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Xbox Live's Early Rising: Chris Early On The Growth Of Xbox Live Arcade
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Xbox Live's Early Rising: Chris Early On The Growth Of Xbox Live Arcade

June 26, 2007 Article Start Page 1 of 7 Next

In the time since its re-launch with the Xbox 360 in late 2005, Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade has seen over 65 games appear on the service, with more than 25 million downloads of games and demos – an extraordinary number, even if the exact split between paid and unpaid content is unknown.

After joining Microsoft as studio manager for Microsoft Casual Games in March 2005, Chris Early stepped into the role of Microsoft’s product unit manager for Xbox Live Arcade and Microsoft Casual Games in February, following the departure of Greg Canessa to PopCap Games. Gamasutra spoke to Early recently, and asked about the general state of Live Arcade, the effect that the company’s Live Anywhere push will have on it, and a number of other topics.

How would you describe the state of Xbox Live Arcade in general terms right now?

I think it’s doing really well, and I’m pleased at how it has evolved since its launch. But more important than how I feel is how the gamers in the community seem to feel about it; we continue to get good response, and get a lot of interest in it. That’s probably our best measure of success.

But how do you measure success for an online service like that?

We look at a few things – are the games worth putting out? Are they interesting to players? Are they being trialled, and they purchased? Is it something people are spending time doing? We’d hate to offer up a service on the Xbox and just have kind of it sit off to the side, with nobody ever doing anything about it.

If you look at the amount of users it gets, and the amount of downloads for the service – that’s a real indication to us that people are involved and engaged with what’s going on. They may not buy a particular game, but we have less control over that from the standpoint that we make very few of those games.

But I think it’s successful if we’ve driven someone to be motivated to download, and so far we’ve had more than 25 million downloads of games across Xbox Live Arcade since launch.

What kind of spread is that between demos and full titles?

I don’t know what the breakdown is. I believe, in most cases, people will download a demo first, though in some cases we’ve had people just buy titles directly. Although, with one of the newer innovations on Xbox Live Arcade – the automatic download condition – it automatically downloads a trial of the software to your hard drive while you’re doing other things, whenever one comes out.

How important do you feel the demo availability is for Live Arcade?

I think it’s critical. If you look at games this size and this price range, the reason a demo version or a trial version is so important is that some of these are unique independent games. You might like them, you might not like them. They aren’t games that are traditionally marketed heavily in traditional retail channels, and in a lot of cases they don’t have full reviews or write-ups on them, so it’s difficult for players to get information on them in some cases.

Nothing stands up to ‘What is this game like?’ or ‘What is it going to be like?’ than just playing it for a while. The real balance is – and especially on the PC – you don’t want to give away too much. You just want to whet the appetite to have someone say, ‘Okay, this is for me’, and then have them push the button at that point and buy the product.

It’s not exactly a new idea – it’s been around since the shareware days – but it’s something that’s new for this kind of download service.

It’s new in general, especially when you compare it to something like the mobile phone market, where you buy before you try. Maybe you haven’t had the experience yourself, but you can certainly read about it, with people who are very disappointed because they read about or assumed something from a license or a title the game was under - only to find that it was not that and they didn’t enjoy the game at all.

That just builds bad customer experience, and that’s something the mobile industry is working at overcoming. I’m glad we’re not worrying about that with Xbox Live Arcade.

It comes down to the quality of the product on the service as well, though.

Certainly you can measure the quality of the product, but even if there’s a game style you don’t like – if I was a big Spider-Man fan, I might go out and say, ‘Wow! A Spider-Man game!’ and maybe I didn’t pay attention to the fact that it’s bowling. And I’m not a big bowling guy.

You know, Spider-Man Bowling, Web Ball. [Laughs] There’s all kinds of great ideas with what you could do, but if you don’t like bowling, it’s probably not your game.


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