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Five Years of Xbox 360

Neil Thompson and Stephen McGill discuss the past and the future of Microsoft's console

Xbox 360 has been with us for five years now, and has just seen what its creators hope will be a new lease of life with the release of Kinect.

With that lifecycle expanded, the future of Xbox should be an interesting one, but perhaps one which will contain some unusual turns. To find out just what might be in store, we spoke to Neil Thompson, general manager for UK and Ireland, and UK marketing manager Stephen McGill about the anniversary and Microsoft's plans for the future.

GamesIndustry.bizYou've just passed the 360's fifth birthday - was there always a plan for the current projected lifespan for the console cycle or has the coming of Kinect extended that beyond your expectations?
Neil Thompson

Well there was always a plan, when we launched the 360 we felt that, through software and services, we were going to keep evolving the platform. So we always thought that would be the secret to how we'd keep the platform fresh and how we'd bring new innovation to consumers.

Obviously, growing out your customer base - we started very much with the core gamer and we still look to deliver a lot of content and services to the core gamer - but we are obviously broadening a lot of the technology and services that we're now offering. We'll just have to see how far that takes us into the future.

Fundamentally it's a software and services game for us. That was our bet when we started off, and fundamentally that's still our bet, even though Kinect is a great hardware device and that's helping us - it's also the software within that that's really the magic source that's going to take us forward.

GamesIndustry.bizWhat about the iterations of the core hardware - have we seen the last of the 360 SKUs now?
Neil Thompson

Who knows? I don't even know that. We've only just revised what the ID was, back in July, so I certainly think that we're going to be with what we have for a while. Customers are demonstrating that they love it - existing customers and new customers. I don't think we'll be in a rush to change a winning formula.

GamesIndustry.bizHow much was Kinect a response to the success of the Wii and the advent of motion control in the market?
Neil Thompson

I think it's fair to say that Nintendo did a great job of broadening out the gaming industry - I've said it a number of times, they do deserve plaudits for what they've done on that. I think what we were trying to do with Kinect though, was to bring a whole different type of interaction with entertainment, which had never been seen before.

The idea of people not having to have any pieces of plastic in their hands, the idea of people using their whole bodies, using voice control. All of these technical milestones that people have been talking about for the last ten or fifteen years, in terms of general technology, PC technology as well as console technology - that was really the breakthrough that we were looking to achieve.

A lot of the Kinect elements have been in development within Microsoft for many many years. It is fair to say that with the broadening of interactive entertainment and the way that's going, we did then see the opportunity to bring these technologies together and really go after that broadening interactive consumer that we think we can capture.

It's a combination of things, but we're looking to redefine the way that people interact with entertainment - that's really what Kinect is about.

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Dan Pearson