J Allard, the head of the Xbox division at Microsoft, has given an absolutely fascinating interview to money website The Street
I just want to lift a few of the pertinent quotes from the interview for a quick bit of discussion.
Q: Why do you think the Xbox 360 will have an appeal outside of the core gaming contingent?
Allard: Well, the first is approachability, [which] takes several forms. First is the device itself. The industrial design of the device really reflects the optimism that we have for the industry, and it's more inviting. We went to a wireless design. And it seems like a trivial matter from a technology point of view, but from a living-room experience point of view? Having wires strewn across your couch and across the floor is a big deal to a lot of people. So, in showing the industrial design and the wireless concept to a lot of nongamers, they say, 'Well, finally, this is a product that doesn't need to be banished to the basement.'
I have to say that I absolutely agree with Allard here. The original Xbox controllers had 6ft controller wires so that you could sit as far back from your TV as you wanted. This was a great idea, as were the little break-sockets on the plugs. However, they did mean that the Xbox area next to your TV become a bundle of horrendously tangled, extremely long wires. By going wireless, not only do you appease hardcore gamers, you do also severely neaten up the setup - especially at the front of the box, which is highly visible.
Q: The big hit on Xbox has been the Halo series. When will we see a version of Halo for Xbox 360?
Allard: The Bungie [Studios] guys have had [development] kits for a long time now. So, they're cooking some interesting stuff for 360. I think it won't disappoint in any stretch of the imagination.
We have one formula with Halo: Ship it when it's ready. We did it with Halo 1. We did it with Halo 2. And we haven't disappointed the audience yet. That's Bungie's philosophy; that's the Xbox team's philosophy.
Dammit! Whilst there were rumours just before the official 360 launch that the console would come with Halo 2 HD on the hard drive, it doesn't appear to be the case. We're still hopeful that there will be some kind of stopgap before Halo 3, partly because comments from the Bungie team previously have suggested that the current engine used in Halo 2 can handle HD resolution and quality without substantial work.
Q: The last Xbox went out at about $300 initially. Will the 360 be priced higher, lower?
Allard: It's going to be in the neighborhood.
Here's the thing. The Xbox went out at $300 / £300 initially, and no one bought it because it was too expensive. Are Microsoft banking on the 360 being a more compelling proposition, with the number and quality of launch titles and the hardware inside? Even at this pricepoint, they're bound to be making a loss on the bleeding-edge hardware.
Of course, coming out months before the PS3, they're going to be giving the public the first taste of next-gen gaming, rather than just competing with an alread-established Sony platform, as they did before. On a personal note, I was sceptical about the Xbox at £300, but I'd easily pay that for the 360.
Gosh, roll on December! Feel the need to communicate your Xbox urges? Talk about them here