Xbox: the European Perspective

Chris Lewis and Richard Teversham on expanding the business.

Peter Moore may have taken centre stage for Microsoft at this year's E3, but he wasn't the only executive in attendance. And the show itself may have been more US-centric than ever - but North America isn't the only region the company needs to focus on in order to win the next-gen console battle.

The day after Microsoft's E3 press conference, sat down with Xbox Europe's Chris Lewis and Richard Teversham to get a different perspective. Part one of the interview is below - visit the site next week for part two.

Q: How did things go for you last night?

Chris Lewis: I was going to ask you that question actually. Very happy. I think the key thing for us really is to be able to talk so positively about our momentum. It doesn't seem that long ago that that wasn't always possible, but in terms of the way I think we're now driving the market, in terms of our holiday line-up in particular...

Somebody earlier talked about the notion of the perfect storm, and all these factors coming together at the same time. I worry a little bit about negative connotations having seen that movie, but I'll use it because there are a number of incredibly important factors coming together at a perfect time for us over the course of this holiday period.

And that's not just Halo 3, GTA IV, but it's also for us to be able to articulate a really smart set of broadening more casual gaming titles that are going to be able to bring people into the experience.

Q: With things like Scene it! you're obviously targeting a different type of gamer. Firstly, how important is it for you to do that, and secondly how successful do you think you can be at getting into that space with companies like Nintendo?

Chris Lewis: Well, it was always the plan. The intention all along was to start in the sweet spot of the core gaming audience, which I think you've seen us do to good effect and you'll continue to see us do that.

We're not going to ever get complacent about providing great gaming experiences for that audience. But it was always the plan, because of the breadth and sheer entertainment depth of Xbox 360, to move the appeal more broadly, not only just through pure content but also with the experience with the Xbox Live service.

If you're asking me if I think we can compete in that space, then: hell, yes. I think that's a place we've got an amazing appetite for. Particularly in EMEA; If I look around the footprint of the area I'm responsible for for a minute, what we've learned about what's important for places like Spain and Italy is exactly that - that more casual gaming experience that's perhaps less immersive but it's something we haven't always provided for people.

Q: Obviously E3 is a very US-centric show and last night's was a very US-centric presentation. What do you think about the perception of the box in Europe? What are you doing to advance the brand in places like Spain and Italy against, specifically, PlayStation?

Chris Lewis: You're right. EMEA's a pretty textured region, and for us to say, 'Hey, everything's great in EMEA' is such a bland and general statement that it doesn't really tell the full story.

What I will say is that we've got pockets of fantastic achievement in EMEA and I think the UK is an example of that, for instance... We've got a great marketing application there. We've also got an appetite and a propensity to spend money there that isn't necessarily mirrored around the region, as you know.

The Nordic region is another good example of that, for similar reasons... But then if you look around the rest of the region we have different challanges. Spain was genuinely a problem for us with the first version. We didn't start well, and often when we don't start well we do struggle to catch back.

We went there probably with too hardcore a level of content. We didn't have the partnerships established both in retail or even at a publisher or marketing level in a way that was necessary for Spain, for example, and we had to change things there at a pretty fast click. I think we've given much more empowerment to the local Spanish team to do what's necessary.

Richard Teversham: From my point of view, every country is different... What's interesting also is how well Nintendo does, how well Sony does. Italy in the last generation, Nintendo just weren't there. And not in Spain. And you're going, what's the difference between Spain and France, when Nintendo in Germany and France are so big?

Xbox is the rational choice, and I'm going to be very objective. If we do the comparison, the value you get for the console, the games, the innovation, the things coming down the line, the solidity... We are the rational choice.

In northern Europe, it's about competitive fun - and that's where we've really done well. We've got the Project Gothams and the Halos. It's fun, but it's serious competitiveness. In southern Europe, it's actually about simple fun. It's an easy experience, it's not this time-eating drain on what you want to do.

So, you've got different bits of content, you've got different types of marketing and you've got how price sensitive different markets are as well. The process is evolving, different markets will be switched on at different times.

Chris Lewis: We'll texture the way we think about the life-cycle of the product by market. We talk about emerging markets as if they're places that have just appeared on the map. It's incredibly patronising to the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, because they're hardly emerging.

But for us and the Xbox business, they are emerging and developing, and it's getting in there with the right partners, with a localised product, with a dashboard that's in Russian - and unless you're going to do that properly, you do that at your peril. Our answer's way too long for the short question. We should shut up.

Richard Teversham: The point is, what are the levers that sell consoles? It really is very obvious: games and content sell consoles. We've got it all now, and we just need to have simple messages to our audiences, tailored in each country to get that across.

Chris Lewis is regional vice president of Microsoft's EMEA home and entertainment division. Richard Teversham is head of marketing for Xbox Europe. Interview by Patrick Garratt. To read part two of this interview, visit next week.

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