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What are you concerns about the Live Arcade platform at the moment?
Well, if I was going to say we worry about anything, we worry that we need to continue to innovate and improve. We’ve had the luxury of being the leader in the space, and the flattery of people imitating the service but what we can’t do, I feel, is sit still and rest on our laurels.
That’s why we’ll continue to innovate with the service, and bring a better service to our players. We’ll do that through content and features, and I do believe that we’ll continue to do this as we go on.
My other worry, I guess, would be that we might not have good content, but I don’t think that’s a worry, because we keep seeing great submissions, and no falling down in the number of people interested in developing games for the platform ranging from independents and publishers like EA and Activision, Ubisoft, Activision – if anything, I’d say that case is accelerating as well. We’re finding traditional games publishers saying, ‘Hey – this is a good space to be in’.
Have you found that you’re getting more interest from the larger publishers, especially?
Absolutely. I think part of it was that when we came out they said, ‘Well, we’ll write a game or two’, and they’ve seen how those games have gone, or they see how the platform has done overall and then now they’re like, ‘We want to do five!’ or ten, or however many they want to do. [Laughs] We have to be careful, because we have only a certain amount of capacity for bringing games to the service.
In terms of the independent content, how do you go about sourcing that?
We have a team of developer relations folks who meet with the independent developers and talk to them about their content and how it might fir the platform and then there’s a content submission process that they help them walk through. Then it goes up in front of the content selection board and that’s how we determine what content goes up on the servers.
There’s still a quality control process as well, right?
Yeah, and that’s on the front end. That’s making sure that everybody knows what the bar is; what things are expected. There are requirements that every game has to live up to, like having leaderboards and being Live enabled and having a trial version and so forth. Those are all requirements for Xbox Live Arcade.
Then there’s the quality bar, which is, ‘Is this of good enough graphical quality for Xbox Live Arcade’. We do that all ahead of time, and there’s generally two processes that people go through: there’s the more independent route, where we act in close contact with the developer, and work the game through milestones.
Then there’s then there’s the more hands off route, which is the route for more traditional publishers of Xbox games because they know that process – they know those requirements from developing games for retail. We don’t have as much need to go over that with them.
Have there been cases of games being developed and then not making it past that quality assurance stage?
Yes. Fortunately not many, and what we tend to do is to work with them early in the process to get things corrected. There have definitely been games that haven’t been there at one point that have recovered, and there’s also games that never have.
I’d argue that’s a good thing though. It means we’re doing our job.
How important is the scheduling of the games to the success of the service?
Well, we’ve done a couple of things. First off, by setting up Xbox Live Arcade Wednesday, where there’s a focus on having something happening every Wednesday. Initially, it wasn’t every Wednesday that was a launch day, but at least there’d be something going on – a reason to come to Xbox Live Arcade and check it out whether it be a tournament, or a Game with Fame, or a content launch, or something like that. I think that was a very important point in giving people a reason to come on regularly and see what’s up with the service.
Recently, since April, we’ve had more and more content coming up. Actually, on most Wednesdays, we’ve been releasing two games. Having a time to come to Xbox Live Arcade helps those games, helps player realize what’s coming out, and gives them a place to look.
Now, from a scheduling standpoint, I think that it’s something we owe to out publishers, and ourselves. We take pains to make sure that we’re not doing two of the same style of game at the same time. It’d be like launching Quake and Unreal on the same day. It’s not good for either game.