Interview With Jay Allard
To wrap it up, we have asked Jay Allard, General Director of the Xbox platform at Microsoft, some questions.
THG : How are Xbox sales doing?
Jay Allard : Sales are way above what we could foresee. We thought we would sell one million consoles before the end of the year and we have reached 1.5 million units. Most of all, we have sold more than 4.5 million games, that is three per console, which is remarkable. The third-party publishers who develop titles for Xbox and also for GameCube, have better sales on the Xbox. We think that we are going to sell one million copies of Halo before its official release in Europe. As far as Europe is concerned, pre-sale numbers look particularly good. To provide a regular supply to this market of 16 countries, we built a plant in Hungary with a production capacity of 15,000 consoles per day, that is 100,000 per week. The Xbox should therefore get a really good start in Europe.
THG : What is happening with the development of future games?
J.A. : There are more than twenty titles for sale in the United States. For Europe, fifteen games are available on March 14 or Day One, in 16 different countries. That includes bestsellers like Halo, as well as new titles. At the moment, half of available titles are games developed exclusively for the Xbox. Some of those offered by third-party publishers will include a special bonus, like Electronic Arts' F1 which will come with an exclusive version of the 2002 season. At the moment, 250 games are being developed for the Xbox. Most titles are being developed in four to seven languages. As soon as Christmas 2002, we are hoping to be able to release every game simultaneously in all languages and countries. You can expect to see really incredible titles, because we are still far from having reaching the console's full potential. Halo only uses 50% of its possibilities...
THG : What is your strategy for online gaming?
J.A. : Online gaming is going to be as big as when 3D started in the video games industry. This will change the way developers create games and the way players approach them. We want to develop the games market by reaching people who are not playing yet. At present, 50% of people don't play video games. In terms of commercial competition, we are not looking at Sony or Nintendo, but instead we consider our competitors to be cinema, television, music, radio, books because that is what those 50% of people do during their free time. With Xbox, you can play sport games where every player of a team will be connected with a real player online. Players will have a single indentity that spans all the games and all the publishers. The goal is to create a community and even a world ranking. Moreover, we are going to develop a voice communication system that will let everyone communicate live, no matter which game. All this should develop rapidly thanks to the fast connections.
The Xbox is definitely a generation ahead, compared to the Playstation 2 at least. It paves the way for new milestones in video gaming. For the first time, a system of this type lets you play in 3D 5.1 sound. It fools you and clearly changes the games' dimension by immersing you, like it's never been done before. Already with the first games, the graphics are stunning. The possibilities offered by NVIDIA's processor, with vertex shaders, anti-aliasing and a library of efficient programming show you games with extraordinary graphics.
Finally, the hard disk lets you save correctly and makes the waiting shorter. Even the pads are excellent. Indeed, as far as the technology is concerned, there is nothing wrong with the Xbox. It is certainly a little too bulky and brittle. But honestly, this is not a big worry.
As far as the games, things look good as well. As of now, the choice is enormous and there is no lack of good titles. With Microsoft being who they are, their own developments and hundreds of titles being announced, there is nothing to worry about. There will be plenty of popular games and Microsoft knows how to convince developers to invest in this machine. Even the price is reasonable, at least in the United States, where it costs $300. Compared to the PS2, with the hard disk added, the price is a good deal! On the other hand, the announced european price of € 480 is way too much. Microsoft has a strange way of computing the exchange rate between dollars and euros... Games with a maximum price of $50, or € 65 in Europe, are expensive, but those prices are the same ones PS2 uses, at least in the United States. In Europe, PS2 games are cheaper and Microsoft should bring its prices into alignment.
Now, let us answer THE big question: "Should I buy or not?" For young children, the GameCube would certainly be a better fit. If only for the catalogue of games announced. For all those who already have a PS2, the decision is not clear. Personally, in this case, I would try to switch to the Xbox. For those who like consoles, who are older and who do not already have a PS2, they must have the Xbox. Those who already have a PC can easily be convinced to get the Xbox. The integration in a home cinema system and the different types of games, make it good reasons to have both a PC and an Xbox...if you can afford it.