Talking in a GameFest lecture in Seattle, Microsoft's Marc Whitten has revealed new statistics on the Xbox Live Arcade service, including some notable goals for downloads by the end of 2007.
Whitten, who is General Manager for Microsoft Casual Games, was speaking as part of his 'Bringing Games To Everyone' lecture at the Microsoft conference, where he was discussing the company's overall casual and XBLA strategy.
According to Whitten, the company is predicting 45 million downloads and more than 100 games on Xbox Live Arcade by the end of 2007, as the Xbox 360-exclusive service continues to expand aggressively.
The Microsoft exec also revealed a 156% average financial return over 12 months for Xbox Live Arcade titles published so far, with over $30 million made on the service thus far, showing why the service has been a popular choice for developers.
In addition, according to Whitten, Microsoft expects revenue on Xbox Live Arcade to more than double in the next fiscal year. as it continues to ramp up both XNA and XBLA releases alike.
[UPDATE: Aside from revealing the above new facts about Xbox Live Arcade, Whitten also discussed the overarching concept of bringing games to all in his GameFest lecture.
Early in his talk, he addressed why digital distribution and Xbox Live Arcade is making sense to Microsoft commenting that not having to deal with retail shelving issues makes a major difference to what can be tried: "I guarantee it would have been difficult for us to go to Best Buy and get a lot of shelf space for [XBLA title] Uno."
He also discussed how the lines between 'casual' games and core games are blurring, suggesting: "Many of the biggest blockbuster games targeted toward the core audience are something you might consider to be a casual game" - citing titles such as Wii Sports and Guitar Hero.
Whitten also suggested that the social aspects of gaming are helping to legitimize the medium: "People want to believe more what they're doing and that there's something positive behind this. Gaming certainly has a lot of negative stereotypes behind it - some true, some not so true. But when you do put something out there that resonates with people, that's helping with their family, with their social experience, they flock to it in droves."
He continued: "There's something really magical about the idea of playing with your friends and your family at home. It's good for business - it's good for your business. It's kind of a Tupperware Party for gaming. They have fun, and then they go out and buy it because they want to have a similar experience. Through advertising, it's difficult to convince them that your game is different than the chainsaw and space marine one. But they can go over to their friend's house and play Guitar Hero."
The Microsoft exec ended his talk by looking at some opportunities for blending education and gaming, commenting: "We see games where playing the game requires a level of cooperation, a level of resource management... we see games where the point of the game is real-world, simulation-based learning... and we're starting to see ways where games could be used for how we actually do things in the real world in a real way."]