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Interviews

Xbox 360 uncovered!

Regional vice president, Xbox, Europe, Chris Lewis cornered for highly enlightening Xbox 360 chat

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The camera peripheral will evidently not be available at launch. How important is it going to be when it arrives?

Chris Lewis: Let me give you a personal example. My son is only eleven and one of his best friends is moving to Singapore. He's pretty upset, but I keep telling him not to worry because he'll be able to talk to his friend over Xbox Live and see him face to face. The ability to actually see each other makes it even more real and that's going to add so much to the experience.

How successful do you think the Xbox 360 launch will be in Japan?

Chris Lewis: It's a tough market. I will say that we've learned a lot from our experience with Xbox. We've forged relationships with all the right partners in Japan. We now have an industrial design that will resonate over there, and that was one of many lessons we learned from the original Xbox. It has to be right. With the right gaming partners, the right games and the right design, and by working with the people who can help us capture the Japanese gamer, I think we'll be very successful. We're confident and committed to success in the Japanese marketplace and there's no doubt in our minds about how important it is to achieve that.

Moving back to Europe, what unique challenges does it offer for the Xbox 360 launch?

Chris Lewis: Europe's a very textured environment, and I think anyone who assumes that one size fits all in Europe is very na´ve. It's a patchwork quilt of different demographics. The UK and Nordic territories for instance are very sophisticated and mature about their consumer electronics. We're talking multiple consoles in each house. That's a different challenge to break through markets in places like Italy and Spain, where there's less population density and more fragmentation amongst gamers. We've learned a lot about how to work in those different territories and we're still learning.

But it's important for us to be successful everywhere in Europe. We're committed to that and we'll use our experiences with Xbox to make sure we do. It's getting the right stock quantities there, working with the right partners, marketing in the right way, and establishing the right price point. I'm confident we've achieved all those things.

Customisation is another important element of the Xbox 360's appeal. How and why are you going down this road?

Chris Lewis: The Xbox Live Marketplace is a good example of a place where people will be able to customise things in the kind of ways you're talking about. One thing's for sure: people definitely want to customise. If you look at mobile phones, everyone's got their own faceplate, or background scheme, or cover. The faceplates we're offering for Xbox 360 is one example of how we're allowing people to physically customise their console, and the Xbox Live Marketplace is another place where we're letting people customise the games they play on their console. The reaction we've had to this kind of customisation has been amazing.

The original Xbox was seen as quite a hardcore console, but it seems that you are aiming for a much more massmarket audience with Xbox 360. Why the change in focus?

Chris Lewis: We needed to get established. This is a very tough business to get established in, and we knew we had to resonate with the hardcore audience - the real dedicated gamers - first. Moving on, we want to be far more broadly appealing. It's important that we offer the kinds of features that people want for their digital entertainment lifestyle. And it's important that we offer games in every genre that's broadly appealing. We'll continue to do that. I think you can see just from the look and feel of the Xbox 360 that we're opening up the system to a much broader audience, and that can only take us to the next level.

At the pre-E3 Microsoft press conference J Allard famously spoke of Xbox 360 reaching 1 billion people. Do you really think that's possible?

Chris Lewis: I think it was a great comment because it's genuine about our ambitions. Just to clarify, our ambitions are very, very big. If you think back to some of the things we've been talking about you start to see where that number of people could come from. Think about spectating. Think about the digital entertainment elements that we referred to. Think about people who like to work on customised content and put it on Xbox Live Marketplace. When you think about those types of activities it's easy to start getting some huge numbers.

It's great that J made that statement because it opens peoples' minds to the fact that Xbox 360 isn't just about playing games - it's about much more than that. I'm glad J said it, because it lets us talk about the breadth and depth of things about Xbox 360 that will touch people all over the world.

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