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Just going back to a more general topic for a moment, who do you think the average Xbox Live Arcade customer is?
Well, specifically, it’s obviously drawn from a pool of Xbox 360 customers, who we know are a majority male, and a majority 14 to 33. That’s clearly the primary user of Xbox Live Arcade. But one of the things we’re doing inside Microsoft is that we are going out and talking to our customers to find out who is using the service and who is playing the games and we’re finding out that there is a lot of secondary users – moms, girlfriends, people like that.
First we heard about this anecdotally – people around the office complaining that they now have competition. They now have someone else saying they’re going to play Bejeweled for a while. It’s no longer the domain of that primary gamer in the household.
I assume that’s something you’re finding is more prevalent with Live Arcade titles than traditional retail titles for 360.
Well, in my household, I can tell you that – even at a retail game level – there’s a bit of competition for Guitar Hero between my son and my daughter!
That’s a different style of game to what a lot of people would associate the console with, though.
Right, and it’s really interesting to see how, with the lifecycle, the user demographic and the user behavior is changing as well. I know that even just around my household, once Dance Dance Revolution, Dance Dance Universe and Guitar Hero came out, my daughter has been exploring a little bit more and playing some arcade games because they’re on the console. Thing is, she’s not the one who’s going to pick up Crackdown and play a few hours of that.
I just think that’s an overall trend. As games get out there – as the content gets out there – more people get interested and the content broadens, and that’s a good thing.
Just talking about growth, what level of growth has the platform seen since launch?
We launched with around 20 titles, and we’ve just cracked 60, so we’ve more than tripled the number of titles that are on the service. At the same time, the Xbox Live membership has grown to over six and a half million now. That’s a tremendously large number of people who are out there playing games over the Live service.
So, both in terms of the number of people that are out there and the number of games that are out there, they’ve both grown tremendously. Then we’ve also innovated with the service as well. I mentioned the automatic downloads, and we’ve worked in Xbox Live Arcade to enable a number of other features where you can see your friends and the Xbox Live Arcade games that they might be playing.
One of my personal favorites is the way that Achievements are displayed for Arcade games and you can see them all and roll down and see which ones you have and haven’t earned. I’m a bit of a Gamerscore addict myself.
There’s a number of features that have evolved on the platform, but there’s quite a way to go as well.
Sure, but going back to the actual figures of growth, is the actual percentage of games being downloaded growing in a relative sense? When people buy the console, are they buying more games than the people who bought the system at launch?
Well, we were really worried about a couple of things at the beginning. One was that people who the people who bought the console in the beginning were going to be the most rabid users; were going to be downloading the most, and that it would fall off after that.
We were also worried that because there was a small number of titles available in the beginning at a retail level that people were just going to Arcade when they had played whatever game they had bought, because there wasn’t another game available.
Fortunately, neither one of those has been true. It’s most surprising to me that the people who buy the console today download more arcade titles than the people who bought it at day one.
What do you attribute that to?
[Laughs] I wish I could give you the exact reason behind that, but all I can do is theorize, and that is that the people who bought the console day one are the people who are used it and ready and are the hardest-core gamers - and who feel that $50 a game is not a problem and they can go and get that.
The great thing is we see other people playing games, and playing Arcade games – just not with the same frequency. So maybe, I don’t know, maybe it is a little price sensitivity. Maybe it’s just that people who are buying outside the first six months don’t have the same library of games – they aren’t buying as frequently, they don’t buy that game a month or that game every couple of weeks at the retail level, so they’re looking at Arcade games. We don’t have good quantitative data on that.
What I will say is another thing that surprised us was the popularity of some of the more classic games like Uno! with the hardcore players we saw early on. If you would have asked me if that would happen, you probably would have been able to take my money. I would have bet against it. [Laughs]
It did come as a bit of a surprise.
Yeah, well, we went out and talked to players to find out why. Was it a mistake? [Laughs] Is it how they justify the console to other people in the household? Actually, it’s just that gamers like good gameplay. Period. They’re willing to play the game, even if it is a classic card game or whatever, just because it has good gameplay.
It has been done very well, and it was Game of the Year for a number of places, and it has a number of the features that make Live so popular. It has the voice chat, it has the video chat, it has the ability to customize your own rules, it has the add-on content. Plus, it’s a very accessible game.