X06 Interview: Shane Kim

Microsoft's head of Game Studios speaks on digital distribution of triple A games via Xbox Live, a renewed focus on PC gaming and why Halo Wars will open up 360 to a new audience

Shane Kim is the head of Microsoft Game Studios, which basically means he's the man in charge of content planning and development management of games for Xbox, Xbox Live and Windows as well as supervising several development studios. How he finds time to play games is beyond us, but at X06 he kept a 20 minute slot open to talk with CVG about 360's future.

Would people using the XNA tool set be able to sell their games to the public in the future?

Kim: That's a possibility but we're going to have to start slowly there. One of the great promises of XNA is to make game development easier and we want to provide an opportunity for that community of people, who want to learn about our tools and use them, to share their creations with each other initially.

Hopefully we'll get to the point where the types of content they're creating will have commercial value. We have a great distribution models today with Xbox Live, Marketplace and Xbox Live Arcade. The challenge will be to make sure they're of commercial quality. We don't just want to put up a bunch of stuff and have a bad user experience. They'll also be competing against other XBLA titles which are inerasably high fidelity.

I think there is an opportunity in the future and the goal is to get a lot more people creating content. I think the competition will help drive quality forward as well.

You said last night that Viva Pinata is your most important game this year. Why do you believe Viva is more important than something like Gears Of War?

Kim: We've done a great job with our core audience and we'll continue to do so. Halo's obviously one of the mega-hit franchises in the business today. And we're fortunate enough to have the most anticipated title on any platform with Gears Of War but as far as our aspirations with Xbox 360 are concerned, they're to win this generation. That means we're going to have to broaden the audience of Xbox 360.

With this in mind we're going to try and lead the way with great content. Launching Kameo with 360 was important. It's not something you'd typically see at launch. We have to demonstrate that we're more than just a hardcore gamers console, we're a platform for everyone and we have games for everyone. That was the message we were trying to stress in our X06 briefing.

Sometimes people will laugh at me when I say Viva is our most important game. But from that standpoint of new audience it is our most important title.

Do you see Rare as being the main studio that will head this initiative up to broaden the 360 audience?

Kim: Certainly from our internal studios Rare has the deepest, longest pedigree in that space and we're confident they're going to bring their magic - which they've demonstrated time and time again historically - to Xbox 360. Viva is shaping up to be something that could be very, very special. So yes, we do absolutely look at Rare as the foundation for our efforts in that place.

Sony's enjoyed a lot of success with titles like SingStar and EyeToy and Buzz, especially in Europe. We're going to have to round out the portfolio beyond the traditional type of content that you would get from Rare. And that's something we're absolutely working on.

What if Viva doesn't expand the market? Do you have a back-up plan?

Kim: I think one of the things you have to realise is that I'm banking on its success. We don't have the bulk of that kind of content, it's in the hands of third-parties.

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