Microsoft’s Greenberg On Gold, Kinect, Xbox In Japan, And First-Party Publishing

Posted on September 9, 2010

We talk to Microsoft Xbox product director Aaron Greenberg about the future of Xbox Live (and the recent Gold subscription increase), how quality control will help avoid shovelware on Kinect, the growing presence of Xbox 360 in Japan, and Microsoft’s first-party publishing policy.

Game Informer: Xbox live has grown substantially in the past couple of years in terms of features and functionality. Because some of the features are inherently free elsewhere – Facebook and Twitter for example – or already require a subscription fee as found in Netflix, can you provide any insight into what prompted the recent Gold price increase? Is there a way to break down the annual fee?

Aaron Greenberg: Well, first, we think of the service as a whole and so there are multiplayer or social experiences that are Gold in nature such as party mode and multiplayer gaming and those sorts of things are Gold. But with that said, we don’t think of it in terms of those components, we think of it as an entertainment service as a whole. There is a percentage of people who pay for gold. There are some people who only use it for communication and interaction. Some use it only to download arcade games.

GI: So it isn’t something Microsoft can compartmentalize or break down further?

Greenberg: No. I think honestly what has happened is that we have added so many new things over time. Our focus is always on adding more value to Gold. So that is why over the years we have added new things. If you pay for the Gold membership you get more stuff. But yes, we don’t really think about it that way – in terms of what is Gold and what is Silver.

GI: Along the same lines – improving and augmenting Xbox Live has been a huge focus as of late. Do you think that the service has all the bells and whistles it needs right now? Or is there any new functionality you would like to see just over the horizon?

Greenberg: We’ve been pretty aggressive in adding new features and functionality. Obviously we started with multiplayer gaming and we added entertainment – movies, TV shows, music, social networking stuff – and now to add sports with ESPN. And on top of that, what people don’t realize, is that a lot of our team is dedicated to making those features work with Kinect. So controller-free entertainment and video chat with video Kinect, all of those things are part of the Live experience and being a Gold member. We are going to continue to innovate every year, however. We want to keep surprising people. The team never stops with new ideas in what they want to do. It all comes in time. This year ESPN is the big thing. I think you will see the design of the dash and the navigation will improve, even controller-based, and all the controller-free experience – that is the high level stuff that most people will notice.

GI: Speaking of ESPN, what is the status of the ESPN Live feed technology?

Greenberg: It’s coming and it’s unbelievable. For us, if you are sports fan you will have to have the service because you can’t get it anywhere else on the TV, in HD, in the living room. It’s a perfect fit for us and we are excited to have this exclusive partnership with ESPN whether it’s out of market games you want to watch live, or highlights from Sports Center, or just to catch up games that you missed with the on demand feature. There are thousands of games from ESPN.  Whatever you are a fan of, it will be there.

GI: So there is still a focus on maintaining and innovating Xbox Live, but has the meat of Microsoft’s attention shifted to Kinect? Once Kinect launches, will there be regular firmware updates to maintain and improve the service?

Greenberg: Yes. We think about Kinect as another platform investment on the same level of Xbox Live, where we spent a number of years really dedicated to developing the service and adding new functionality over time. Kinect is another big bet from us in that way. We think it is a game changer. We think it will bring new and innovative and compelling games and entertainment experiences that have never been explored before. It takes quite a bit of manpower to do that and we are going to commit to adding new functionality over time.

Go to Source (Game Informer)

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Categories: Game News, Game Secrets

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