The Halo Effect

IT’S BEEN an eventful few months for Microsoft, to say the least. After cutting the price of the Premium 360 to 250, the platform holder launched its killer app, Halo 3, and a few short weeks later introduced 360 Arcade – a new SKU indicative of Microsoft’s desire to widen the appeal of its next-gen console to the masses.

So it’s no surprise to find Euro Xbox boss Chris Lewis in jubilant mood. We have come out of an incredibly good quarter – the entertainment and devices division has grown over 90 per cent,” he begins.

A big driver for that is what we’ve achieved around Halo 3. We had high hopes for that title and thankfully they’ve been surpassed – and that’s against a pretty high expectations bar as it was. It has boosted Xbox 360 console sales substantially.

In the same period we had the console price cut too, so a number of key factors came together – with fantastic results.”

As 360 approaches its second birthday, it has also been able to reach some pretty significant milestones – allowing Lewis to reel off some impressive numbers.

For the quarter we sold 1.8 million units and that takes us to a life-to-date figure of around 13.4 million units worldwide,” he continues. Halo 3 was a heavy driving factor around that, to generate around $330m revenue for us.

And looking ahead it’s all great news. Last month our total software sales outsold both PS3 and Wii software combined, based on the data we’ve got, so we’re definitely in a great position for the holiday.”

Ah yes – the Christmas period. Having breezed through the last few months, now Microsoft has its sights set on maintaining – and indeed stepping up – the momentum behind its hardware with a games line-up that the platform holder has famously described as the ‘greatest of all time’.

The quarter we just came out of surpassed our expectations and they were ambitious – it keeps us firmly on the trajectory through the all-important holiday season which is pivotal to a successful fiscal year.

The first quarter is also critically important and we’re certainly on track with and ahead of those figures. We’re in good shape – this quarter is historically the big one and we’ve got some great titles.

Obviously there’s Halo 3, Bioshock, PGR4, Mass Effect, and Guitar Hero’s a massively important product set and franchise for us too. It broadens us out into the more family orientated market too. And Call of Duty 4 is again a defining title for us.”

And of course it wouldn’t be a proper platform holder interview without a little swipe at the competition – and while you get the sense that Lewis would love to stray from the corporate line and lay into a slow-starting PS3, he is remarkably restrained.

I feel really great about where we stand right now when you look at the competition – but that doesn’t make me complacent at all. We take this very carefully and we are watching them, but we are confident that we have the best portfolio of hardware, software and services to appeal best to consumers over this holiday period.”

Almost two years into its lifecycle, 360 has firmly established itself as the console of choice for the core gamer. And although PS3’s price drop will have turned up the heat somewhat at Xbox HQ, it is clear that Microsoft and Lewis are supremely confident of retaining this title that year and beyond.

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