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Microsoft admits first-party 360 release bungle

A senior Microsoft executive has admitted that the firm bungled its release schedule earlier this year on Xbox 360, resulting in gaps which were "too long from a first-party".

A senior Microsoft executive has admitted that the firm bungled its release schedule earlier this year on Xbox 360, resulting in gaps which were "too long from a first-party".

Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Microsoft Game Studios general manager Phil Spencer acknowledged the disappointment the firm had caused UK consumers and retailers with a staggering 210-day void between first-party releases Dead Or Alive 4 on Janaury 27, and Ninety-Nine Nights on August 25.

"I won't duck the question. Obviously our job as a first-party publisher is to lead on our platform and to create content not only that appeals to a broad set of customers, but also content that comes out with a regular pacing to continue to freshen the shelves," Spencer said.

"But I wouldn't disagree with you that there were periods this year where there were gaps that were too long from first-party."

Microsoft's gaming blackspot was mirrored by a paucity of heavyweight third-party releases over a particular barren summer, during which the firm arguably failed to capitalise on good early momentum and the absence of Sony's rival PlayStation 3 system.

"Obviously launch was a very challenging time - I was very proud of the three launch titles we had in Kameo, Perfect Dark and Project Gotham. To have three launch games is a good statement from a first-party," Spencer insisted.

"We would love it if the pacing of our first-party games fit exactly with the calendar, but sometimes they don't."

However, Spencer observed that, having negotiated through this unconvincing period, Microsoft Game Studios and third-parties are now hitting their stride with Christmas approaching.

"The more rosy picture is our pacing going forward; it's set up where you won't see those gaps," he claimed.

"You see the set-up now on the platform, starting with Viva Pinata, then Gears of War, Crackdown, Forza, Mass Effect, Fable 2, Halo 3. We understand the production of the game such that I feel very good about the strength of the quality of the portfolio and, to your point, the timeliness of the portfolio on 360."

He continued: "[But] we're not going to let the date drive when a first party game comes out, because a bad first-party game coming out at the right time doesn't matter."

UK Xbox boss Neil Thompson backed this up, telling GI.biz: "When you bring out a platform, there's a ramp up phase that you go through and a lot of third-parties as well as ourselves look to the Christmas season as a key point to release some of the bigger franchise titles.

"The platform is more than first-party, and from a third-party point of view, we've got a great offering out there. By Christmas there'll be 160 games on the platform and I think that's pretty good choice."

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Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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