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Microsoft: 360 Sky Player use equivalent to a top 5 title

Plus Jerry Johnson claims Live has not abandoned the hardcore

Xbox Live Studios Soho general manager Jerry Johnson has equated the uptake of Sky Player for the Xbox 360 to that of a top-five retail game.

"If Sky was a title in the UK market, it would be one of the top played titles on an evergreen basis. It's not Call of Duty, but it's up there as one of the top five or ten titles on a consistent basis over time," said Johnson during a talk at the Edinburgh Interactive Festival today.

Microsoft launched the Sky Player, which allowed gamers to watch Sky Movies, Sky Sports and other marquee channels for an additional fee, in October last year. The service was temporarily suspended after it was crippled by unexpected demand on day one.

"It's doing really well," Johnson told sister site Eurogamer.net ahead of his Edinburgh presentation.

"One of the things we're really proud of is the uptake on the party modes, especially around live television. While we don't release specific numbers, we're seeing on a live programme double digit percentages of people watching are in rooms of more than two people.

"When we hit major events or live events like a Premier League football game, we can even see those numbers double. "It's a success, especially for a first run at this. As we start to work at [Kinect], we're going to open up the ability to communicate while watching television. It's a no brainer that this thing is is going to continue to take off."

Microsoft has promised more in-broadcast communication tools for Sky Player users

Johnson also maintained that this November's launch of the Kinect motion controller would not impact Live's dedication to core gamers. "I know there's a lot of controversy over, are you turning your back on the core gamer? Are you just focused on the Wii bunch? My answer to that is an emphatic no," he said.

"The reason I say that is because I realise that Live was built on the back of the core gamer. It was built to benefit the core gamer, and it was built solely focused on the core gamer when it was originally launched.

"We also know that is our best advocate to continue to grow our user base and grow the engagement with Live.. but also realising that is a path to actually reach up to the broader audience."

He went on to confirm that, despite this, Kinect would play a major part in the continued evolution of Live.

"Kinect, we believe, introduces the ability to interact with content in a way people haven't even imagined yet. There are a lot of different things you'll see that one might expect from Kinect, but some of the magic is going to come from the things that people don't expect."

The Xbox 360 itself would not be the sole home of Live, however. While attempts to launch the service on PC have been met with a poor response, at GamesCom last week Microsoft announced 60 Live-enabled games for its Windows 7-series smartphones.

"Expanding into other devices is key to what we're doing," said Johnson today. "Continuing to take Live broader than the console has always been part of the core concept."

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Alec Meer

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A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.

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