Just seconds after the first Xbox 360 was sold at retail in Europe, we caught up with regional director Neil Thompson to talk about the stock situation for the console in the run-up to Christmas, the extensive pre-order campaign - and his feelings on finally seeing a 360 in the hands of a consumer...GamesIndustry.biz: You just sold the first Xbox 360 in Europe literally seconds ago - what's the feeling now that it's finally in the hands of customers? Are you relieved?
Neil Thompson: No, it's a feeling of pure, unadulterated excitement at this point, to be honest! We've worked very long and hard over the last four years, really, in building the Xbox brand, and I think the Xbox 360 will take that brand to the next level. It's a very very exciting time.What are your expectations in terms of what people are going to be saying tomorrow morning and this weekend, after the launch?
I think people who've got it will be raving about the gaming experience they've had. I think people will probably be getting online within about a quarter of an hour, when they get home - and I think when they get online they'll start playing with folks in America and other folks around Europe, and getting really excited about PGR and Perfect Dark and Call of Duty, and all of the titles that are going to be really exciting.
You know, people will still be commenting tomorrow on how many units we had, and how quickly we'll be replenishing - so I'll still be saying tomorrow what I've been saying for most of the day really, which is that every week we're going to be shipping units in. We're doing all we can to get as many planes and ships through as fast as we can - so that's my guarantee to people, that that's the effort we're putting into it.In terms of the stock tonight and tomorrow morning at launch - is there a lot of stock in the UK that's on a first-come, first-served basis, or is it really mostly pre-ordered stock?
I think... I would say the majority of what I've seen from retailers is on pre-order of some form or shape. I think some retailers will have plenty of free stock, because the pre-order mechanic isn't something that necessarily they can manage very well - but a lot of it will be pre-ordered stock.Has Microsoft expressed a preference about that to retailers?
No, that's a retailer decision - how they manage their customer base and how they operate as retailers. That's why you have some some retailers doing very strong pre-order campaigns, like GAME, and other retailers, the more mass-market retailers, have a free stock system.
All the people you see here tonight were invited down because they've pre-ordered - they needed to have a special invite to be here because they've pre-ordered. Otherwise, I think it would have been very difficult just to manage the crowds, to be honest! There could have been thousands outside here, rather than the, I don't know, five hundred or so that we've got.It's probably not a night where you want to talk about challenges - but briefly, what do you see as the biggest hurdle you have to overcome between now and Christmas?
I think it's concentrating on meeting the demand as best as we possibly can. It's making sure people are enjoying and getting the best out of the system - and obviously, I'm going to be spending a lot of time with retail partners helping them manage the customer situation and any concerns that may arise.
We're really going to focus all our efforts on getting as much stock in as possible, because the demand is proving to be phenomenal.Are you going to be doing anything to communicate that situation to consumers - to make them aware of the stock situation?
Well, people ask me this a lot, and ever since E3 last year, I think I've been saying to everyone that I expect demand to exceed supply when we launch. I've been saying it for six months in practically every press interview that I've done - so you know, hopefully people are conscious of that fact, but are also conscious of the fact that we are committed to replenishing the product on a weekly basis. We're not leaving the market dry for six, eight, twelve weeks - we're going to come out with more product every single week. That's really the situation.Neil, thanks very much for your time.