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Interview: J Allard on Xbox 360

Microsoft's corporate vice president and driving force behind Xbox 360 discusses the company's next-gen initiative

Microsoft corporate vice president J Allard is currently responsible for driving the Washington, Redmond giant's Xbox 360 "into the HD Era by creating experiences that are always connected, always personalized and always in high definition," states his company biog. Allard was also a founding member of the Xbox platform project and additionally as chief XNA architect oversees Microsoft's XNA initiative -"an ecosystem of interchangeable, interoperable software tools and technologies from Microsoft, middleware and game development companies."

We caught up with Allard during this year's E3 to chat about Xbox 360 and how next-gen will change the face of gaming...


How's E3 going?

J Allard: It's hard to tell from this little room in here. I think the excitement around the next gen is great, the support for Xbox 360 is great, we're getting the news out there, people are getting their hands on the games. We're excited about that, I think the response to the design is fantastic, and it's pretty clear that the next-generation battle has begun.

Do you think you're prepared enough for the next-generation hardware? Are you worried at all?

J Allard: Yup and nope - we're not worried at all. We designed the next-generation hardware around the needs of game developers and so they [Sony] fixated on a lot of details. If you want some of the technical details, they kind of left out the fact that we had three times the integer performance and most games are about 80 percent integer and about 20 percent floating point. The fact that we both have 512 megs is one thing, they've split it down the middle they've said we've got 256 for graphics and 256 for the CPU, we say you can draw that line wherever you want so we give the power to the developer a little more.

We've also put DRAM on there and you mightn't think 10Mb isn't a big deal but it's on the same chip as the graphics card which gives you great access there. I think from a hardware point of view there's a very simple argument to say we've got more powerful hardware. Basically we've got the same amount of sand in both boxes, the same number of transistors in both boxes. But we've really tried to balance the hardware components and the system around the game designers.

Then you look at both of them and say they're really complicated machines, which one's more powerful? Well who's going to have the best software? Regardless of which configuration you might like better, taking full advantage of the hardware is going to be part of great software.

Sony the PS2 and the Dreamcast scenario - aren't you afraid Sony will do exactly the same thing again and say hang on for the extra power of the PS3?

J Allard: Yes they are arguing the exact same thing, Sony is doing the exact same thing. Let me tell you what's different about what we're doing rather than the Dreamcast scenario.

On stage we had... Electronic Arts saying: "This is the biggest commitment Electronic Arts has made in 68 console launches". 25 games in development, that was different from Dreamcast. We're coming into this generation with two million subscribers for our online service, they're just rabid about the system. We're coming into this generation with Square Enix and their commitment to the platform. We're going into this generation with Rare, with Bungie, with a lot of great first-party platform exclusives and franchises which we'll be able to take forward... the split is about 50 percent sequels and known IP and about 50 percent new IP like Gears of War.

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