We talk to Microsoft NZ head Tom Hunt!
Recently, we got the chance to sit down with Microsoft New Zealand's Xbox product marketing manager, Tom Hunt, and ask a few itching questions posed since E3 last month.
So first off, were you at E3 this year? How did you think the event went for Microsoft?
Tom: The feedback has been really positive for new franchises like Lips and second installments such as GoW2 and Fable 2 – and we had some of the biggest surprise announcements like Final Fantasy XIII. People were also impressed with the new Xbox LIVE interface and personally I thought the Netflix announcement was massive. It’s great to see the movie service strengthening as we continue the global roll out.
Out of all the 360 titles shown off at E3, which ones perked your interest the most? Which do you think will best resonate with Kiwis?
Tom: I think this Christmas Kiwis will definitely dive into the Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour experience – if you look at the LIVE downloads of tracks in the US, it’s staggering – people obviously love the experience. I think Kiwi’s will be in to Gears of War 2 in a big way as well. Mirrors Edge also caught my attention.
With titles like Lips and Scene It, Microsoft is more directly challenging Sony’s major casual titles. How will these games improve on the competition, and what will they offer to convince a non-gamer to move away from the likes of SingStar?
Tom: Nuts and bolts wise... with Lips we’ve expanded a well-loved genre and advanced it for all music fans to enjoy, like the use of wireless interactive mics and the ability to sing from your music collection. With these advances, we’re confident that Lips will receive a lot of attention and win over music fans in NZ.
Also, downloadable content for games such as Lips and Scene It Box Office Smash means players can download new tracks, new questions etc and refresh their game experience.
At the end of day I think the important thing is having strong offerings in all genres on your platform so your customers have the choice. The more casual gaming titles are very important to Xbox 360 as this Christmas we hope the Arcade console (RRP $399) will start to take the place of last generation consoles for casual gamers.
Kiwis are getting too used to seeing features released that don’t make their way to NZ. When do you plan on releasing content such as movies or TV shows that gamers in the US and Canada have had access to for quite some time?
Tom: We really don’t want to over promise and under deliver – as soon as we know more around timing we’ll let you know. On a related note, I attended an Internet symposium where Minister of Communications, David Cunliffe addressed the audience - he believes NZ would have on average 10MB broadband speeds with very high penetration by 2011. Digital delivery is the future of movies and I can’t wait to see it launched in NZ. [Click here for more details]
Are your most popular titles in NZ generally the same as those overseas? Or have you found that Kiwis have slightly different tastes? What are the top titles right now?
Tom: Essentially there are a lot of similarities – NZ gamers love CoD4, Halo 3 and GTA4 like most other markets. A big trend coming our way soon is Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour.
What’s your take on the competition halfway through 2008 in New Zealand? Where do you think Microsoft stands in relation to them?
Tom: Xbox is focused – as always – on getting the best games out and making the next generation gaming experiences as affordable as possible. Our recent recommended retail price drop on [the Arcade console / consoles] will hopefully put hi-def gaming in the hands of many more Kiwis. Xbox is also focused on innovating and leading the online console space. I think after the dot.com bubble burst, many people forgot about the powerful promise of the online world, and it’s coming back strong and in a big way!
What are your thoughts on the NZ gaming industry in general? Is it hard being in such an isolated market sometimes, when everyone’s focus is on the US and other territories?
Tom: I think console gaming is a well-balanced part of a lot of Kiwi’s lives and the industry is going well locally. It seems like the focus is on US and other territories because many of the developers and company headquarters are based overseas but in reality, Xbox 360 is a global venture and I think the leadership we are now starting to see in broadband investment will help off-set our small population and physical distance to bigger markets.
Staying with the NZ industry for a moment, do you think it’s actually big enough to support three consoles? This follows the ongoing trouble with Nintendo in NZ, which has seen the Wii doing arguably rather worse here than anywhere else.
Tom: I’m pleased all platforms are available in NZ. As online communities and content become more important to the console experience, there will be something of an advantage being on the platform with the most users. To use a search engine analogy – the more people using the service, the better the feedback, the better the improvements, and the more people use the service- it’s a great model because people having a better experience is what drives success.
If there were three things you could do to further improve the 360 experience in NZ, what would they be?
Tom: Kiwis having better access to cheaper and faster broadband, more console affordability, and to be able to launch the Xbox LIVE movie service here as soon as possible.
Thanks for your time!