Microsoft's Phil Spencer • Page 4

On 2010, Natal and tipping points.

Eurogamer: What about hardcore gamers? Do they really want to stand up and move around to play games, rather than relax on the sofa with a controller? And while the Wii has enjoyed huge success, some of its most popular games - Mario Kart, New Super Mario Bros. - don't have to use motion control anyway. Has the fashion for motion control died down? Isn't Natal a bit late to the party?

Phil Spencer: Talking about Natal as motion control is missing the point. Natal isn't motion. It's a natural user interface, it's voice recognition, it's complete mapping of the skeleton - it's a much different experience, and an experience as opposed to an input device.

I agree that coming to the market late with a motion solution would probably feel tired, given the momentum that others are having in the market, and that's why we made a step to actually create something new and something unexpected.

Any time we've sat down with consumers, be they consumers who own competitive platforms or who don't consider themselves gamers, and put them in front of these experiences, they instantly light up. Our user research is almost artificially high because people have such a fun time just standing and interacting with the experience. We almost have to discount it to some extent - 'Well look, they're just having a good time with Natal, now what about our games?' Because people are showing and telling us this experience is completely different and removes barriers.

That said, nobody should think that the controller is unimportant to us. It is important to us. I love our controller, I love the first- and third-party games we have that use the controller today. That will continue to be part of the platform, so it's not about precluding those experiences from existing - it's about continuing to evolve the platform.

You talked about hardcore gamers and what they want. I've been around long enough to remember that with Xbox 1, people said they didn't want first-person shooters on consoles. Now we look back and see that creators created experiences which resonated very well, and that's always the challenge. I think our community is up to that challenge.

Eurogamer: PS3 has just enjoyed its biggest Christmas yet, with sales up 76 per cent in the US, and Sony's suggesting the tide is turning. Some analysts suggest this is the start of a downward curve for Microsoft and an upwards curve for Sony. Meanwhile, third-parties like Ubisoft are backing away from the casual market, saying they're focusing more on PS3 and 360. What's your perspective? Is 2010 a pivotal year for gaming?

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Or is it this face, the face of your more famous yet probably now less financially stable namesake?

Phil Spencer: I think we're coming out of a very strong 2009. We had great games that attached very well for both first- and third-party in '09. Look at Call of Duty and the attach rate on our platform relative to other platforms, which I think is 2-to-1. What you'll see is that gamers continue to see 360 as the place they want to play the best games. I think that's because we have the best games as well as the most vibrant, full Live experience.

If anybody's thinking about a downturn, I look at 2010 and I say, 'Come and see what we're showing - come and see the games and experiences we're going to deliver.' It's a line-up that I don't think I've seen from first-party in the time I've been here.

The roll-call is Alan Wake, Crackdown, Halo: Reach, Fable III, some great Live content. Then third-party comes in with exclusive content for Left 4 Dead 2 and Call of Duty, Splinter Cell's coming... And then Natal is launching this holiday. I think it will be a real decision point for people who aren't currently gamers on any console; that experience will be the thing that causes them to decide on 360.

So anybody who's looking at a downturn hasn't looked at our line-up of experiences, because it's truly amazing. It's a great collection and I'm proud to head up first-party as we bring these games to market.

Eurogamer: So whatever anyone might say about tipping points - you're not worried?

Phil Spencer: Worried? No! The challenge is always there to delight the customer. We continue to do that, as our sales success in '09 shows. In 2010 I think we'll continue the success we've had with new challenges we put in front of ourselves, like a great launch of Natal.

Phil Spencer is corporate vice president of Microsoft Game Studios.

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