E3 2007: Destructoid interviews Peter Moore

Oh, Peter Moore — you titan of industry, you icon, you had to up and leave us, didn’t you? And just hours before I planned on publishing this interview. While latching onto a new face as the public persona for Xbox and Games for Windows might take some time, at least he hasn’t left us completely — give him a year and he’ll probably be sporting a Sims III tattoo at the next big trade show.

Before I’m drawn and quartered, a forewarning: we did have a bunch of questions to ask Peter from our community, but I wasn’t the bloke originally scheduled to meet with him — the short version is that the staffer scheduled couldn’t make it, and I was saddled with the responsibility in the van on the way to the Viceroy and had about 12 minutes to come up with questions. So if you’re looking for your question, sorry — wi-fi internet access doesn’t come standard on rented 2005 Toyota Siennas.

In the mean time, here’s Destructoid’s final interview with Peter Moore as the head honch of Xbox, in which we talk about Microsoft’s plans for the newly-risen casual gaming market, Games for Windows, user-generated content and more. Hit the jump for the full transcript and keep an eye on this space for some video of our interview. 

Big thanks to Peter Moore for taking the time to speak with us.


What was Microsoft’s reasoning behind showing games we were going to see this year versus the big megaton announcements years out that have been tradition in E3s of years past?

We really wanted to focus on — I said several times, right here and right now. It’s a very important holiday coming up, first time all three consoles are going to be in unconstrained supply in retail on a global basis. We have in some form or another probably around 40 games and we’ve looked maybe two months ago — you realize you need to be able to show things that are real, that in most cases are playable, that consumers come back next holiday. At E3 it really is about the holiday that’s coming up. I think it’s important to live in the future rather than promise it, and we are delivering it — we have the games we need, and why not talk about that, show that, brag about that? The biggest problem that gamers have is how they’re going to afford all this stuff. That was our decision, maybe right or wrong, I know people like big announcements, but there’s still Leipzig and Tokyo Game Show coming up. You have to save something for those shows.

It seems that there’s a weird sort of doubling over there — people want the big announcements but they don’t want to wait.

Yeah, like I said, there are still two major shows that we’ll be attending and there’ll be more announcements to come. It’s still early July, there are still three or four months before the holiday really starts kicking into full gear, so people should have patience. We feel very comfortable with the lineup and what to show off — if we talked about things coming in the future, we wouldn’t have time to talk about the things coming in a short time. You had to sit on that concrete wall there [at the Microsoft Press Conference in the Santa Monica High School outdoor auditorium].

Well, we had those cushions.

I’m sure they helped a lot.

My ass didn’t numb up ’til the first hour, so yeah.

Once you lose feeling in your legs, it’s time to stop the show.

Yesterday at the Sony conference they had the announcement of exclusivity for Unreal Tournament III and the inclusion of user-created mod content that’s going to be brought to the PS3. Seeing that the PC community is so tied up with modding and some of the greatest PC games came from the mod community, is it likely that we’re going to see some of this content on the 360 in the future?

XNA Game Studio Express is going to be an important part in encouraging our very large user base to be able to generate their own games — of course you know if you buy the $99 license you can port your game from the PC to the 360 and play it. And I expect that we’ll see a lot more announcements of user-generated content going forward, even for the console, and certainly the utilization of Xbox Live puts us in a very advantageous position as a platform to be able to show that stuff off. That is something we’re looking at very, very closely.

With UT3, however, it’s about changing the fundamentals of a disc-based game, which is something we don’t see very often, at least on consoles. Is that something we can expect from Microsoft?

Let’s see how it works out. Changing assets in a disc-based game and modding games is rather complex and there are a lot of implications to that, so we’ll see how it works out. Epic is a tremendous partner of ours, the Unreal franchise is a great franchise — it was nice to see Gears of War pimped at the Sony press conference. We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of XNA, why hasn’t there been a stronger push on the part of Microsoft to get people on board?

If that’s what you mean, push, we’re now in over 140 universities with the university program which is a major part of the strategy behind XNA, from Tokyo Polytechnic all the way through to major European universities. That end of it for Game Studio Express both from the hobbyist’s point of view to a college tool for university professors is doing very well. XNA has a suite of tools for the developer at the upper end of the industry, is something that is used every single hour of every single day. We’re constantly delivering the tools, devkits are flying out because developers are coming to be able to make games on the Xbox 360 so it’s there. It’s part of the fabric of who we are.

I wanted to talk briefly about Games for Windows, which was touched upon in the conference, and its positioning as a sort of revitalization of the PC gaming market. With the integration of Live into these games, they feel just like a console game, which is the idea, as I understand it. Do you find that there’s any degree of alienation on the part of PC gamers who play PC games for a reason? Shadowrun, for example, doesn’t feel much like a PC game and has limited options for power users.

Well, It’s going to evolve like anything else. We’re committed to bringing the two platforms together, it’s early yet, we’re only eight weeks in, so we can constantly learn. The great thing about the PC platform is that PC users like yourself aren’t shy about giving feedback, we’re very good at taking feedback. You’ll continue to see that experience evolve. What we did was groundbreaking, bringing the console and PC elements in a rich way. People love the community elements of it. Maybe it’s not quite ready for you yet as a power user, but we enjoy the fact that Windows is still a very powerful platform for gaming. Have patience with us on Games for Windows Live as we continue to evolve — if you look back to Xbox Live when we started and Xbox Live today, it’s two very different experiences. It’s typical software and it’s going to evolve.

One of my associates this morning mentioned that Gears of War is going to be XP and Vista, is that correct?

Yes, that’s right.

Why was Halo 2 Vista only but Gears of War, arguably a bigger release, going for XP and Vista? Why not position it the same way as a means of converting gamers up to Vista?

We made an early decision that we wanted to utilize Halo as a means of, quite frankly, encouraging people to move to Vista. And a simple tool you can use to do that is to take a big franchise like Halo and make it Vista-only. The company wants people who have XP, and hundreds of millions of people use XP, but you need to constantly move your consumer along to the next big thing.

Why not make Gears of War part of that movement, then?

Well, we felt that we needed to listen to Epic. The big difference is that Epic of course is an independent developer, we don’t own them. So we sit down and listen to Mark and the team very very carefully and we allow them to make decisions that they feel are best for Epic, so we’re not going to force a decision on Epic when they thought it was better for the platform to use XP. We’re in complete development control with titles like Halo 2, and we made the right decision, and I think it helped people move to Vista.

I don’t think you’re going to find anybody complaining about playing Gears of War on XP.

You make individual decisions based on individual games, yeah.

So is there any hope, years down the road, that we’ll see Halo 2 or Shadowrun playable on XP?

It’s probably doubtful, but you never say never. You’d probably have to go back and redo a lot of code to allow it to run but you really want — I want people to think of Vista as a great gaming platform, games like Crysis on DX10 — Toshiba had some brand new notepads [at the reception] that looked just goregous running it. I look at XP and I love XP, it brings in a lot of money to the company, but it just looks — old school. The richness that Vista is, particularly from an entertainment point of view, and everything you can do with Vista, and games — the easy install which is very important, I don’t know if you’ve loaded Halo 2 for Vista and just [snaps] up and running.

I have, actually. I had some problems with it.

Did you really?

Yeah, and here’s the thing — if I may say so —

Sure, sure. 

I was profoundly disappointed with Halo 2 for Vista, because I could run it in high resolutions and it looked great on my monitor, but it ran very poorly for a game that old, a game that was designed to run on Geforce3 hardware.

Ah. Sorry about that. [Laughs]

That’s okay. Are you finding that the migration to Vista is the root of any major performance issues?

I don’t know about performance issues, I mean you get — the good news about the PC platform is that it’s a wide open platform. That’s why consoles — they’re predictable, they’re consistent, it’s a closed environment. We love PCs, obviously, being Microsoft, but it is complicated, particularly in the early stages. There are a lot of variations.

One other thing that a lot of people took note of at the conference was the inclusion of Scene It and the new controller. Casual gaming and the casual gaming market — it’s the kind of buzz word that kind of makes me cringe–

It’s not really casual gaming for us–

But it certainly fits into that demographic, it’s the people who doesn’t want to get into Gears of War, they’re not into Bioshock, they want to sit down with their family in front of a console.

And there’s nothing wrong with those people.

Absolutely nothing wrong with those people — well, maybe there’s something wrong with those people.

[Laughs] Their money is as good as yours, I’d say.

My money’s better! Anyway, it seems that Xbox and the Xbox 360 have traditionally focused on the core gaming market. Is Scene It part of a new effort to penetrate this sort of newly explored market? Nintendo seems to be spearheading making gamers out of non-gamers. Now that this market is available, are you placing any particular emphasis on this demographic?

It’s always been our strategy, come the third holiday, to be able to go after that demographic. The business needs to grow, we need to continue to drive top-line growth. As much as we do love you and the core gamers, and we’re not going to lose you, it’s a scale business. The first Xbox ended up being 25 million units sold and that’s not a scale business. We need to be in the 50, 60, 80 million units sold to be in a scale business. Only having the platform for core gamers is not something that can scale for us. Our goal is to capture the core, which we’ve done very well, and from that position of strength it becomes much easier to captivate the masses. Without losing the core, continue to deliver experiences that you’re going to enjoy but at the same time counterbalance it with something like Scene It. I need to bring four people back on the couch having fun.

By the way, the core gamer will love Scene It as well. In the same way that we thought XBLA was going to be for the casual gaming, no, it’s casual games for hardcore gamers. You love Geometry Wars just like anybody else loves Geometry Wars. At the same time on Arcade now, there’s something — even if you’ve never picked up a controller in your life there’s something in Arcade you can have fun with. You’ve got to have experiences where there’s something for everyone. To be fair I thought — you know, Nintendo’s doing a great job, but their challenge now is that they’ve started here [at the masses], and now they’ve got to be able to go after the core gamer. I think our challenge is a lot — I don’t want to say easier, but it’s a track to broadening where it’s more difficult to narrow. I think that’s the challenge that Nintendo currently has.

With this effort to reach the broader audience, Nintendo seems to have the audience in such a way that all they have to do is put the product on market. The controller you’ve got for Scene It is very similar to the Wii remote in a lot of ways, but most of all in its simplicity. Are there going to be any further efforts on the part of Microsoft, and are you focusing on XBLA primarily as a means of roping in these people?

[At the conference] we talked about Scene It, we talked about Viva Pinata, we talked about Naruto which is a gorgeous game based on a very broad intellectual property and all of the E-rated games that our third-party publishers are doing — again, there’s a lot more stuff to announce as we get closer to the holiday.

But nothing you can talk about now. [Laughs]

Yeah, and don’t want to, because we want to save something for the other conventions. At the same time it’s about broadening and bringing people in — the simple controller is very important because while you and I and Tiffany there can pick up a controller and be fine with it, a lot of people — I’ve been doing this for a number of years and every now and then I’ll hand someone a controller, and they’re intimidated. It’s got buttons, it’s got sticks, it’s got triggers and pads, and they feel intimidated by the experience. You have somebody, something like this [picks up a nearby TV remote control] and nobody’s intimidated by it. It’s big buttons. And that’s what you ask them to do.

So you watch a twenty second movie clip, there’s a question and you go [slams a button], I know the answer to that. Five, four [slams it again], that’s the answer. Anybody can do that. And so we have as an industry a responsibility to bring those people in, and actually bring in more games that make them gamers. Sometimes they’ll never get past the fact that that controller is too hard, too intimidating, too complicated, they don’t want to make a fool of themselves. The ability to grow the marketplace is going to rely on easier portals for those people to come in where they’re not afraid of a controller. If they never pick it up, we’re never going to be able to count them as a part of our industry.

Thanks for your time, Peter.

Aaron Linde