Microsoft admits first-party 360 release bungle
"Gaps were too long this year."
A senior Microsoft executive has admitted that the firm bungled its release schedule earlier this year on Xbox 360, resulting in gaps which were "too long from a first-party".
Speaking to our sister site GamesIndustry.biz, Microsoft Games Studio general manager Phil Spencer acknowledged the disappointment the firm had caused consumers and retailers with a staggering 210-day void between first-party releases Dead Or Alive 4 on 27th Janaury, and Ninety-Nine Nights on 25th August in the UK.
"I won't duck the question. Obviously our job as a first-party publisher is to lead on our platform and to create content not only that appeals to a broad set of customers, but also content that comes out with a regular pacing to continue to freshen the shelves," Spencer said. "But I wouldn't disagree with you that there were periods this year where there were gaps that were too long from first-party."
Microsoft's gaming blackspot was mirrored by a paucity of heavyweight third-party releases over a particular barren summer during which the firm arguably failed to capitalise on good early momentum and the absence of Sony's rival PlayStation 3 system.
"Obviously launch was a very challenging time - I was very proud of the three launch titles we had in Kameo, Perfect Dark and Project Gotham. To have three launch games is a good statement from a first-party," Spencer insisted. "We would love it if the pacing of our first-party games fit exactly with the calendar, but sometimes they don't."
However, Spencer promised that, having negotiated through this unconvincing period, Microsoft Games Studios and third parties were now hitting their stride with Christmas approaching.
"The more rosy picture is our pacing going forward; it's set up where you won't see those gaps," he claimed. "You see the set-up now on the platform, starting with Viva Pinata, then Gears of War, Crackdown, Forza, Mass Effect, Fable 2, Halo 3. We understand the production of the game such that I feel very good about the strength of the quality of the portfolio and, to your point, the timeliness of the portfolio on 360."
He continued: "[But] we're not going to let the date drive when a first party game comes out, because a bad first-party game coming out at the right time doesn't matter."
UK Xbox boss Neil Thompson backed this up, telling GI.biz: "When you bring out a platform, there's a ramp up phase that you go through and a lot of third-parties as well as ourselves look to the Christmas season as a key point to release some of the bigger franchise titles.
"The platform is more than first-party, and from a third-party point of view, we've got a great offering out there. By Christmas there'll be 160 games on the platform and I think that's pretty good choice."