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Microsoft's Chris Lewis

VP of Europe talks Kinect, 360 slim, 3D and the "embarrassment of riches" to come

At E3 last week Microsoft put a lot of solid details on its new motion control tech, Kinect, as well as unveiling a slimmer Xbox 360 and the usual commitment to hardcore games.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, executive VP of Interactive Entertainment in Europe, Chris Lewis talks through the reasons for the lack of pricing on Kinect, why the company is still serving the hardcore gamer, expectations for sales of new hardware and a line-up of titles yet to come.

GamesIndustry.biz The one thing missing from your E3 showing of Kinect was the price – why was that and when can we expect a solid commitment on that?
Chris Lewis

Well, we will obviously announce the price nearer availability which will be in November for Europe. Europe's central and we've had success there, we'll talk more about price later in this calendar year. We've just wanted to use each key milestone during the calendar year to build the story and price is a separate discussion later in the year.

GamesIndustry.biz I think the concern is that it's going to be expensive considering its technology aimed at a more casual audience, and it might not be priced for the mass market as an impulse buy...
Chris Lewis

Here's what I will say – we are very clear that we offer great value now, we always have. We're focused on continuing to offer great value and we're price competitive, we've always been price competitive. We have an appetite and realisation to stay price competitive in our offerings whilst continuing to offer the best value in terms of the experience.

Kinect for 360 really takes us into that broader, more casual audience. We will ensure that we will offer great value for money and the price point will reflect that. I think it's also true that people will be very happy and willing to pay for a great experience. I think that's true certainly for other parts of the industry as well. We've seen that with other experiences for Xbox 360 and the excitement for Kinect has just been overwhelming. As soon as people have the opportunity to try it out, especially without the intimidation of a controller, it's a very compelling experience.

GamesIndustry.biz There's the newer Xbox model – smaller quieter, with built-in wi-fi and retailing at the same price. What happens to the current SKUs in Europe now – can we expect a price cut on those models and are they being phased out?
Chris Lewis

We're excited about the new sleek design and it's whisper quiet. The on-board wi-fi has gone down very well with everybody, and that now is the new Xbox 360. We're not being explicit yet about what other SKUs or products will come later on. We'll be more articulate about that later in the year.

GamesIndustry.biz Can we expect a price drop for the Elite and Arcade units?
Chris Lewis

We're not announcing any price changes to those existing products.

GamesIndustry.biz So the Elite is going to sit on store shelves at the same price as the news SKU. You're leaving it to retailers to adjust pricing?
Chris Lewis

What you'll see is that particularly on the UK High Street retailer's work very hard to distinguish themselves with bundles and packages and that level of trading will continue. We're happy with the way we're working the inventory through and we're closely partnering with retail to make that happen. We have a good rythmn of supply and replenishment, we're not concerned with any challenges there.

GamesIndustry.biz It feels like your reinventing the Xbox – new look, new SKU, new technology in Kinect and a different style of games to go with it. How are you expecting that to influence sales in the coming months and up to Christmas, particularly in the European regions?
Chris Lewis

Europe's very central to our global success and ambition, it always has. Particularly in the last 18 months we've really turned a corner in terms of having the right price, the right marketing, the product and understanding what our consumers want in Europe, when that may sometimes differ to what we see in other parts of the globe.

Kinect for 360 is big for France, Italy, Germany and Spain, where there is a market for the casual gaming appetite that we can now address without the physical barrier of the controller. I think 2010 will be a very big year for us, it is in many ways for us mid-lifecycle. What you've seen is with this new sleek design and Kinect for Xbox 360 we've got at least another five years of this generation where we continue to offer great experiences for people. We continue to attach more games than competitive platforms and we have the healthiest ecosystem with 25 million people connected through Xbox Live. So we are uniquely placed to continue to do really, really well in this business and enjoy ongoing momentum.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you put a number on the increase you'd expect in terms of hardware sales?
Chris Lewis

I could but I won't. I can't be explicit about the numbers but I can say our market share has grown. Our business ambition for this financial year, which begins on July 1, is certainly bigger than last year and we constantly set ourselves ambitious targets. Don Mattrick is not shy about aggressive targets for Europe because he now knows we've got the right assets, now more than ever, to really appeal to our audience.

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.