Watching Sky TV through your Xbox 360 is now a reality. It's all part of Microsoft's plan to make the Xbox appeal to more than first-person shooter fans, to make it more than a Halo and Gears of War machine. To find out what that really means, we sat down for a chat with Jerry Johnson, general manager of Xbox LIVE Europe. Read on for the latest on HD streaming, Last.fm and the price of Xbox LIVE itself.
VideoGamer.com: Congratulations on the launch of the service. You mentioned during your presentation that the Sky Player is part of Microsoft's effort to position the Xbox 360 as more than a Halo and Gears of War machine. Is that how the Xbox 360 is still perceived by most people?
Jerry Johnson: I don't know if evolution's the right word, but it's a continually changing proposition for our user base. There's no doubt that we still appeal very much to the hardcore gamer. And that's part of our heritage and is part of our future. That's not something that would ever change. What we want to do though is make it so that it isn't a thing that is so targeted solely at that, that it actually provides value. I look at things like introducing sports. Getting Sky Sports on here is something that's going to appeal to quite a few hardcore gamers out there. At the same time it's going to bring some casual people, in this case a lot of times casual males into the fold. They'll say, 'oh I don't game a lot, but I'll sit and watch the football when my friends are around'. Likewise, as we introduce things like Facebook and Twitter, and then the different things such as movies on Sky, all those things start to appeal to a broader base.
One of things we always look at is, how do you continue to provide change, change existing people are comfortable with and welcome, while at the same time things that are comfortable for people who haven't been using it, and at the same time provide some surprises with that change? The ability to start to do things more interactive. I mean, the promise of interactive TV has been around forever. As you start to look at this, where we have a value prop where you're bringing the best entertainment, the best content that you can have in the living room together with the interactivity of the console and LIVE, together with community features from our friends list, our match making and our party systems to things like access to Facebook friends and the ability to Tweet with your friends, all those things, as you start to bring that together with LIVE, we think it's a very valuable offering to a broader base, both the hardcore user and people who might not have ever thought about Xbox in those terms.
VideoGamer.com: You mentioned during your presentation getting away from the image of the hardcore Halo player sitting in their bedroom at night shooting people in the face.
JJ: Trust me, I think you'll find people operate in different modes. Like I said, my wife doesn't like the fact I game sometimes. I'm still going to go game sometimes. There's nothing we're going to change that's going to not focus on those customers more. In fact, not just this year but in the next year, we'll continue to do features that are targeted at that hardcore gamer. At the same time we are going to start to do things that appeal to both the hardcore gamer and the broader user, and continue to do things and start to do more targeted at the broader user specifically.
VideoGamer.com: So not just one or the other, then?
JJ: I don't think it's one or the other. I'll come back and say that Xbox has the best games out there. It's got the best first-person shooter games out there. The exclusives we've had over the past years and what we had going into this holiday prove the point that this is still very much at its heart a gaming console. There's nothing we're going to change with that. You will start to see us, though, do things that are broader marketing and start to expose some of the things that are broader than just first-person shooters.
VideoGamer.com: The Sky Player streams in standard definition. Is HD streaming something that's possible in the UK, given current broadband speeds?
JJ: Yes. In fact, we'll be having press releases coming for the Fall, and with that we'll start to talk more about the ever-evolving technology that's behind some of the streaming pieces and Zune marketplace and those things that'll be coming. And when they come they will be bringing high def streaming with some of the technology that's been rolled out and talked about at E3 and shown throughout the year and demoed throughout the year. Right now there is a worldwide beta going on with Zune, and that includes high def streaming in 1080p, 5.1.
VideoGamer.com: There is a degree of scepticism about streaming 1080p, but it is possible then?
JJ: It works really well. It requires high bandwidth. You're not going to do that on a 2MB stream, but 8-10MB you would have the capability to be able to get, like I say, 1080p, 5.1.