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Interviews

Shane Kim

Microsoft Game Studios boss on the 2008 line-up, competing with PS3 and that motion controller...

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We're going to continue to look at new ways we can introduce different things - the third parties are doing this as well with the music controllers. So there's opportunities for us there too. We're an R and D company at heart.

Japan: is it still an important terrirory for Xbox 360?

Kim: It's still important for us to have a presence. I mean, we have a reasonable install base there. For us we said we'd make a big investment with Sakaguchi-san with Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, and while those were well recieved critically in Japan they didn't buy us Xbox 360 sales.

What will help us in Japan ultimately, will be success in the west. Because the bulk of the content has to come from Japanese publishers - it has to be content that Japanese consumers want to play. we've already see this withe developers like Tecmo and Capcom - they see the success that we've had in North America and Europe and they know they've got to run businesses.

We'll continue to look for new oppotunities in Japan and we've got a few irons in the fire there that we're still pretty excited about, but you probably won't see us release anything speicfially for Japan. There's a lot of great talent in Japan, so we'll just take a more global perpspective to development.

Last year at E3 Scene It was part of your plan of attack to reach the mass-market. How well do you feel you've done that?

Kim: I think it's a multi-dimesional challenge for us. Clearly Scene it alone is not going to do it and neither is Viva or Banjo. The fact of the matter is our core title are Halo and Gears Of War so we have a mature rated brand out there. So marketing is definitely a challenge, we have to work out how to make the brand more appealing and that's what we're doing... there's actually a lot more choice here today than just Gears Of War 2.

Third parties are supporting us too fantastically with a broad catalogue - you just have to look at Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and the success they enjoy on our platform.

And price point is another issue, we have to get to a more mass-market pricepoint. So I don't think there's one silver bullet. You know, I wish we had the 'Halo' for that audience.

Sony have kind of cleared up on this front with the success of Buzz and Singstar (especially in Europe) and you seem to be relying on third-parties for these mass market appeal titles that aren't even exclusive to 360. Why aren't you developing your own SingStar and Buzz?

Kim: Who says we're not? (Laughs) I agree, I understand in Europe particularly Singstar and Buzz have been huge. Of course that's a position of strength for them in Europe, which is making it more difficult for us. We just have to keep plugging away and continue to think about new experiences that take advantage of the unique capabilities that 360 offers. So Live is the big platform for us, and I know it isn't as big in Europe as the US, but I think that can change as well. And we have to look at ways of making it attractive to people so they will want to pay the subscription fee.

Going back to the motion controller rumour it must be tempting to try and do something similar to capture some of that market - but wouldn't it come across as a bit 'me too'?

Kim: Well, you have to be careful about doing the me too thing. But what's interesting is that you have a lot of third parties that are trying to rush to the Wii phenomenon, but if you look at the data, the vast majority of software that has sold on Wii has come from Nintendo. So it's not turned out to be a great third party eco-system.

So it could work if you had something that had a great third party eco-system. Having said that, our unique perspective is going to be online oriented for better or worse. In the same way that Sony is Blu-ray and Nintendo is the motion-control, our thing is online. And each of these has strengths and weaknesses in different markets of the world. whatever we do has to take advantage of our unique capabilities.

Which is why we thought it was weird when we heard the motion controller rumours...

Kim: I agree with you. But I've never heard of a motion sensing controller... I don't know what you are talking about...

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