I’m proud of what we’ve done there. Whilst maintaining our clear course of a digital strategy in combination to a physical strategy with physical games is ultimately the best choice we can give our consumers. Gamescom was always a critical beat in the cadence of the year, and it was always designed to be that way. We knew we had to make a very strong statement to your readers at an event like this. And more than just a statement, but we had to give people like you access to the content, so it’s not just people like me saying it. I’m very pleased that we’ve been able to make that combination happen and bring it to life here in the way we have. Just the way we’ve set this up today, and the way we’ve made that content available to you, I think is the right approach.

You’ve made some very big policy shifts in terms of the Xbox One make up and strategy.

Yep.

Probably the two most contentious issues were always-on internet connection and forcing a Kinect connection to make the console work. Obviously, those two features don’t exist anymore. Looking back, are you disappointed that they’re not in the final product?

I would actually come back to my earlier answer. We remain very digital in our strategy. The cloud remains hugely important to what we do, the game experience, Xbox Live and the community that is, Skype, and all the things I want to rattle off in a discussion like this. That hasn’t changed. What we’ve done is adapt so we can make the physical disc content, which our gamers want to consume, available. We’ve listened to that and reacted. But I’m confident we’re still on the path that we were always on, and I believe that over time more and more people will stay connected, be connected, and see digital consumption as the natural way. But for now we want to be wherever our consumers want us to be. We have to be that way, and we have to offer choice. I think we’ve always been a good choice offering for our consumers and our gamers, and I think that’s more true now than ever before. No, I’m not disappointed at all. I’m genuinely excited, and I think we’ve in an unrivalled position. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody right now, and I see nothing that’s going to make me feel any different.

One thing we didn’t get today was the date.

I’ve saved that for you.

Awesome.

Are you ready?

I am ready. Go on.

It’s November. [Laughs] Sorry, I’m being facetious. Look, there are some things we have to hold back. We have to keep your appetites suitably whetted throughout the coming months. There is more news to come, Pat, you know that. We’re committed to November in a way we said we would be. As you know, we have to work very closely with retail to make sure all the supply chain is properly understood and catered for so we have good day-one, good early replenishments. We’ll share more of those details nearer the time.

Obviously, it would be very advantageous for you to go first. How big a deal do you think that would be?

Look, it may surprise you to hear that we’re not as fixated on our competition as you guys are. That’s not to say they’re not credible, important, fabulous companies, but I’ll tell you what we’re fixated on: our goals, our consumers, our plan, what our consumers want from us and when they want it. We think our timing is good. I will, of course, watch with interest, but I’m confident that we’re in an enviable position with our current plan and strategy. I see nothing that’s going to make that change.

You’ve delayed Xbox One’s launch in a number of European territories. Can you tell us why?

We want to bring optimised experiences wherever we launch, and that includes fully-localised dash, voice, all of the entertainment-out-of-the-box experience. All of that, in our view, has to be optimised at launch, and we felt that we weren’t able to bring all of that to all of those markets at launch, so that’s why we’ve narrowed down the launch country portfolio. We are disappointed, and we know our fans in those countries are disappointed. We will add goodness to pre-orders, to those who’ve pre-ordered, in a good way, and we’ll talk more about that as time rolls on. Having said all that, Xbox One will work everywhere and the games will work everywhere, but we’d encourage people to wait for that optimised experience and we’ll bring that to those markets as soon as we can.

One last question, very quickly: is the bundled FIFA copy physical or a download?

It’s a digital version. What that does is gives us a guarantee of the delivery, and also we like the fact it’s a digital version. But it guarantees it’s in every pre-order SKU in a way we’ve committed to.

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2 Comments

  1. backup

    PC getting xbox360 and PS3 port lol

    PC gamers: where is next gen Fifa for PC

    Ea: Fuck u all PC gamers are pirates

    #1 2 years ago
  2. MCTJim

    A win for all. .wonder if they will give away Madden 25 in the US market..that would be nice :D

    #2 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    We have 10 download codes for new indie puzzler Pneuma: Breath of Life for Xbox One to give away. The be in with a chance of winning a code, just enter your details below and we’ll pull the winners from the hat on Monday March 2nd, after 2pm GMT. Pneuma: Breath of Life is a […]

  • Life is Strange Episode 2 delayed

    Life is Strange Episode 2 won’t make its expected release date. The first Life is Strange episode released on January 30, and we had expected the second to follow on March 13. Square Enix has since confirmed to Destructoid that the next chapter won’t make its release date. There’s been no word of the new […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: which character will be revealed tomorrow?

    Mortal Kombat X director Ed Boon is teasing a new character reveal. During today’s Mortal Kombat X livestream, NetherRealm said that a new character would be revealed “very soon”. Boon followed up with this teasing tweet suggesting the reveal will occur tomorrow: Very soon? As in tomorrow? :/ — Ed Boon (@noobde) February 26, 2015 […]

  • Halo played by Twitch is an exercise in great patience

    TwitchPlaysHalo is ridiculous. Halo: Combat Evolved is the latest game to be sucked into the “TwitchPlays” phenomenon, and the results are somewhat painful to spectate. If you’re not familiar with the setup, which debuted with TwitchPlaysPokemon, the game accepts commands from the channels’ chat stream. Although it doesn’t have the strategic RPG elements of Pokemon, […]

  • Gold Amiibo sold out, selling at five times RRP on auction sites

    Gold Mario Amiibo are expected to sell for pretty astounding profits on eBay and other auction sites. The Walmart-exclusive Gold Mario Amiibo is already completely sold out. Plenty of people managed to snaffle them to resell, though. There are now dozens of listings on eBay and other auction sites. One of the average asking prices […]

  • Canadian new game prices jump to $75

    Canadian gamers are in for an unpleasant price hike. As spotted by HardcoreGamer, the local Canadian branches of Amazon and EB Games have raised the prices of upcoming games to CAD$75. The CAD$5 increasing comes within a year of prices hitting the CAD$70 point. CAD$75 (£38/€53) currently exchanges for $60, the standard US pricing. The […]

  • New Xenoblade Chronicles X footage shows weather, day-night cycle

    The latest Xenoblade Chronicles X footage shows off a gloriously beautiful world. Xenoblade Chronicles X is Monolith Soft’s first solo Wii U game, and the developer is clearly enjoying being able to build a big open world with all the features we’ve come to expect. Missed the whole Xenoblade thing? Chronicles X is a sort […]

  • Dead Rising: Watchtower teaser talks up the benefits of Zombrex

    Live-action Dead Rising movie Watchtower is almost upon us. Dead Rising: Watchtower will release on Crackle on March 27, and via other digital distributors thereafter. Enjoy the short teaser below, courtesy of IGN.

  • We Happy Few debut hits you upside the face with a frying pan

    Contrast developer Compulsion Games has revealed its next project – the delightfully creepy-looking We Happy Few. We Happy Few is set in “a drug-fuelled, retrofuturistic city in an alternative 1960s England” where “a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial”. Players are tasked with blending in with […]

  • Slender: The Arrival creeping onto PS4, Xbox One in March

    Slender: The Arrival sold like hotcakes on PC and last-gen consoles, so why not terrify yourself on PS4 and Xbox One, too? Slender: The Arrival will release on PS4 on March 24 and on Xbox One on March 25, developer Blue Isle Studios has announced, for $10. No word on that Wii U version, though. […]

  • GOG weekend sale celebrates German debut

    DRM-free games vendor GOG is celebrating its German-language launch with a tasty sale. The sale offers discounts over 25 “German favourites”. Highlights inclue 97% off Deponia, and less steep but still tasty savings on Memoria and Blackguards 1 and 2. The sale will run through March 3, and you do not have to be, speak, […]

  • Humble Weekly Bundle goes back to Japan

    The latest Humble Weekly Bundle is called Made in Japan, and I’m sure you can guess the theme. Pay what you want for Cherry Tree High Complete Pack (PC; Steam or DRM free), Fairy Bloom Freesia (PC; Steam or DRM free) and Influent + Language Pack (Linux, Mac, PC; Steam or DRM free). Pay more […]

  • Capcom “looking into” solutions to Resident Evil: Revelations PC co-op issue

    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 fans should sit tight for a bit, as Capcom is working on some sort of solution to the co-op issue. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 doesn’t have local co-op on PC and fans are pretty mad about that, as it was advertised ahead of release as a key feature. Although Capcom has […]

  • The games industry is disruption, says Assassin’s Creed producer

    Former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond has characterised the games industry as one long series of upsets. The games industry changes all the time, and that’s one of its best qualities, Raymond said. The ex-Ubisoft leader told Polygon that the reason seh got into games in the first place was because it “is this undefined […]

  • GTA 5 made $31 million in digital revenue in January

    GTA 5 is the highest-grossing title at the moment in terms of digital revenue, and the PSN is absolutely minting it. Digital games industry analyst Superdata has extended its scope to include console games, which means we suddenly have access to a whole bunch of data we’ve only been able to guess at, or extrapolate […]

  • Destiny: Inferno playlists debut next week

    Destiny PvP will shake things up next week with a new way to slaughter your mates in the Crucible. Destiny is already a skilled PvP game, but the new Inferno playlists will turn things up a notch with a focus on “basic gunplay”. The first of these, Inferno Control, kicks off on March 3 and […]

  • First-person camera coming to Guild Wars 2 next month

    ArenNet has announced its adding nonrestrictive first-person view to Guild Wars 2. Here’s what top expect come March 10: First-person Camera: Zooming in all the way will allow players to experience a first-person view. First-person mode is available while standing in place, walking, running, jumping, playing PvP and just about anything else. There aren’t any […]

  • Shadowrun Online signs on with Nordic

    Shadowrun Online has been given a nice little boost thanks to a distribution deal with Nordic Games. Shadowrun Online is a new team tactical RPG from Cliffhanger Productions. Although it’s already available through Steam Early Access, Nordic has agreed to distribute the finished version, which is due on Linux, Mac and PC in the second […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 is 60% finished, game world ten times the size of demo

    Final Fantasy 15 is 60% finished, according to director Hajime Tabata. Speaking with IGN, Tabata said development will kick into high gear once the Episode Duscae demo is released. “It’s about 60% now. People may look at that and say ‘well, you’ve only done five more percent!’ [since 55% in September] but it’s actually a […]

  • Destiny: you don’t need to visit the tower to access your vault

    Destiny players, you asked for it and Bungie has delivered it: you can now swap items in and out of the vault using the companion app. “Destiny needs more vault space” you cry – and yes, this is true. But while we all struggle with the limitations imposed on us by Bungie, we face all […]

  • Mortal Kombat X will contain over 100 Brutalities

    During the Mortal Kombat X stream today, NetherRealm Studios revealed Brutalities are back for the game, and stated there will be over 100 to pull off. You won’t gain any extra experience for being overly cruel with your painful moves, but you will at least get to laugh at some and “cringe” at others, according […]

  • Numenera: Strand is a film based on the game up on Kickstarter

    Numenera, the 2012 Kickstarter success and foundation for Torment: Tides of Numenera, could become a film if the Kickstarter for the movie is successful. With five days left, Monte Cook Games and Swedish film company Valdes/Eriksdotter needs £22,542 to reach its goal. Titled Numenera: Strand, it tells the tale of a drifter who “roams a […]

  • Gran Turismo 6 update adds MINI Clubman Vision, more

    A Mini Cooper has invaded Gran Turismo 6 via a new update. The Mid-Field Raceway track has also been added, and its a new and improved version of the original track from previous Gran Turismos. The new B-Spec Mode feature has also been added which allows the AI driver to race on your behalf. Additional […]

  • Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and some playable titles to PAX East

    Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and Splatoon with it to PAX East next month. The E3 2014 build of the game lets eight players transform into squids in a race for “splattered-paint dominance.” Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will also be playable and featured in stage presentations at the Nintendo booth. Upcoming or newly released Nintendo […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium information seems to have slipped out early

    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]