Microsoft corporate vice president and chief XNA architect J Allard has taken part in a one hour online chat session aimed at answering question from fans, following the announcement of the Xbox 360 pricing structure and two separate versions of the hardware bundle.
After injuring himself in a downhill mountain biking mishap, Allard himself was not able to type answers himself, but the responses, as fully detailed
on the Xbox's 'Major Nelson' weblog, were dictated straight from the man himself.
As must have been expected, many of the questions centered around the use of the hard disc drive (HDD) for the Xbox 360 which, unlike the first Xbox, does not come as standard in all hardware bundles. Allard assured fans that the HDD would still be used extensively by developers, commenting: "Just like last time we expect game developers to be excited by this. We have been in clear communication for more than a year that some scenarios will include a disconnected hard drive and it has not slowed them down."
Speaking on the price of the HDD as an optional extra, compared to off the shelf PC devices, Allard suggested that the Xbox 360 drive was "more expense than a PC ‘crack the box’ drive. It's one of the reasons we pushed to create a compelling premium bundle."
In answering perhaps the most important question, of whether most games will be created with the assumption that the HDD is not present, Allard’s response is difficult to follow. "Absolutely not", he says. "Consider this last generation where somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent of game consoles had hard drives attached. This did not deter game developers from utilizing the hard drive both for exclusive games and cross platform games on Xbox." However, this answer, perhaps obliquely referencing HD-only games for the PlayStation 2 such as Final Fantasy XI
, does not seem to address the fact that 100 percent of all Xbox consoles had a hard drive last generation.
On the question of the two separate hardware bundles themselves, Allard gave the first hint that Microsoft may, at some point, consider altering their approach, saying "the way we have designed the system in a modular way we can easily adjust these configurations over time."
In other comments he spoke out in favor of HD-DVD technology, saying: "We prefer HD-DVD to Blu-ray in terms of the flexibility it offers to different applications as well as the infrastructure costs to the market." Finally, Allard also confirmed reports that the cheaper "core" Xbox 360 hardware bundle would not feature backwards compatibility, due to a lack of the hard drive required to store the information for Xbox compatibility.