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Microsoft's Chris Lewis

How Xbox will become number one in Europe next year

From his interview suite overlooking the Galen Center auditorium in Los Angeles on Monday afternoon, executive VP of interactive entertainment in Europe Chris Lewis has a great overview of the teardown of the Xbox 360 press conference – an amazing logistical hurricane of loading and lifting designed to transform the platform holder's network of huge video screens and stage dressing into the contents of a few hundred neatly packed trunks.

But if that's a good view, then Lewis reckons the one he has from the top of the Xbox business in Europe is even better – he perceives great growth and momentum in traditional Sony strongholds like southern Europe in addition to the usual Xbox heartlands, and he believes Kinect, TV and Xbox Live are uniquely positioned to make Xbox 360 the number one seller globally in Microsoft's next financial year. He calls it a "perfect storm" of services and components.

After watching the dismantling of the conference in awe for a little while, we settle down to talk about how that goal is going to be achieved in real terms, and whether the vision Microsoft set out at its E3 conference is really the one consumers want.

GamesIndustry.biz Let's start with the new vision you unveiled – of Xbox dominating entertainment and Kinect at the heart of it with TV and services. What makes it achievable?
Chris Lewis

One of the things Don Mattrick talked about was the sheer momentum we've still got more than halfway through the lifecycle.

To be able to talk about 55 million and growing in terms of console installed base, and for us to be growing so hugely across the continental swathes of Europe where we haven't always done as well – I think what that does is make a strong statement about what Kinect's done for us. Not just an accessory, but very much a platform that's allowed us to extend experiences into audiences that we weren't resonating with up until now.

And by the way, next year – our financial year from July 1st – is going to be even bigger. For us to get to number one globally, Europe's got to be number one, so next year is an even bigger year than this year.

So how can we do it? We need to protect and grow the core, and there's also Kinect experiences for the core as well as fabulous, broad gaming and entertainment through Kinect. But it's also the services – the integration across the phone, the PC, the console – and I think it's what we're able to do through the community at Live.

It's that positive perfect storm of things that I think give us that growth potential.

We've gone through some phases where we were a bit schizophrenic about what messages we were trying to get out there and how we would articulate them

GamesIndustry.biz Don did say "global leader" – does that mean in terms of sales for the next financial year rather than overall?
Chris Lewis

Correct, and all the indications that I see and all the target agreements we have and indeed the current speed of sales say we will be number one in Europe next year, and we have to be in order to meet and achieve that aspiration.

That will require us to invest appropriately all around the region, to rely on the UK of course to continue with its very healthy growth and leadership, but also for France, Italy, Germany and Spain to continue to grow to meet that bar, and we'll invest accordingly to make that happen.

GamesIndustry.biz With things like Kinect and Windows 8's bold new UI coming through, it feels a bit like the stuffy old Microsoft is being replaced by a new creativity...
Chris Lewis

That is how it feels from my point of view. Xbox is one of the true standout innovations and key beats in our history over the last five or ten years in terms of resonating with the consumer audience in particular.

I've been at Microsoft a long time and I think we've gone through some phases where we were a bit schizophrenic about what messages we were trying to get out there and how we would articulate them.

Whereas I think certainly in the last ten years in the consumer space we've had a real head of steam, we have been innovative and not derivative – Kinect is a great example of that in terms of enhancing and expanding what we do with the Xbox – and I think if you go right back the mere fact that we architected this with online at its very heart was also visionary in and of itself, which does set us apart from our competitors in a way that's unique right now.

So yes it does feel like that. I've never thought about us as dusty and old as you describe, but I take your point, and I think it's great that you're able to say that and talk about the fact you think we've changed, because I genuinely believe we have.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you think core gamers will be excited by what they've seen today?
Chris Lewis

I have no doubt. We were pretty hardcore there in the first phase of the conference, unashamedly because I think what we've got there is really powerful, as well as the combination of Kinect integration to some of those core experiences as well. I think we're very confident about what we've got.

GamesIndustry.biz Do you feel that consumers want Kinect in core experiences, or is that just what you want them to want?
Chris Lewis

Our research tells us that the core audience is keen for those types of experience too.

There was those that will be excited about Kinect for the UI and for searching through voice to find what we want to find, and then they'll find games that they want to play. There'll be others that are coming to us through their desire to use Kinect for core experiences, who then find and experiment with the other forms of entertainment that are available through Kinect and Xbox Live.

So I think it's based on everything we know consumers are looking for. Our developers are excited about it too, and they wouldn't do it through some philanthropic gesture to Microsoft. They're doing it because they know that's what their consumers are looking for.

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Tom Bramwell

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Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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