GS: At the Independent Games Summit, I heard a few developers saying that certification for Live Arcade was taking longer than what they were expecting, and longer than what Microsoft was telling them. What is making that complicated at this point?
SK: Well, I don't know about Microsoft telling them whether it was going to take longer or shorter, so I can't address that part of it. But I will say that most customers are happy that we certify the content that goes onto the system, and that we try to ensure quality from a technical standpoint. Maybe some of these game developers are not used to having to go through that process, and thought it would go faster than it would.
We certainly don't feel bad about putting a certification process in place, and I think it's just a matter of time before people get used to it. Certainly we've built the capacity to be able to certify the titles. What's happening is that you have a lot of newer, independent, smaller developers who aren't used to going through the full console certification process.
GS: Some people are specifically saying that they were hearing three months and then it would be five, and that was echoed a few times by a couple of others.
SK: Well, the certification process for big retail games can take that long, so I'm not sure what they're defining as the certification process.
DM: I mean, to change the point, we certify triple-A games in significantly less time than that, so it's much more one of those cases where we emphasize and try to garage the quality in game titles before they go out to consumers and therefore drive the consumer experience. We take great pride in that, and that's different from a lot of other sites.
SK: For the game development community, though, I think one thing that should give people optimism is that we've got an amazing game developer group. The best part of that it's really an outreach community, so it's a matter of educating that community as well. What our certification process looks like here is that there are a number of certification requirements that people need to address.
We certainly went through that one for ourselves at Microsoft Game Studios over the course of the Xbox and the Xbox 360, and we've learned how to compress certification times doing smarter things up front: pre-certification tests and so forth. I think it's just a matter of time before the larger developer community learns that as well.
GS: Do you think that the current 'backlash' against the PlayStation 3, especially in Europe, is helping Xbox 360 sales?
SK: I feel more confident about our competitive position today than when we launched the program. We've already got ten million units out there, we've got six million members on Xbox Live, we will have 320 Xbox 360 games available for customers by the end of this year. We're the leading game development platform, and I think we have the best exclusive content. Certainly I feel like we're executing our strategy, and it's running on all cylinders. Sony has helped us with their own missteps, and I'd be foolish not to say that it's not helping us. That's fine. I feel better about our competitive position than when we launched the platform.
GS: What do you think of the -- perhaps premature -- negative reaction to Shadowrun so far? Some people are upset that it's not an RPG.
SK: That reaction has been around for a long time, so we've had a long time to deal with it. I think as people get their hands on it, they'll realize that yes, it's not an RPG, but that the FASA team has done a really good job of setting a first-person shooter within the Shadowrun universe.
Ultimately, what's going to win them over or not is how great of a game it is. I think that people who are getting their hands on Shadowrun are realizing that it's a showcase title for cross-platform play online, and it's very important for us because it's how we're launching Live for Games for Windows, with head-to-head play with people on Xbox Live. That I think is what excites me, and will be what gets people over the hump to realize it's not a classic RPG that people expected.
We've had a lot of people who are big Shadowrun fans go into FASA and say, "No way am I going to like this game," and they've come away sold. So, it's the kind of thing where, unfortunately, we showed the title prematurely at E3, so it's going to be the kind of thing where we have to work really hard to get it in the hands of people and let the word of mouth spread. We've been on press tours here in the U.S. and Europe over the past couple of weeks and I think reception has been really good, but you almost have to do that person by person.
[In the second half of this interview, to be published next week, Kim discusses Peter Jackson, the upcoming episodic Halo content, and why he does not consider Nintendo's Wii as competition for the Xbox 360.]