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Interviews

Chris Satchell Pt. 1

Microsoft's developer group boss talks to CVG about user-generated content, PlayStation Home and all things Xbox

Chris Satchell, CVG best mate and general manager of Microsoft Developer Group is one of many charismatic Englishmen behind the Xbox development machine, but above that he's easily the one we'd most like to take down the pub.

That's because he's full of insight and chatter surrounding our favorite white and green box, bathing us with knowledge during our recent GDC interview with the latest on Microsoft's plans for You Tube-esque user conent, Xbox Live Arcade and why we should pay for Games for Windows Live. He's probably a legend on the slot machines as well.

How is Microsoft going to answer Sony's big push into user-generated content?

Chris Satchell: I think consumers as creators is one of the most powerful things that's going to happen in the industry in the next five-to-ten years. We have all the infrastructure to do that.

I think Little Big Planet is very cool. It's a very cool game and it's got a cool user-generated content feature but I can't see a big portfolio of games at the moment that do this.

You saw Forza 2 yeah? And the user-generated content there? That clearly shows our infrastructure side - you're able to take a car out, completely paint it, completely mod it, tune it and you're able to auction it online, take the funds from that and reimburse them in the game to do whatever you want.

That's a very similar example of user-generated content. It's not building a world but if you're into racing games it's just as meaningful.

The other side of it is XNA Studio Express; going beyond user-generated content to user-generated games. We've had incredible success with the downloads - we're over 250,000. I want to put that in to perspective; there are probably 20-25,000 professional programmers in the industry - this is ten times that and we did it in three months.

First it's a great system and it makes it a lot easier to build games but it's because there are a lot of people out there with really good ideas and they don't have something to enable them.

When we deliver our sharing story later in the year and you're able to share the game you've made in Game Studio Express with everybody on Xbox Live and Games for Windows Live - they don't need to be in the Creators Club or anything else - I think that is going to be great user-generated content.

How much influence do you think PlayStation Home took from Xbox Live?

Satchell: I think they've definitely taken some concepts that we originated like achievements, but I think they're pushing in a different direction and we've sort of fundamentally got two different approaches going on here.

There's very much a vision that people see it and it looks cool but it's fundamentally separate from the games - or at least what they've shown so far.

So you've got an environment where I don't have a unified community, I don't have unified achievements, I have to leave the experience to go back and see all that stuff - it's not an approach that's consistent across their portfolio. Some games will do it, some games won't, some games have achievements but they don't have to have achievements.

It's not a very game-centric approach. It's a cool world but it's like a little game by itself. Our approach is the other way around; that games are the centre and that's the star of the show, that's what people buy the console for.

I think it's an inside-out and an outside-in approach. We're more of an outside-in approach with games at the core where at they've got this thing at the core and the game experience around it.

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