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INTERVIEW: Chris Lewis

Ben Parfitt
INTERVIEW: Chris Lewis

There is a lot of buzz for Kinect at the moment, although some of the really core gamers are yet to be convinced. What do you make of the reaction to Kinect?

I think we have seen a euphoric reaction to it. The key is getting people in front of the technology and experiencing it. It’s only when you start to play that it really comes to life. That’s why we’re doing so much trial around the UK and other parts of Europe.

Your PR and marketing teams have been making a lot of noise about Kinect. How much is this costing Microsoft?

Well I’m glad you are hearing a lot of buzz. From the announcements at E3, right through to Gamescom where we announced the date across Europe, it is about building that rolling thunder of awareness, buzz and trial in the market.

I can’t speak numbers. But we understand the need to target a broad, younger, older, more female audience. But by necessity that means we are targeting those people through different media, and working in new ways with our online and print campaigns. And that requires us to spend significant sums of money to achieve the awareness we crave.

How does this campaign compare to the launch of Xbox 360?

It is different in terms of the type of consumers that we are looking to connect with. That said, we are still committed to the core gamer. That is the audience that defined us. It is not about moving from the core to the broad. It is about ‘and’ not ‘or’. Halo: Reach, Fable III and Gears of War are fabulous blockbuster titles for that audience and there will be more to come.

Are the launch games reflective of what we might see from Kinect over the next few years?

You will see some deep, pure Kinect games at launch. Dance Central from Harmonix and Your Shape from Ubisoft scored very well at E3.

But over time I think we’ll see hybrid-type experiences, where you have a game that naturally lends itself far more to a controller, but has Kinect experiences built into that where you can use body gestures to control aspects of the game.

When Xbox 360 launched consumers had to buy many of the components separately. But when Kinect launches you have a special 4GB 360 bundle that includes everything in the box. Is this a change of strategy?

The watchword for what we have been synonymous with is choice. We haven’t forced our consumers down a particular path, we’ve let them build their own Xbox 360 experience. I’d argue that it is still true.

We have the 4GB bundle, which is a one-package opportunity for families. However, Kinect is fully compatible with existing Xbox 360s. We are trying to give choice, but where somebody wants a simplistic package, we want to offer that, too.

I want to assure you that choice is still central to what we offer. We don’t say: “You may not want all these things, but you’ve got to have them.”

How do you hope Kinect will impact console sales?

We will definitely sell more units in this fiscal year than we did in the last one. We have big ambitions for what Kinect will do. There are more than 40m people in Europe that have a gaming machine in their house, but have not been interested in Xbox in the way we feel they now will be with Kinect on the market. It is a huge opportunity for us and we have very ambitious targets for growth.

The other thing that Kinect does is broaden out the lifecycle, which I think we are only about half-way through. And our partners and third-party developers love that, because that gives more longevity for them to create great games on Xbox.

You’ve sold 42m Xbox 360s in its first five years. Can you manage it again over the next five?

Yes, if not even more.

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