Microsoft Xbox product director Aaron Greenberg is bullish on the company's TGS lineup, the Japanese development industry, and the show itself this year, he told Gamasutra in an interview conducted at the show.
The Japanese Scene
Says Greenberg, "It's been fun for me because I've done a lot of TGSes... And as a Western company, we come to Tokyo with a different perspective than maybe Sony or Nintendo does. So it was nice to have a keynote
featuring all Japanese creators and Japanese content."
Referring to creators like Capcom's Keiji Inafune and Grasshopper Manufacture's Goichi Suda, "Talk about some of the legendary people we had on stage!"
"It presents an opportunity for us to not only spark new levels of creativity for Japanese creators with things like Kinect but also give them a vehicle to tell these stories to gamers around the world."
Though Western games don't sell well in Japan, "Japanese games really are universal in appeal," says Greenberg.
Why are these Japanese creators so attracted to the Xbox 360? "I think we've become the default platform for gamers. And what you see in Japan is that there are a lot of creators who like to make core games, and that's their heritage."
And he also feels that their new hardware launch this fall is enticing. "They want to build new experiences with Kinect," says Greenberg. For example, Project Draco
, from developer Grounding -- featuring key staff members from Sega's Team Andromeda, creators of the cult Panzer Dragoon
series. "You talk about Panzer Dragoon
, but you talk to [director Yukio] Futatsugi-san, and it's like, 'Would you rather ride the dragon?'"
Capcom's Steel Battalion
sequel drops the expensive custom controller which made the original, for Xbox 1, a $200 super-hardcore expenditure. "It's a shame that more people didn't get to play it. But with Kinect, once you have the sensor, there's nothing else to buy," says Greenberg.
In fact, Greenberg is very bullish on Kinect, predicting three million sales this holiday season, globally.
"Our key indicators are feedback from retailers -- I think you'd be surprised at how sophisticated they are, and they really have the pulse of the market. They're looking at preorders, they're talking to customers.
"We're also done our own research. We believe this will be the biggest launch in our history, for Xbox. We will sell more Kinect sensors than we did [systems] at Xbox 360 launch."
"Our estimates that we will sell in excess of 3 million units this holiday," The company is spending "hundreds of millions" of dollars in marketing, "exceeding in what we did when we launched the original Xbox 360," says Greenberg.
With 15 titles at launch, Greenberg is confident consumers will respond. "The launch lineup, I think when they personally experience these titles, first-hand, I think people will be impressed with level of depth, the amount of skill required, and how immersive they are, not just for new users, but for existing owners."
And as for today's announcements, "That second wave of titles coming in 2011 from Japanese creators paints a pretty bright future."
However, Kinect won't change the landscape as much as some have assumed, he says. "As a platform all-up, I think you'll continue to see the majority of titles controller-based. The core of our business is blockbuster games, and that will not change. We see this as additive."
The Xbox 360's Current Success
Recently, the system has topped the NPD charts in the U.S. and this morning the company announced that it is tracking internally as the number one platform in Europe.
Says Greenberg, "Analysts are telling us that we've broken all their models... They say there's never been a mid-generation leadership change like this. Once you set course on a trajectory for market share and you're out in front from an install base perspective, you usually don't change."
Software was already strong, as the company has continually trumpeted, but now hardware is catching up to it.
But number one in Europe, too? Says Greenberg, "In Europe, we get a number of independent sell-through data, and we get the data across the main markets, and we are right now outselling the Wii and the PS3, which is exciting as that market has traditionally been more competitive for us."
A Longer Generation
The generation, at this rate, seems to be tracking longer. Of course Sony has always talked about a 10-year cycle, but so does Greenberg. "We do think that this generation is unique. We're treating the launch of Kinect as an entirely new platform launch, as almost a new generation. For us that does extend the product life cycle."
At this point in the Xbox 360's lifespan, he says, "we're five years in. We think we have another good five years-plus, but that remains to be seen -- but easily there's another five years' life."
Why does he think the system will persist that long? "What usually happens is in the later years of the life cycle, you usually get less innovative, lower quality experiences, or you get more flooding of the market.
Meanwhile, "I think what [Kinect] enables us to do is to keep things fresh, enable developers to bring new IP to the market, and enables people to have new experience."
And extending the lifecycle is "good," he says. "It's also, I think, that you're seeing Japanese developers have a lot of success outside of Japan, and we've talked about their growth on our platform..."
"As we look at our business globally, they play a key role. As [Microsoft Game Studios corporate VP] Phil Spencer said, he's here [in Japan] increasing his investment in Japanese game developers because they are some of the best in the world."
"[At TGS], there's a more collective feeling about what's good for the industry and more of a focus on creativity and innovation than flexing our muscles [like at E3]. It's a more humble place, and we take that tone... How do we grow our market, how do we support creators around the world?"