NEWS - Saturday, February 4, 2006

Xbox Live Arcade GM Jabs Nintendo, Sony

Since it was first conceived as a humble disc for the original Xbox, Xbox Live Arcade has grown from a side note in the Xbox Live story into a viable revenue stream. Games like Bizarre’s original Geometry Wars and classics like Smash TV and Gauntlet are proving to be hits for the platform, and the list of games is becoming larger and more compelling. The upcoming Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting sounds like it will just be the first of many Capcom titles that will be hitting the system (fingers crossed for some "Versus" action), and large and independent publishers and developers alike are offering up games at a frantic pace. Deals with Konami, Midway and Atari ensure we’ll see more classics, and healthy relationships with indie game publishers such as Garage Games will keep interest piqued with new innovative quick-play casual games. Canessa gives us his thoughts on Nintendo’s proposed Revolution retro-games download service, and how he believes Sony has a lot of groundwork to lay down before it even thinks of a games download service. On Nintendo’s retro service "I think it was interesting to see Nintendo’s announcement for the Revolution downloadable games service which, of course, came over a year after we launched our initiative internally and around nine months after we already launched the first generation of Arcade for Xbox. I think it was a responsive move. Their service is interesting in sort of a ’retro’ way, but I view Arcade as being so much more than what they’re planning on doing. Their service is kind of a subset of what we’re doing. We have a retro coin-op category within Arcade - the Midway titles have been performing amazingly - and we’re doing a lot more in that space. Of course, we’re doing Street Fighter, we’ve announced our partnership with Konami, Atari, and Midway - more titles are coming from Midway. So, we’re going to be doing a lot in the retro space, console and coin-op. But that’s just one part of the Arcade strategy. "We’re taking a much larger view of this space than Nintendo. Arcade is really about small downloadable games of all types. Look at Geometry Wars; it’s our Halo. That’s not a 10-year-old retro title that you’re running on some sort of emulator. That’s a new title that was designed specifically for Xbox 360. We have titles coming from new, independent developers that are coming up with new play concepts and innovative things for the next generation of consoles. "When I look at Nintendo Revolution’s retro story, with all due respect to Nintendo, I think it’s a small subset of the opportunity here. To be honest with you, a lot of those games are fun in your head when you think, ’Oh, yeah when I was 12, this was really fun,’ and you have these great nostalgic reasons to play them. Then you do play them, and they’re just not very fun anymore. But, there are some games like Joust or Gauntlet or Pac-Man that are as fun today as they were back then. "A lot of those Nintendo games, you know, aren’t gonna hold up." On Sony’s online strategy "I tell you, we’re still waiting for what their strategy is online. Arcade is of course a big and growing part of the Live story now, and those guys have a lot of catch-up to do. You know, forget an Arcade-style service, in order to provide something like that you have to have the fundamental services that allow that. Arcade is possible because of the work we’ve done. It’s taken many, many engineers several years building this robust online games service that has a single identity and a single profile and achievements and leaderboards and multiplayer match-making that we provide to all the game developers from a set of common interfaces. All of that work is really hard, and takes a really long time to build. "Not to mention the community, the millions of people that use Live, that Sony doesn’t have; they can’t even claim an online customer. It takes a long time to do that. We’ve been in the business with Xbox Live since 2002. We’ve been building upon that success, and it allows Xbox Live Arcade to exist, because we leverage all of those interlying technologies. "If Sony is trying to come at us, you know... ’good luck.’ It’s going to be really hard for them. It’s just a huge engineering challenge, and beyond the engineering challenge, it takes a long time to build a community. Not to mention Arcade, because that has its own set of issues. You have to take time to build an ecosystem and talk to developers and get developers to put out games for that platform and work with them to plug into all of the underlying technologies that need to be in place and making sure it works properly. There’s so many stacks of challenges, I can’t see how Sony can catch up with us in the near-term. Long-term? I don’t know anything about what their response is, and I don’t know how anything will change in the foreseeable future, at least as far as Xbox Live Arcade is concerned. And, my personal opinion from a Live perspective is that that won’t change." Rapid acceleration "The program has accelerated, definitely. The things that were written in the original business plan from a couple years ago have really been realized, plus some. Some things that we were only expecting to do eventually are things that we’re doing immediately. "The true vision for Xbox Live Arcade has always been Xbox 360 implementation. What’s blown my team away is how rapid it has happened. We always thought it would be successful, but assumed it would take a little bit longer than it has. The level of support and enthusiasm, not just verbal enthusiasm, but the amount of sales and revenue and other metrics have been off the charts from the launch of the Xbox 360. We thought that it would take a bit longer to build the ’ecosystem’ that would fuel Arcade as a third-party publishing platform, and that it would a while for developers, large publishers, venture capitalists to rise up and be willing to investment-spend against arcade titles. "We didn’t expect large publishers to come up and offer a dozen titles, right now, as opposed to one or two. All that is happening right now, all at once. We’ll give the publishers some credit. A lot of them saw the vision before we even launched. I look back to the past E3, when we announced 54 different developers and publishers including big ones like EA and Midway and Konami, Ubisoft; they were all there. They were there supporting this at E3, saying that they were wanting to do one or two titles, and now they’re talking about 10 or 12. There are a lot of titles we haven’t announced yet."


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