Eurogamer: So, where's Don Mattrick? Peter Moore always used to be around, it's the same position - I guess we kind of expected we'd see him here now.
John Schappert: He's a dapper young man, Don is. He's back at home holding down the fort. I see a lot of Don, so maybe I should hook him up with you so he can talk to you! He's working hard, so Don is engaged in running the business and thought this was a great event for me to come out and meet some of the folks, and talk about community gaming on Xbox Live, talk about the great line-up of titles we have for 2008. It dovetailed quite nicely into what we're doing with our Xbox Live service. I'm sure you'll see more of Don later in the year.
Eurogamer: Is it a different management style he has compared to Peter?
John Schappert: Well I can't talk about Peter as I didn't work for him, although I think he's a wonderful man. I can speak to Don's management style because I've worked with him for quite a while. Don is a direct, straight shooter, no-nonsense guy who wants to do the best he can. He's a wonderful man, and I think that his arrival's been a good thing, because he knows the business, he's got more experience than most people in this industry, and he's a great leader.
I joined, he was a huge part of why I joined. I enjoy working with him. It's pretty darn cool to do things as a hardware platform. I come from the software world, and we can make and I've been privy to making some great games and working in teams that make great games, but what we just announced yesterday with community gaming on Xbox Live is industry-changing. That's something that only a hardware platform can do, and in fact something that only Microsoft can do. It's pretty cool to be in the saddle for six months and already kind of pioneer a watershed moment for the gaming industry where gamers can now become creators and distribute their games.
Eurogamer: The community gaming aspect - are people actually able to charge for their games once they've gone through the peer-review process?
John Schappert: We haven't talked about that yet. Our plan right now is that we have community gaming and a distribution mechanism, so people who want to create games can distribute them to our millions of members - 10 million today, but who knows how many millions by this fall - on Xbox Live. We're going to go beta with that in the spring, so if you're part of the [XNA] Creators Club you can help us work through all of the particulars - make sure it's all robust - for when it goes live this fall. During that beta period, we'll work out what that business model is.
Eurogamer: Getting games through XBLA certification seems like quite a slow process. If you allow people to charge for it, is it a mechanism you can seeing being used by smaller companies to effectively self-publish on Xbox Live?
John Schappert: We're not talking about the business model, but I will say that I think the same question could have been asked when our forefathers created Xbox Live Arcade, thinking, 'Gosh, they might play this and not play Halo'. I think you've seen that that's not the case, and that actually people enjoy the Arcade games because they're different than what the top-pillar games are. I think we're going to see the same thing.
Yes, there are small [development] shops making these Arcade games, but with some of these community games...Look at Dishwasher - made by one guy. He did the art, he did the coding, he did it all. So I think there are going to be different calibres of that. I also think - here's the great thing for the industry - it's a great 'farm league', if you use the baseball analogy. Start out here and make games. What better way to see what merits someone has than to see the game that they make? It could open the door to many, many, many more people to join our industry on a professional basis.
Eurogamer: What are royalties like with Xbox Live Arcade at the moment?
John Schappert: I'm not going to talk about rates because that is proprietary information and I can't discuss that. What I can say is that we are trying to do...what we haven't done in the past on Xbox Live Arcade is to fund development of games. Very few titles have come out from Microsoft. It's been a platform where independent developers have made their game, and we've put them on, and as you've mentioned there are limited slots. There are more titles than we have slots available - it's limited shelf-space, if you will - and marketing these titles and putting them in front of people, we want to make sure every one of these games gets a great shot.
What we are pushing and pursuing is first-party development. We want to fund the development of these titles, which is something new for us. We are thinking that instead of being a distribution channel, which we have been in the past, let's be a publishing channel.