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Microsoft's Stephen McGill

Microsoft's UK marketing manager on how to sell motion control to the masses

With Microsoft's Kinect launching in the States today, and in Europe on November 10, the publisher is in the midst of a PR and marketing frenzy to make sure everyone gets the message about its new hardware.

UK marketing chief Stephen McGill is a big part of that plan, so when he invited to talk to him during a Kinect demo event in London we pressed him on some of the key issues surrounding the launch, as well as his role in it.

GamesIndustry.bizThere have been reports that the marketing budget for Kinect is $500 million - making it the biggest marketing budget ever for an Xbox project. Is that the case?
Stephen McGill

Well, I can't talk about specific numbers, obviously there's been lots of specific numbers quoted - but I can assure you that this is by far the most significant campaign we've had for any Xbox campaign, including launch campaigns. It's a big investment, not only for launch, which is obviously all about letting everyone know what Kinect is, and the Kinect entertainment experience and the games etcetera, but then we'll obviously come back and continue to support Kinect with campaigns throughout 2011 too.

For launch though, biggest thing we've ever done.

GamesIndustry.bizToday's event seems to be very much about accessibility, reaching a new audience, and many would say that the launch line up is designed to appeal to new users rather than existing ones. When will the existing users start to see Kinect games aimed at them?
Stephen McGill

Well, I'd like to disagree with your opening statement there - today's really about showcasing stuff that we haven't really shown before, showing the complete picture. We haven't really been showing more than just a few snippets of some of the gaming experiences we've got for launch. So now it's about showing the deep experiences that we have within those, the fact that, yes, it's a nice easy intro to some of the gaming experiences, but when you think about some of the things we've shown you in Sports or Dance Central or Joy Ride, there's actually a lot of depth there that I think the core gamers are going to love.

At heart, I'm a core gamer, I'm not a casual gamer and I'm loving these titles. Think about a game like Mario, is that a core game or is that a casual game? Is something like Rock Band or Guitar Hero a casual game? Well actually they appeal to both audiences, and that's what we're doing here - providing answers for both audiences. Games that are easily accessible but have that depth.

Then when you talk about the dashboard stuff, controlling the dashboard with your gestures, your hands, your voice - that's cool. I think the core gamers are going to like that. So I think we've got something that appeals to all of those audiences, at launch. That said, we have announced things, at the Tokyo Game Show, a whole raft of titles aimed specifically at that core gamer. We'll see more of those in 2011.

Obviously we still love controllers, so this is complementary to the controller, you'll still see Xbox has the best line up of controller-based games for gamers this Christmas. That is going to continue throughout the next few years. That's our heritage, that's what core gamers currently love and expect - we've got the best line up of games that we've ever had on the platform this Christmas.

GamesIndustry.bizWill we see Kinect added to any games retrospectively?
Stephen McGill

I'm not sure what other developers are going to do. We're very much focussed on what games are coming out and how Kinect fits with those experiences.

GamesIndustry.bizBut it's an option you'd leave open to other developers?
Stephen McGill

I'd imagine that, technically if that's something that they want to do, they can certainly look at that. What we're looking at from a first-party point of view is how we can bring new gaming experiences to life - we're not looking too much at retrospective stuff, that's down to the developers to be honest.

GamesIndustry.bizThe current position on Milo is that it won't be released as standalone tech, but is it something that will be used in other projects?
Stephen McGill

It started off as being a great showcase of what the technology can do, a great introduction to what the technology can do. I think you're starting to see a lot of that technology introduced in these games and you'll see that technology introduced in other games. As far as an individual isolated game, I've no idea. Obviously Peter Molyneux and the Lionhead crew are a pretty amazing bunch and I know they've got some really cool stuff planned for Kinect going forwards so they'll talk more about that more in the months and years to come. So nothing specifically to announce on that at the minute.

GamesIndustry.bizI presume you've been keeping an eye on Move's launch. It's been a softer launch, perhaps more as a peripheral than as a platform extension. How do you feel about the way it's sold and the public response to it?
Stephen McGill

I think you should talk to retailers to get their opinion about how it's been doing, whether it's been a success for them or not. I think the launch line-up has been pretty low-key, obviously they've got some interesting titles coming out later that have Move enabled - it'll be interesting to see if those bolster what it can offer. Ultimately it's nothing really new - Wii's been out there for a while.

What we're focused on is revolutionising gaming and entertainment by making it really natural, getting rid of all the technology, out of your hands, that had been a limit for a lot of people, making it really natural - full body, using your feet. Everyone's got hands, but we've also got feet too. Using your voice.

We're very focused on what we want to deliver from an entertainment gaming perspective, it doesn't really matter what they do. But you're right, it hasn't been an amazingly loud launch, and I haven't been very impressed with the games.

GamesIndustry.bizThe Move technology is based on the PlayStation Eye, which is tech that has straddled two console generations, do you see Kinect's technology doing the same?
Stephen McGill

I think that the lifespan of the 360's got an awfully long way to go. We've got many many years ahead of us with the 360. One of the things that we brought to this industry, one of the many things, is updating the services and the experiences that we have.

We're a great software company, a great service company, through the power of Xbox Live over the last few years, we've shown a great heritage of introducing new services and new experiences that are free - you'll continue to see us do those sort of things.

I think those, plus the ability of what connect can do - the guys have had Kinect for a while, developing great launch titles, but once they've had it for a bit longer, imagine the things we haven't been able to imagine before, because we haven't had this sort of technology. Now we've got it, what can these amazing guys go and do with it.