Xbox Reborn: Shane Kim Interview 2009
Corp VP talks future of Xbox: Revealing chat looks at his new role, the reshuffled Game Studios, why Natal could only have come from Microsoft and swiping Sony's exclusives.
Kikizo: So Metal Gear Solid. Why has it taken so long for you guys to sort that out?
Kim: I'll tell ya, that's a great question - I think what I'm happy about is that we finally have most, if not all of the major third-party franchises that used to be exclusively on PS3, on our platform. Different publishers, it just takes a different amount of work. You know, those relationships between Sony and some of those companies, particularly the Japanese publishers, go back a long time. I mean, I think there could have been people who said: "Konami's surely going to come before Square Enix!" - but we were able to get Final Fantasy last year, and now with Metal Gear Solid, we've completed that work. We've always said our goal with Xbox 360 is to level the third-party playing field, and I think we've finally achieved that. And now, it's up to the first-parties to differentiate, it's up to Xbox Live to differentiate, and it's up to Project Natal to differentiate.
Kikizo: Well isn't it funny how a few years back, you were kind of getting sloppy seconds of certain IP - like an online version of Final Fantasy rather than a full, proper entry - and now, it's Sony who's saying "hey, we've got Final Fantasy 14", which is an online entry in the series. It's interesting how that has happened in a short space of time.
Kim: I think those relationships and those cultural attachments, those kinds of things, can only last so long in the face of commercial reality. The fact of the matter is we have a significant lead over PS3, in Europe as well as North America. And these publishers are all in the business of making money as well, so you almost have to support Xbox 360, if you want to be a viable business today, especially given where development and marketing costs are going.
Kikizo: Halo is in a sort of interesting position at the moment. Obviously a new title's announced as well as ODST. Halo changed everything but I have to admit it's not touching me like other FPS brands any more. How are you planning to keep Halo relevant, and do you see it continuing to be your flagship game brand on Xbox?
Kim: I think it will continue to be a flagship brand for a segment of the audience. That's always been the problem; for the audience that we had, it was great. But our aspirations were to reach a much broader audience - we want to have hundreds of millions of customers at the end of the day. So we always have to do work to make sure that Halo stays relevant for the core gaming audience. And nobody is more motivated to do that than Microsoft Game Studios and Bungie. And they'll continue to do great work there. But it is nice to be able to say that Xbox 360 is not just about Halo, it's about so much more in terms of gaming, entertainment and social networking. And that's how we're going to start to realise the full promise of Xbox 360 and digital distribution on Xbox Live.
Kikizo: The mobile space is really interesting at the moment. I mean, iPhone is just a whole new thing right now. From a content distribution point of view, you guys already have something that's "up there", if you like, in Xbox Live...
Kim: That's right...
Kikizo: ...but looking at the success of DS, the massive growth of PSP in Japan lately, and on a slightly different playing field things like iPhone, obviously you'll be watching this space but do you think there's room further down the line for it to fit with the Xbox brand?
Kim: Well, I do, and especially with respect to Live. We talked about Live Anywhere a few years ago. Live is the connective tissue. You're starting to see that now - we integrate Netflix, we integrate Facebook, we integrate Twitter - because we understand that customers don't want an island experience, they want to be connected to the rest of their lives. For us, it's a matter of focusing on 'when', because if we chased after a mobile or handheld opportunity, we would not have the resources and ability to do things like instant-on 1080p HD, Facebook, Twitter, Project Natal. And so we've chosen to focus on the living room experience from a hardware standpoint, if you will, but we're building a service in Live that will... will extend to other platforms. No question about it. So the question will be, how do we enter into that market - do we do our own device, do we create our own phone - that's a question for the company itself - do we continue to go down the Windows Mobile path, which is that path that we're on today, etcetera, etcetera. But believe me, we understand the importance of that device in people's lives. And the more we make Live about valuable service and add more content, and add more ways to connect with your friends through it, we're going to need to make sure that it's on all the important platforms in people's lives, including PC.
Our thanks to Shane and our usual PR pals - and of course, we couldn't agree more with Shane's view of Xbox's "amazing PR organisation and operation".