Last night in San Francisco, Microsoft held its X10 showcase event
, during which it highlighted games to be released in 2010 -- which Xbox Group product manager Steve Beinner calls "the biggest year for Xbox 360 ever," and that's without revealing any of the games for the Natal motion peripheral coming later in the year.
From Remedy's Alan Wake
to Ruffian's Crackdown 2
, and Lionhead's Fable III
to Bungie's Halo: Reach
, the first-party core-focused lineup was certainly impressive. And while there was one major third party title -- Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Conviction
, which is also shipping on PC, exclusives have largely shifted towards downloadable content.
At the event, Microsoft announced
that Capcom and Blue Castle Games' Dead Rising 2
and Activision and Infinity Ward's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
will be getting DLC packs exclusive to the Xbox platform, though both games are also for PC and PlayStation 3.
Staying Ahead of Sony
"Xbox Live is one of our big differentiators, so the idea of having exclusive DLC, keeping our players engaged -- I love it," said Beinner last night in San Francisco.
"When we talk about exclusivity, Live is a differentiator for us. And if we can bring exclusive content to our consumers, we will do it. So working closely with our third-party partners to secure that exclusive content is priority one."
Of course, in 2010, it's much more difficult to get platform-exclusive games, thanks to the uptick in sales for Sony's PlayStation 3 -- its game sales have become too substantial for third parties to ignore. With this, Beinner agreed. And he pointed out what we all know: DLC has become instrumental to keeping gamers engaged with the titles they buy, and stopping them from trading them in.
"Now, we're very committed to DLC," he added. "And you'll see studios wanting to keep the experience new and alive and keep gamers engaged. [It's] a great way to keep gamers engaged, buying the full product, and keeping the original."
No Natal? We're Working the Core
When asked why Project Natal didn't make an appearance at the X10 event, Beinner said, "We're definitely focused on the core releases, and you'll see us talking about Natal at a different event." Right now, the company's focus is on the core market that has been its strength this generation, said Beinner.
"Tonight, the focus is going to be on all of our core titles," he said. "In the short term we're very excited in keeping our core community engaged. We're using the [Halo: Reach
] beta, we're using core titles like Crackdown
and Alan Wake
, and then Fable
. That's another one we're bringing to market this year. But Natal is going to be important as well."
But the Reach
beta is more than just a marketing exercise, Beinner explained. Though it's structured to "give everybody a taste of what's going on [with] multiplayer and showcase what the game's all about" it's a "true beta," from which the company can "take feedback from the community... letting everybody play a full piece, and then really treating it like a beta."
A New Audience?
But when it comes to Project Natal, is Microsoft on the cusp of building a new audience? Does Beinner see it having to please two markets?
"The way I see it is this," he said. "We want to be the box that's the home of the best entertainment. So when I think of audiences, we want to be providing the best gaming and entertainment experiences. That's what Xbox is all about. So we're going to be continuing to develop new technology and bringing new experiences to market that will position us that way in the market."
The Importance of Software
As group project manager, Beinner oversees Microsoft Game Studios titles developed internally and externally, but he sees the goals of both being the same.
"From a first party perspective, it's always about showcasing the power of the box and bringing the best games to market," he said. "So we treat [the developers] the same. They're both very important to our portfolio and bringing out a well-rounded [lineup]."
Said Beinner, "We can't say we're delivering the best year to Xbox 360 without bringing a big, very robust, robust library of games. That's why you see us devoted both to internal studios and external studios under the banner of first party. If you look at our first party lineup and compare it to any of our competitors, I think we stand head and shoulders above the competition."
Describing the MGS portfolio as "well-rounded", Beinner said that -- as far as core gamers, implicitly -- "there's something for everybody. Both first-and third-party, both internal and external, I think our lineup is unmatched."
Microsoft Game Studios doesn't just publish packaged games. Games like Shadow Complex
for Xbox Live Arcade are also MGS. Is it as big a priority to get great titles onto XBLA through MGS as it is to get packaged games? Said Beinner, "The answer to that is 'without a doubt.' Big time yes, most definitely. I always want to be showcasing Live, the Arcade pieces, everything available on Live, and at retail."
More From Japan?
Will Microsoft Game Studios ever dip its toes back into the water of major Japanese-developed product? In contrast to earlier in the generation, when major Xbox 360 games such as Blue Dragon
and Lost Odyssey
came through MGS, presently there's only iNiS' Lips
"We're committed to all markets," said Beinner. "We haven’t consciously said, 'We're just doing Western RPGs,' for example. I want to appeal to all markets. I think you'll see us announcing things, and as I said before, E3's going to be a big show. From a 360 portfolio perspective, we're always going to look to bring games to market that do well in all markets."
When it comes to making the 360 appealing, said Beinner, "I think it comes down to gamers' tastes. I want to be there for all of them. If I'm a gamer out there, I want to have great content all of the time. From a gaming perspective, I want to be able to offer it all."
So, no. Last night's show isn't the whole picture of Microsoft's lineup. "You should definitely be dialed in for E3. E3 will be a big show for us," said Beinner. When it comes to Project Natal, "It's real, it's really fun, and we're looking forward to pulling the curtain back and showing people more of it as soon as we can."
At this point it's become clear that the company has made a great deal of headway with the core gamer. When games as disparate as Bayonetta
and Modern Warfare 2
play better and sell better on the platform, it indicates something.
Its next test will be in expanding the audience -- something that has not gone particularly well so far this generation for the company -- with Project Natal. X10 was business as usual... but business is good.