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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

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The other thing I'll say is Peter Moore isn't going to get Dreamcast-ed again. This time it's personal for him and for guys like Robbie and myself; we started too late to win last time, Peter was on the wrong team and the three of us? We're ready to win this time. We really are, we've got the plan to do great this generation.

So how crucial is it going to be to be first to market and how much does maybe that year you'll get, give you?

J Allard: Well Sony are saying spring 2006 and their tech specs aren't giving them a year advantage, they're buying the same number of transistors and putting them in the same size box at the end of the day. So I don't know it's so much a head start but it's certainly not a disadvantage for us. Hitting the market 20 months late was disastrous, we had no brand, we didn't have a team and we'd never shipped a single console before and they had already sold 12.5 million units before we even put one on a shelf somewhere. It's a bad way to start and we knew we were only going to get as far we could this generation. But next generation? We've got all that experience, we've got the team, we've got the franchise, we've got the brand and a plan to really go for the gold this time.

So how do you see the future of the regular Xbox?

J Allard: I think it's going to be great, I think we'll sell more Xboxes than we will Xbox 360s this holiday, they're still in manufacturing. The reason for that is we're going to sell every 360 we make. We're still making them, we've got 200 games coming out this holiday, games like Half-Life 2 which are going to take this generation to the next level, the community is still going great, so we'll sell the hardware into next year, no problem. For the publishers, this is really where the publishers get the most out of a platform, publisher commitment next year for new titles is going to be great. If you look down on the show floor, some 70 percent of our floor is dedicated to Xbox one content, because we're really committed to that platform.

Next year might be closer to a 50-50 split, but by next year we'll probably have shipped between 80 and a 100 Xbox 360 titles. We've got a 160 plus in development right now, you'll have about a 80-100 which will have shipped and about another 80 or so in development which we'll want to be showing.

I think that one thing we've learned in this generation is that all markets aren't created equal. I think what we've done in terms of the industrial design, we've advanced that and made it much more appealing to a world wide sensibilities. We're actually empowering the regions, I mean it's a small business detail but we're actually giving the regions much more power to do in-market promotions, the team is going to be bigger, the relationship with retail is going to be different and now we've proven ourselves as a great platform, we've kind of filled in the missing pieces on the development puzzle.

Some of the games we didn't have - do you know, we didn't have a FIFA launch title, we didn't have a great Formula One game and so on... Rally support came in year three for Europe. But in this next generation the regional teams are all demanding great content from launch in each of the regions and they're empowered to do local marketing programs and not just take what the Americans view as good advertising.

Why is no-one talking about Jeff Minter's contribution? Soundtracks?

J Allard: I'm a long time fan of Jeff Minter but he actually came out for my holiday party this year. He actually had it up and running on the dev kits this year, showing it off and I think people are going to love it! That's one thing that will be built into every box and that'll be pretty special for people and in terms of what people wanted: we went out and talked to people and we said we're doing this removable hard drive and soundtracks in every game. Most people said: "I'd love to be able to plug in my portable device with all my music and use that for soundtracks. So even though we're wireless we're going to have USB ports on the front so you can just plug in and stream that music over any game you're playing.

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