Speaking to videogaming247 after his Wednesday GDC keynote, John Schappert - "Corporate Vice President LIVE, Software and Services for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft" - said that he believes downloadable content is now an accepted part of the gamer experience, and a precursor to the advent of "community gaming".
"No, not in any way," he said, when asked if accruing cash through Live micropayments was more important for Microsoft than expanding the general demographic for gaming. "What I think you should take away from the 20 million [Microsoft] Points spent to date is how successful Marketplace is; that it is a real Marketplace for content, and a big driver for that this past holiday in North America was Rock Band and Guitar Hero. I think just like we saw a year ago at Christmas 2006, Arcade kind of came to fruition and it just broke the doors down. It's doing better than ever right now, but now all of a sudden downloadable content has come of age, and now we've got community gaming coming. I think people want to be able to extend their gameplay and experience, so I think it's a great thing."
Schappert's keynote focused heavily on community features through Live and the now "democratised" XNA, including the launching of a service to allow bedroom coders to get content out to the Live community. Some of the numbers he through around for Live were impressive, including 1 billion Achievements unlocked so far and 3 million tracks downloaded for Rock Band in the US.
The ongoing success of the service, said Schappert, is down to the previous work of "shepherds" such as Peter Moore and J Allard.
"I think the shepherds that came before me that crafted that box and created the Live service did a phenomenal job," he said. "I have to say that I think that they were visionary and that we are all pleasantly surprised at how well [it turned out]. We certainly had high hopes and expectations, but to hit 10 million members six months ahead of schedule - that's just good stuff."