In an interview with OXM.com Don Mattrick talks about the new Xbox Experience soon to hit Xbox Live and talks about why he feels he was the true inventor of the Avatars that will be a big part of the XBOX 360 update, with that said lets have a look at the OXM.com interview.
We met Microsoft's affable new senior vice president (who had John Schappert, vice president of Xbox Live in tow) at this year's E3, to talk about "The New Xbox Experience".
And though he tried to stay calm, he's too excited about what Microsoft has coming up to keep it all in. From claiming to have invented avatars to sending competitors pity cake, this is one of the more exciteable interviews we've ever had.
With the New Xbox Experience less than two weeks away, now is the perfect time to revisit what Microsoft's power players had to say at E3...
So "The New Xbox Experience" - what's that all about, then?
Don Mattrick: Continued vision, continued investment, continued commitment to leadership in the online space. Gamertags! IDs! Achievements! Connectivity! Chat! This is part of an ongoing journey. When I joined Microsoft [in July 2007], I looked at what was going on and saw some component parts of this work that was already underway, and I was like, "Wow, this is just amazing."
It's awesome for gaming. At its core this is what we do - we build the best immersive interactive experiences that exist. People who have used the new Dashboard, for example, love it. It has an emotional connection. We make people the hero. What a novel idea that is!
And the Xbox 360 has the capability to be the hub of your living room. To drive fun and entertainment for your home, your friends, your family. Whether that is in gaming, in traditional media such as music or movies, or digital pictures, communication, the camera. Whatever things you want to look at, this box has tremendous opportunities.
Microsoft understands hardware, understands software. It knows how to do it globally - I mean it's built one or two operating systems along the way! - and only Microsoft could create this new experience. We are the only company that can do what we're doing today!
This is the first time in the history of video gaming that this has occurred. It's amazing. People are going to write about it and go, "Oh, wow. That was pretty cool. I was there when that was made public."
That's some big talk!
DM: Well, it's what made it easy to get support from people like John [Schappert]!
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John Schappert: I think Don said it very eloquently. When I joined Microsoft the opportunities and resources in the company were incredible - incredible platform, best software, best hardware, best online services - and our charter was how can we take this to the next level?
We've got 12 million members currently, and they're enjoying the service. We've been upgrading it continually since launch, with, for example, the Video Marketplace in North America and now internationally, Instant Messaging/Voice Chat. Then, with 20,000 items on our Marketplace, we started to see some of the challenges of our interface. And we also knew we wanted to add new functionality.
So that made us ask, how can we reinvent this console and deliver new functionality - keeping what's great about the old functionality, but incorporate new functionality too. Like Live Parties. That's one of our most requested features - "I want to be able to hang out with my Friends and experience things with my Friends."
Avatars - we're not claiming to have invented avatars, but they're an extension of our Gamer card, our Gamertag, our...
DM: I'm claiming to have invented avatars! I did 4D Sports Boxing! Do you know what 4D Boxing was? Hey, you should be writing this! That was me.
We know what 4D Sports Boxing was. It was published by Infogrames, wasn't it?
DM: Accolade was the first to publish it, and Infogrames published it in Europe. But write this down! "Don Mattrick invented avatars for the industry."
Does creating 4D Sports Boxing really count as "inventing avatars", Don?
DM: C'mon! It's human, it's in 3D, it has a face... it was genuinely the first time there was something human-shaped in 3D! Look it up!
[We looked it up, and 4D Sports Boxing was developed by Don Mattrick's company Distinctive Software in 1991. And as far as we can tell, it's at least the first game to feature controllable humanoid figures in 3D. So we guess Don Mattrick did invent avatars for the industry! Ahem.]
Well, you could be right. The 3D was really basic, though. Not that we're insulting it...
DM: It was a starting point! Come on, we were the first guys to do it! And hey, I worked at EA and helped pushed the concept with a few games you might have heard of - this one called The Sims - you ever hear of that? That had a few sort of 3D characters in it! Then a little one called Ultima Online, know that one?
Erm, well done? Are you pushing for 4D Sports Boxing on Xbox Live Arcade?
DM: I think you've brought up a good point!
[At this point, Aaron Greenberg, director of product management for Xbox 360 and Xbox Live, steps in to try and get the conversation back on track.]
Aaron Greenberg: Well, maybe our avatars aren't exactly a new concept, but what is unique about them is integrating them so completely with our social network, and even integrating them into our games. Across the whole network - so you can use them in and out of games as your persona.
DM: It'll be your natural identity. Microsoft started out with the idea of identity, Achievements and billing. It was funny, actually. There's one competitor, who I won't name, that I think we should send a card and a cake, because they're only just getting to where we were in 2002. We're the ones who really brought innovation to the online space.
JS: The avatars are really only a small part of our innovation, though. The nice thing is that when you think about the potential for innovation in the long term - people who love games or getting Achievements - think of them playing Gears of War 2 and getting an Achievement and unlocking costumes based on it. There are going to be a lot of nice add-ons for the avatars.
But what does this mean for people who've bought a ton of Gamerpics?
JS: You'll still be able to use them. You'll still be able to use your themes - they look really good, better even.
DM: Yeah, how is that? Isn't that cool?
We thought you could have Gamerpics on your avatar - on a T-shirt or something like that?
JS: We can't talk about anything like that, but yeah, there are a lot of good ideas like that going around...
Well, you know where to send the cheque for that one...
JS: Maybe! The whole vision behind this is an interface that's more fun, easier to navigate, easier to find the content you've bought, easier to find the content online on the Marketplace, and more social. Especially with the new primetime offering, thanks to our partnership with Endemol.
It's not a retail package, it's not just a downloadable - it's an on-demand world where we can say, "OK, tonight between eight and nine o'clock it's hockey trivia on 1 vs. 100. Then it's curling for the next hour..." That selection is specifically for Don.
DM: John loves that I'm Canadian.
JS: But people from all across the world can enjoy these games and take part in the community - or even just spectate. It'll be really cool.
DM: I love this! I've got the best job in the world! Don't tell Steve Ballmer, but I'd do it for free! I'm going to actually talk to John about that, in fact. We've had so much fun at this show I think he should be adopting the same attitude... He might even have to start paying the company to work, because it really is too much fun.
You had a lot of stuff to talk about at this year's press conference, right? In fact, you had so much so you couldn't jam it all in. You mentioned Banjo-Kazooie for Xbox Live Arcade almost as an afterthought.
DM: The press conference was down for an hour, we overran by half an hour and we had at least another half an hour's stuff we had to throw out at the last minute. I mean, we didn't even get to reveal the most exciting thing about Banjo-Kazooie. You know the Stop 'N' Swap feature that was going to unlock extra stuff? Well, it's going to work on Live Arcade.
You managed to fit in the Final Fantasy XIII reveal, though!
AG: Yeah, I was speaking to someone from one of the blogs who was writing about it with his team from a hotel room. He said when the FFXIII announcement happened people were just freaking out.
Someone told us the person next to them in the audience started crying with happiness.
DM: Well, that's us. Microsoft - we bring tears of joy to our customers. Hey! We do!