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Interview: Phil Harrison on Xbox One, indies, pre-owned games and more

By Andy Robinson on Thursday 23rd May 2013 at 4:44 PM UTC

It's half time in Microsoft's big Xbox One reveal, and while we all scurry off for an intermission meat pie and pint, the platform holder is frantically prepping an E3 finale aimed at answering any of our remaining questions, of which there are many.

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The company's Redmond tent show offered a glimpse of the Xbox One hardware, its entertainment functions and Microsoft's wider vision for the platform, but there's still a question mark hovering over the console's abilities as a games machine, not to mention the confusing back-and-forth messaging regarding pre-owned software and always-online functionality.

Following the reveal, CVG met with Microsoft's corporate vice president Phil Harrison to discuss the next-gen console and try to extract some more information.

[ Xbox One: All the News | All the facts | Full gallery | All the videos | Early specs ]


So the secret's finally out: Xbox One is your next-generation console. Do you feel relieved now that Microsoft has finally gone public?

Yeah, absolutely. I think for members of the team that have been on this journey from the beginning, bearing in mind I haven't, I think it's a very proud moment for them. I was just talking to one of my colleagues earlier on who said his kids went to school today dressed up in Xbox gear and they were really proud of daddy for his big announcement. So yeah, I think there's a great sense of achievement among the team for what we've shown today.

It's also a bit of proper reveal for you personally, and your new role at Microsoft. How does it feel being on the other side of the fence approaching a console war with Sony?

The Xbox One strategy, no so much the product but the strategy of an all in one entertainment lead device was one of the motivating factors to get me to join this team. Because I really believe in the strategy and I really love the implementation in not just the hardware but the services, and the ambition of where it will go in years. So yeah, I feel really good about it and really proud to be in the team making it happen.

Xbox is coming out of a very successful cycle, with 360 having been on the market for eight years, and it looks like One is built for a long future too...

Yes, very much so. Architectural decisions, the hardware design, the service design, connectivity to the cloud and the fact that that gives us even more future proofing... I think that will not only extend the generation in terms of time but it potentially significantly expands the reach of this generation in terms of the numbers of people who can feel that Xbox One is for them.

It could be a core gamer who is the primary purchase motivator of the buying the device, but it could be his girlfriend who uses it equally. That's a terrible stereotype that I'm actually hating now that I've said it, so let me put it a different way: that Kinect can recognise an individual and customise the experience for your needs, which might be very different to somebody else who you share the console with, is an incredibly powerful feature.

It means that in my household my profile will be very different to what my kids or wife get to see. I think that will give more people encouragement to use Xbox One and for it to be their primary device of choice and that, I think, will grow the generation for everyone.

The messaging so far has been very entertainment driven. How big of a challenge is it to try and balance your system for both a mass-market entertainment audience and core gamers? Is it even possible?

Yes it is possible to find a balance but I don't think it's possible to do it within the constraints of a one hour presentation. I think what you saw today was very much the platform, vision and direction for all Xbox One entails, which is games, TV being made super intelligent and entertainment all co-existing inside one device with seamless switching between them, which is just amazing to see in action.

20 days from now we have E3 and that will be all about games. So having these two events so close to each other allows us to tell that story in two parts. In fact, multiple parts as we get into the run up to launch and we have more local events to start localising that story and make it very regional and specific to wherever you live.

So core gamers are still very much a priority for Microsoft?

Very much so. Gamers are where we started and gamers are where we will continue as a business. It drives a lot of our personality, it drives a lot of our technology decisions, and I think that today's presentation showed a commitment to that, both in an investment that Microsoft Studios is making over 15 exclusive games that will be coming to Xbox One, eight of which are brand new IPs, over a billion dollars of investment - more than we've ever invested in content before. That's a tremendous commitment.

There's also the commitment of our strategic partnership with Electronic Arts and the fact that they demonstrated FIFA, Madden, NBA and UFC. Specifically for Europe we'll be bringing some unique, exclusive features to FIFA on Xbox One, which is fantastic, and then you don't get any more 'core' than Call of Duty. Having Activision partner with us to bring the Call of Duty world exclusive to our event was pretty amazing.

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