It wouldn't be an international press event without an opportunity to grill a Microsoft executive on Xbox 360's performance, and the Spring Showcase contender was Game Studios corporate vice president Shane Kim, who believes the console is in for another "landmark year".
Speaking to Eurogamer at the event in San Francisco, Kim also talked about the battle with PlayStation 3 in Europe (in which Sony recently claimed victory), Microsoft's attitude towards Japan and handhelds, and how Gears of War 2 is likely to fare in end-of-year battles with PlayStation 3's expanding line-up.
Having established Cliff Bleszinski and Kudo Tsunoda's views, we also discussed the scale of badass and the role of badassitude within Microsoft. Important stuff, see. Read on.
We're really trying to communicate that this will be another landmark year for Xbox 360 customers and Xbox Live. Mainly because we've really focused on a strategy of exclusive content, so titles like Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Banjo, etc. As well as the continuing leadership we have in the online space with Xbox Live. So we wanted to make sure that, even though we had a great 2007, 2008 is going to be an even better year for Xbox 360.
I think it's a close race no matter what. I understand the Sony guys have declared leadership already. I think we'll let the data speak for itself. The main thing to emphasise is, it's a tight race in what has already been a Sony stronghold. So any progress we're making there is great progress, from our perspective.
I just look at the two data points I mentioned this morning. Since we reduced the price of Xbox 360 in Europe we've seen tremendous sell-through run-rate games as well as market share games, as a result of that. Then with the launch of Grand Theft Auto a couple of weeks ago, obviously this is the US, but the same thing is happening a lot of places in Europe - the biggest games retailer in the US announced today that 65 per cent of Grand Theft Auto units were sold on Xbox 360, versus 35 per cent on PlayStation 3. That's traditionally been on the PlayStation franchise. So we feel really good about the momentum we've been able to generate, especially recently with both the price reduction and the launch of Grand Theft Auto. Then you combine that with our online leadership and our great content line, and we feel very good about the prospects.
You don't think we're going to win in Japan?
Look, we've acknowledged for a long time we wouldn't win in Japan and it was going to continue to be a tough market for us. We took some different steps in this generation. We produced two very well critically reviewed titles in Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. Unfortunately, it remains a difficult market for us.
I do think in the long run we're going to see more success in Japan. But because of our success in the rest of the world, oddly enough. Because Japanese developers and publishers, they all have to run businesses as well and you can't survive just on the Japanese market. They're going to recognise that Xbox 360 really does have a tremendous amount of success with installed base and in the rest of the world, and that's where I think you'll see more support and hopefully more Japanese content. It's not going to be because Microsoft Game Studios did one or two titles a year; it really is going to be because the overall platform is compelling.
I'm not going to go out and say our hope is to win in Japan, because that's not realistic. Do I think we have room for progress and improvement? I absolutely do. So the battle's not over. Microsoft generally doesn't have 'Quit' in its vocabulary. So whether it's Europe or Japan or North America, there's still a lot of work ahead of us.
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