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GDC: Microsoft's John Schappert

On 360 sales, Wii and PS3, XNA and Blu-ray.

On Wednesday, John Schappert stood in front of the Game Developers Conference and introduced a new initiative to put community-made games on Xbox Live, and of course helped unveil Gears of War 2. We caught up with John a day later to talk about 360 hardware sales, the Wii and PS3, how the XNA, Xbox Live and Zune relationships will work, and of course what happens now that HD-DVD has died on its arse.

EurogamerLet's start with your keynote speech yesterday. No mention of hardware stats - do you have any updated hardware sales figures?
John Schappert

I think that we've sold 18 million, the last time I've checked. 18 million hardware units worldwide.

EurogamerDo you have a projection for 2008?
John Schappert

No - we haven't talked about that yet.

EurogamerDo you have an Xbox Live subscription projection for 2008?
John Schappert

We don't have that yet either, but here's what I can tell you: we have 10 million Live members, which we hit six months ahead of schedule. We have 4 million added in the last six months.

EurogamerIs that all Gold subscriptions or a mixture of Gold and Silver?
John Schappert

We don't break that up, but I can tell you the majority are Gold.

EurogamerAre you satisfied with these figures? Particularly the installed base?
John Schappert

I think we're very happy in some regions and I think that we think there's room for improvement in other regions.

EurogamerWhere would you say? The one that's often mentioned to me is places where PlayStation is strong, such as Southern Europe.
John Schappert

Yes, you hit the nail on the head. We look, and we are hitting the ball out of the park in North America, and I think that there's regions of Europe where we're not doing as well as we'd like to do, and we have room for improvement. Those are renewed areas and key areas of focus for us.

Chris Lewis is now the leader of the Interactive Entertainment Business of Microsoft for Europe - a new position - so we have a very keen interest in doing even better than we have, and doubling down there. We've appointed Chris and he's building up a new organisation just focused on doing even better there.

He has nothing but respect for this. I have nothing left to play on it.
EurogamerThe Wii has sold more than 20 million. It did that in one year. Does it worry you that it's got such acceleration compared to how you guys are doing?
John Schappert

I have nothing but respect for Nintendo - they've done great stuff, it's a nice little machine. However, I think it's a very different machine too. When you pick up an Xbox 360, it is to play games with a standard input device. You want to play Halo, you want to play your favourite sports game. I think that - bar none - we've got the best machine to play those games on. We've got higher-rated titles than the competition on that. I think it's a nice complementary machine. I think we've seen more dual-ownership this generation than before. But the machine that people are opting to play cross-platform games and third-party games is the Xbox 360.

EurogamerYou say the Wii's a very different thing, but you were going after that mainstream demographic too. Is that still your goal? Or are you content now being a core gamer system?
John Schappert

I think we want both. So no, I think that what strategy the team worked on prior to my arrival is they wanted to capture the core gamer. The early adopter, the core gamer - I think they did a phenomenal job of capturing that core gamer. I think the next logical progression is extending out and going broader, and I think that Peter [Moore] certainly kicked it off and did a great job - Viva Pinata: Party Animals and Scene It, which did very well - and I think the other title, which isn't a first party title, is Rock Band in Northern America. It was a huge success for us. It outsold the [PS3 SKU] competition two to one. Guitar Hero - a huge success for us. And Rock Band continues to do well, where they announced at our keynote 3 million downloads of downloadable content.

EurogamerDo you know how many of those are on your platform?
John Schappert

I don't. I can say that if you look at the sales, we've outsold the competition two to one, so I would surmise that...you can ask them directly, but we're outselling the competition two to one.

Before the holidays, it was in sold-out status. This title was impossible to get before the holidays in North America. And I can tell you I personally walked into a Best Buy store before Christmas and there was a palette of Rock Bands, and I did a double-take and said, 'Wow', and guess what? They were all PlayStation 3 versions, which made me smile broadly as I walked on, because they didn't have any Xbox 360 versions.