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Microsoft's Marc Whitten

The Xbox Live general manager discusses the evolution of NXE, new business opportunities and revenue streams for developers on XBLA

During E3 last week, Microsoft announced a number of new features for the Xbox Live platform, from games-on-demand to new in-game rewards for Avatars. GamesIndustry.biz took the opportunity to sit down with Marc Whitten, general manager of Xbox Live, to discuss the latest additions and changes, the evolution of the Live platform and the continuing opportunities for developers to monetise games post release.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you describe, in your own words, your role on the Xbox team?
Marc Whitten

I am the GM for Xbox Live, so all things Xbox Live are kind of my little domain.

GamesIndustry.biz Now that you're integrating with the Zune Store and using its content instead of a separate Xbox Live service for video, has your role changed at all?
Marc Whitten

No. Actually, what I'm excited about there a couple of key things. The first thing is, I want everyone in the house to fight over the Xbox, and the second thing is I want to make the Xbox input number one on the TV. And so I look at how to integrate more entertainment options into our Xbox Live service, so I really have something there for everyone.

GamesIndustry.biz Are you trying to expand the gaming audience by giving people who don't play games a reason to interact with the Xbox to watch films? Is that one of your goals?
Marc Whitten

Well, I actually think that Xbox Live is about more than just gaming. It's an amazing gaming experience, but at its core, I believe in this world where it's about the entertainment you want with the people that you care about. And sometimes that's the gamer who wants to watch South Park right now, sometimes it's my wife, who used Xbox Live for the first time ever last year after we launched Netflix. Now she's actually playing 1 Vs 100, so I think it's about both of those things, audience expansion and a new set of people coming in, as well as more options for gamers.

GamesIndustry.biz The recently announced Games on Demand service charges an actual price in US currency for its games as opposed to Microsoft Points...
Marc Whitten

Well, you can use both, but you are able to use your credit card as well as use Microsoft Points in order to get that content.

GamesIndustry.biz Is this a possibility for the rest of Live's services?
Marc Whitten

The way I look at this, Points have actually been super successful for us. People love being able to get them at retail, they love being able to share them as gifts. What I look at is to try things out, to learn what the community wants, what the community likes, how it works in the system, and be able to take it from there. So nothing to announce, but it's not like it can't be one way or it can't be the other.

GamesIndustry.biz On the subject of the Games On Demand service, these games were originally on DVDs, so obviously they're a large file size. Now that you've established that these are acceptable download sizes, is there really a need for a file size limitation on the Arcade titles at this point?
Marc Whitten

Well, you know, in many ways what we tried to create with Xbox Live Arcade was about pick up and play, about immediate gratification, about this idea that there would be these bite-sized games that anyone could go into. So I have a marketplace that is going to have room for all my children, but I think as we think about what content goes where, yeah, I think there still could be very strong reasons that you want to maintain the integrity of the experience of what people have as they go through our Arcade games. That said, when you look at a game like Shadow Complex, I think you see amazingly rich, detailed games coming into that system.

GamesIndustry.biz So the file-size limitations, that's on a per-game basis?
Marc Whitten

There is a limit that we like to keep for Arcade as we make sure that that experience is going to be good for people, but we're also always experimenting, and so we try different things.

GamesIndustry.biz The biggest one I know of is Watchmen at 1.2 GB. Was that because of the brand behind it?
Marc Whitten

I think we look at these things and we try to see, you know, what are things that we think could be interesting, that we think fit within the ideas that we have for Xbox Live Arcade, and we'll sort of experiment. We're open to any conversation that we have around this as we talk to creators about the types of things they want to bring in. Portal: Still Alive last year was also a larger game.

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Frank Cifaldi

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