CES 07 Q&A: Microsoft's Chris Satchell

The general manager of Microsoft's game developer group discusses the major Xbox 360 announcements from the CES keynote address.

LAS VEGAS--The current-generation console battle between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will be fought on the traditional hardware and games front lines. However, the two consoles' broadband connectivity has opened up a new front in services, particularly in video content distribution. Microsoft already offers select movie and television show downloads from the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, and Sony officials have indicated that similar offerings are coming to the PlayStation Store. (Nintendo has not announced any plans to bring video content to the Wii, the third force in the current console war.)

IPTV--digital television distributed over the Internet--looks to be the next push for both Microsoft and Sony. Sony kicked off CES by announcing that it was prepping a television IPTV module for summer release, and Bill Gates announced that Microsoft was bringing IPTV to the Xbox 360. We sat down with Chris Satchell, general manager of the game developer group at Microsoft, to find out more about Xbox Live Video Marketplace, IPTV, and the general direction of the Xbox 360 business.

GameSpot: What has the consumer reaction been to Xbox Live Video Marketplace? Have you identified anything in the system that you need to tweak or address?

Chris Satchell: The reaction has been really positive. People are really getting into the system. The response was so big that we found out very quickly that we had to add a lot of servers to the system just to cope with the demand. What's really interesting, what we've heard from our partners, is that at the moment we're the number two service for downloads for movies. iTunes is number one; we're number two. But in high definition, we're number one. This [Xbox Live Video Marketplace] is the main place people are downloading. They like the fact that we're adding more servers and that will make downloads faster.

GS: Is the IPTV feature going to be a dashboard update?

CS: How we're doing it at first is we're working with telecommunication partners who are intending to deliver an IPTV service and saying, "Here's a different kind of box you can use. Instead of just having a standard set-top box, use an Xbox 360. It gives you new services to provide your customers, and for gamers it gives them a really cool combination of next-generation television and next-generation gaming."

I think where you'll first see it will be in partnership with these telco partners who are doing IPTV. Now, later on, we're looking at, "Well, should we do an update to allow people who've got just an Xbox 360 to get to some of the same services rather than having to get it from a telco?" We're looking at both, but first you're going to see it from our partners.

GS: If Microsoft chooses to make IPTV available to all Xbox 360 owners, will upgrading be as simple as a dashboard update?

CS: If we do open it up so that our current users can get to the service, we're not quite sure how we'll deliver it. Of course, we have a great system with [Xbox] Live, so it's entirely possible that we could do it as an upgrade. It's entirely possible we could give it to you on a disc and you could just install it. There are all sorts of ways we can give it to you. Obviously our preference normally is to do everything online because that's where people are at.

GS: This might be too early to ask, but are you guys discussing how much this will cost?

CS: An IPTV and Xbox service, how much would it cost? Really, that's for our partners to define because they're likely going to bundle it in some way, kind of like when you go to Comcast and go, "Hey, I want my Internet phone, I want my Internet, I want my movies," and they do packages. [IPTV and Xbox 360] will probably be the same type of thing--that's really up to our partners and not us to set price. What we're providing is the next generation of technology and giving them something that nobody else is: full gaming with this incredible television service and the Live network as well.

GS: All this cool HD stuff that you're talking about starts to take up space. The 20GB for a lot of people is already starting to fill up. Seeing how Microsoft has been great about responding to customer needs on the Xbox 360, can you speak to larger-capacity hard drives?

CS: That's not really something we're looking at today. We're very open to feedback on it. As we produce these services, if we see an increase in pressure that's something that will be interesting to look at, but there isn't any announcement today about any new configuration that may or may not be happening.

GS: What can you tell us about the HDMI-enabled Xbox 360 rumors that have been going around?

CS: We're always working on prototypes and new technologies and just playing with stuff in Redmond to see what's interesting. I think at the moment we have the widest available connections on the system. If you want to get great HD, I think we've got a good solution for that. In the future it's interesting to see where standards evolve to. I think one of the problems that the whole industry, us and entertainment, are facing at the moment is we're in this world where standards are evolving very quickly.

We have different high-definition standards for discs that we know are competing at the moment. We think HD-DVD is going to be the right way to go, but really it's all about choice in that system so that's why we're offering these sort of services with downloads--skip that whole "format wars" problem. With other standards, audiovideo standards, they're evolving very quickly as well. We're obviously keeping an eye on that and saying, "What are the future standards and how do we give consumers the right choice for that?"

At the moment, everything you might have seen is just looking at our experimentation back in Redmond, not really a product that we're thinking about announcing.

GS: We did a screenshot comparison feature comparing the Xbox 360 to the PlayStation 3 last December. We expected the PS3 games to look the same as or better than the 360 versions since the developers had more time and the PS3 offers more theoretical performance, depending on who's talking. However, we found that that the majority of the games looked better on the 360 even though many of the games were released several months before the PS3 versions. What do you think happened there?

CS: I think there are several factors that feed into it. The first is that I don't think we have a less powerful system. In fact, especially in the area of graphics, I think we actually have a superior system. What's really important is the developer tools we give people so they can exploit it. If you give people great developer tools, rather than struggling to get a game working, they can focus on the creativity. That's something that's in our DNA at Microsoft: great developer tools. That means not only is there more power there, especially on the graphics side, it's much easier to use and it's actually tailored to gaming. What you're seeing is people who have great technology to support them, great tools, and they're able to make great-looking games.

I've got to admit that I wasn't surprised when I saw the screenshot comparisons. When you see something like Gears of War, I don't think there's anything you can compare against it. It is the best-looking next-generation game. What's even more exciting, of course, is that I get to see some of the things going on in first-party Redmond that are going to be released in 2007, and there's some amazing stuff going on. There's still so much capacity to use in the system that people are starting to get into now, so when you look at the big upcoming releases for this year, things like Halo 3, what you're really going to see is what true next-generation is. Gears of War has really paved the way, but there are going to be titles next year, with our tools, with the power of our system, that are just going to make people amazed over what a next-generation console can do.

GS: You guys beat your 10-million-unit sales for 2006. What's your next goal and when will you hit it?

CS: One of the things we're really focusing on for this year, for the end of our fiscal year, which is June, is to make sure we have 6 million people on Live. Getting that mass of people on there just makes the service so much more interesting. One of the things that we looked at recently was an interesting stat: Gold users average 21 friends each. The more people you get on there, it's easier to find someone you want to play again and again. With the sales figures, what we're looking at is trying to hit a target of 15-16 million by the end of our fiscal year, and we'll set new guidance after that. We're on the right trajectory, we're happy with our 10.4 million in sales, obviously, and now it's just onwards and upwards from here.

GS: Are you guys watching how Nintendo is doing with the Wii, and do you find any of it inspiring?

CS: I think the Wii is really interesting. The control is amazing for some games, but for other games, I don't think it's working as well. I think it remains to be seen just in the long term how much people will enjoy playing a really broad spectrum of games with it.

One of the things that I think Nintendo is doing very well is they are taking IPs they have and they are exploiting them on their new system. People love Nintendo IPs, but also it's new game types and bringing in the whole family. This is something that we started to do last year with Viva Piñata, which is a very different type of game from what you normally see on Xbox, and we want to continue that on. The first time Guitar Hero II will see its next-gen premiere is on Xbox 360. Again, it's sort of a very different way to play. You're starting to see it on Xbox Live Arcade. We brought in retro gaming. We have some new, simpler game types.

I think you'll see us build on that to say, "What are interesting experiences for the family, for younger gamers, for people that don't want to play our traditional brand of a very hardcore, intense gaming experience?" We've started on that path, and you'll see this year and next year us really expanding on that to give a broader set of game experiences.

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Discussion

148 comments
Gmacrusher
Gmacrusher

It kind of makes me mad that they got good songs...and we didn't!

AFWorm
AFWorm

He's a smart guy. Microsoft is definitely quite powerful with the right guys.

ricsuave
ricsuave

"theKSMM I don't want Microsoft to release a bigger hard drive. I want the ability to hook up an external drive via USB. Then my media storage can be measured in terabytes instead of 100 GB notebook drives." You do? Ok then, close your eyes and wish real hard. Done? Your wish is granted. You can already do that after last fall's update.

jacko_goku69
jacko_goku69

"racing5112" WTF. keep your comments to 10 lines at the very most. I don't think anyone wants to read your 37 ****ing lines of bull**** technology stuff you low life nerd. The best 360 games coming out are blue dragon, banjo kazooie and halo 3. personally i like rpg's and action adventures the most but halo 3 looks pretty good. Now "racing5112". For your next thing u write keep around this size instead of 37 lines!

GEARSpartan0415
GEARSpartan0415

so when does this come out?? my 360 just broke so if it comes out in like 4 or 5 months i could wait until the the 360 v2 comes out

Alcotamaysees
Alcotamaysees

I've been so hyped on seeing the 120 gig 360 that I forgot microsoft hadn't even officially announced it yet.

mario94
mario94

Guitar Hero for the 360? Sounds good.

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

i hope microsoft and nintendo make a company bond or something.

Ax-Slinger
Ax-Slinger

In response to the hard-drive i do feel that it is a bit small, when you try and put high def content on it. but in terms of music and such, stop whining about using a windows media center edition PC, vista's coming out soon it'll work too, and if you don't wanna upgrade and are running home or professional XP, just make sure you have service pack 2, and download windows media connect, i wouldn't be surprised if microsoft made an Apple connect for christ sakes. I personally hated having to put my music on my original xbox, but with my 360, i love it, its all on my network and i just access it through my 360, thats how everything should be, and for hdmi sure is a kool thing but its not really good yet, it's still in development and such so just grab a VGA cable and hook it up that way, if your HDTV dosn't support vga well then your SOL but its a better way than hdmi. personally i'd like them to support DVI since i had a Samsung DLP, so i have every kind of port possible, i think my tv even makes ice at this point. The fact of the matter is YES we need a bigger hard-drive OR watt would be more cost effective even for MS allow us to use external hard-drives and release an official 360 one, i know people would buy official. for hdmi? people stop whining, forget it and just get a vga to hdmi converter and use that, they are available.

CT-Link
CT-Link

With that IPTV thing the Xbox 360 will eventually offer the same things the Ps3 does, except at a lower price. And with GoW out and selling and Halo 3 comin' out this year, things look good for MS and 360 owners...they'll never see daylight again with GoW and Halo...lol

musicalmac
musicalmac moderator

Interesting article. I think the'yre on the right track here. He kind of eluded to the 720p standard (without saying it). Apple has also embraced 720p. I'm with them.

General919
General919

I wouldn't be supprised if Microsoft released a blu-ray player for the 360 to try to get all the ps3 fanboys like me to join them bull crap im not goin to microsoft for consoles ps3's got my vote all the way!

General919
General919

I wouldn't be supprised if Microsoft released a blu-ray player for the 360 to try to get all the ps3 fanboys like me to join them bull crap im not goin to microsoft for consoles ps3's got my vote all the way!

UltraWoody
UltraWoody

You people and your 'tech debates'. Don't you understand by now that it's about the games and not the systems? It's what the developers do that makes the difference, not the CPUs or the stupid RAM. PS2 and XBOX are perfect examples. The XBOX was more powerful in every aspect and all the nonsense, but the PS2 had all the games and ultimately won that generation. It's a very simple idea that a lot of you, unfortunately, are not grasping yet. Anyone who thinks otherwise are just thick-skulled, arrogant fools. But the rest of you are real gamers. You know who I'm talking about. Again... it's about the games and NOT the systems. Give it rest, GEEZ!

Elfieblue
Elfieblue

interesting, though there was quite a prevalence of marketing

theKSMM
theKSMM

I don't want Microsoft to release a bigger hard drive. I want the ability to hook up an external drive via USB. Then my media storage can be measured in terabytes instead of 100 GB notebook drives. Frankly, I don't think the visual difference between component video and HDMI is worth complaining about. Granted, my TV and vision may not be as good as yours, but I'll take Microsoft's component cable over Nintendo's $60 component cable (for just 480p) or Sony's absentee HDMI cable any day. Even if Microsoft released an HDMI cable, I wouldn't pay $10 for it. It just has little added value to me. Ultimately though, all this media stuff is just icing on the gaming cake. As long as the good games keep coming, the rest of this stuff is just a bonus.

racing5112
racing5112

to thekey, neither system has more ram, but 360 has shared meaning that the bandwith is split between two sources but if it needs more CPU space than 256MB 360 can take it but PS3 cant. Its acually quite obivious why the titles all looked better, its because they're all ports and not good ones at that. Look at the first gen 360 games and compare them to the first get PS3 games and now you have yourself a fair comparison because the developers arn't nearly acustomed to PS3 as they are with 360 but after a year this difference should just almost completely dissappear. The cell IS the better processor because it can handle more tasks at once with a higher level of efficiency. Also that has NOTHING to do with the graphical capabalilities. It IS related but not nearly as much as the actual GPU usage. It has been claimed by MS that the second most taxing thing 360 does is decode HD DVD. PS3 on the other hand can decode TWO MPEG-4 AVC streams at 40 Mbits/s simultaneously "The current decoder can decode full HD H.264 with 3 SPEs." and it has 7 SPE's availible. http://www.beyond3d.com/forum/showthread.php?t=36188 This may not apply to games currently but when developers learn how to code for multiple cores massive increases in what is possible will be seen. Such as one SPE for 7.1 uncompressed sound (something will never have as long as it doesnt have HDMI), two for the A.I., two for physics, one for volumetric clouds, and we still have one more to do something AND we still have the controller core to manage this all. 360 has three which can handle two threads at a time, which is more of the powerhouse way to go. Its just like Xbox and PS2. The latest version of ghost recon for xbox didnt look nearly as good as resident evil four, yet xbox is completely superiour in every way possible on paper. Most have agreed that the PS3 has a slight advantage in the CPU area but when it comes to the video chip its vice-versa. The 360 chip has some features of DirectX 10 meanwhile the ps3 is strictly directX 9 features and its also more powerful. In the end both are pretty much equal hardware wise but its up to the developers to make the effort to take full advantage of the hardware at their disposal. GTA IV will be the first true comparison between the two systems as both versions are to take full advantage of both systems. Another interesting thing about that game is that there will be four "epic episodes" two of which are exlcusive to the xbox and two for the PS3. Summary: thekey, you got one advantage, the RAM, but the CPU is at a disadvantage and the graphics chip is the primary dictator on the graphics that you see. But the thing about complete games is completely untrue because both systems can have "more complete games"

jared81799
jared81799

the hdd is a serious prob they need to address quickly, even if it means offering a below cost upgrade to avoid early adopter anger.

javajoe96work
javajoe96work

I agree. I think that a lot of those answers are useless. How can anyone think to use the 360 as a DVR? And I have not used the HD movie download service for one reason only. I do not have the space to download a movie. It just will not fit unless I delete stuff I do not want to. And the users should not have to face this. Where are you going to record the TV shows to because it is not going to fit on the current hard drive. I love my 360 but Microsoft has had a full year to bring out a bigger hard drive or add support for people to add USB hard drives to their systems. I love Xbox Live Arcade but Microsoft also needs to keep up the pace of adding games to the service. They should only put original games on a release schedule. And step up the release of retro games. I know people like the retooled and broaden options in some of the retro games that have been released. But Live Arcade needs a bigger injection of these games; the Wii and PS3 are stepping up early on the amount of games that are popping up on their equivalent services. MS has lead the charge of the arcade idea now the have to make sure to not drop behind.

thekey
thekey

More avaible RAM and a superior tripple core processor means superior graphics and better more complete games.

waldo029
waldo029

needs more PUNK!!!!! social distortion, clash, sex pistols, csualties DKM COME ON!!!!!!!

redxwarriorxxx
redxwarriorxxx

I didn't think the HDD was that big an issue but then again HDMI is very important.

southerntank
southerntank

glhx1rush wrote: "Oh, I get it, they want you to invest in a Media Center equiped PC to be able to play around with music and vids and pictures.. ok, I get it. I have a MCE computer, but it would be much more fun to not have to go with that option." Actually you never needed a media center PC to stream audio, and with the last fall update you don't need it for video either. Microsoft has the software availble to allow any pc to share network files with the 360 for free.

racing5112
racing5112

Dont mean to burst your buble but PS3 would solve the HDD issue if your still undecided but if you've already bought a 360 its not worth the extra $800 for the system games controllers etc. Both systems cost quite a bit once you calculate it. I personally think having some sort of built in next gen DVD format support is well worth the buy but external drives are just repulsive, to me that is. Both next gen DVD format players cost as much and more than (in the case of BR) either console so it just that much more economical to purchase a game console that supports HDMI 1.3. I would glady purchase a 360 with HDMI a bigger HDD (say 100GB, because of my large music collection that i INSIST on storing in PCM or some lossless format) But until HDMI and a larger HDD are implimented ill be quite content with my PS3 for the time being seeing as theres 7 titles that i would have bought by now if i had bought 360 yet ps3's looking fairly promising for its first year in full swing.

glhx1rush
glhx1rush

Useless answers as usual. When will we get our OVERPRICED, larger Hard Drive ? When can we hook up external drives as WE see fit? When can we expect xbox live subscription prices to increase? As usual we get answers that don't answer the questions, just fluff..... I love my 360, but the 20 gig drive is horrible,and just cripples the system, and, until they provide a 150-200 gig drive as a minimum I can't see using the 360 for downloadable movies in High Def, and I won't waste my time dumping mp3's on the puny 20 gig drive either. Oh, I get it, they want you to invest in a Media Center equiped PC to be able to play around with music and vids and pictures.. ok, I get it. I have a MCE computer, but it would be much more fun to not have to go with that option.

imortiferus
imortiferus

A bigger HD is coming no doubt... they just need to figure out the logistics on data transfer. How will they enable the copy process? A utility in the 360 dashboard? Will the additional drive have a USB port or add on so it can be daisy chained? Will it be a replacement for or a companion to the existing drive, etc..

morororo
morororo

Yeah you can, but only to stream music files, you can't save video files or anything like that to it. You can hook ipod, psps, mobile phones, all sorts.

bloodychimp
bloodychimp

morororo qiwihead: I think thats the single most impressive thing about PS3, it uses laptop hard drives, and accepts USB external hard drives. I wish you could atleast use external hard drives on 360. Think Microsoft made a big mistake there. Personally I'm a big hoarder for media. My pc has 400 gigs worth of crap on it that i can't part with despite watching or listening to it thousands of times. I've started ripping all my dvds too cause I love having everything at the touch of a button and not having to go rooting thru my cd or dvd collection every time. If they want the 360 to be the all dancing media hub it thinks it is its gonna need a bigger hard drive. Maybe they don't want to cut into Windows Media Center sales. Greedy beggers! You can use external hard drives on the 360. I haven't done it personally but one of my friends has with his at home. He said every USB device he has tried has been recognized by the system.

morororo
morororo

qiwihead: I think thats the single most impressive thing about PS3, it uses laptop hard drives, and accepts USB external hard drives. I wish you could atleast use external hard drives on 360. Think Microsoft made a big mistake there. Personally I'm a big hoarder for media. My pc has 400 gigs worth of crap on it that i can't part with despite watching or listening to it thousands of times. I've started ripping all my dvds too cause I love having everything at the touch of a button and not having to go rooting thru my cd or dvd collection every time. If they want the 360 to be the all dancing media hub it thinks it is its gonna need a bigger hard drive. Maybe they don't want to cut into Windows Media Center sales. Greedy beggers!

qiwihead
qiwihead

I love the 360 and think M$ is doing a great job with it and Live, but if I see another quote from M$ about there not being a demand for a bigger HD, I'm going to...well, I don't know what I'm going to do, but it won't be pretty. Satchell says, "if we see an increase in pressure that's something that will be interesting to look at." How much pressure do they need? Do we need to have a million-man-march on Redmond before they realize that 13GB is not even close to enough? It's truly insane how stubborn they're being about this. They want to make the 360 a media hub, they give us loads of stuff to download--now including HD movies that take up almost half of the hard drive--and then basically say they don't see the need or the demand for a bigger drive. It just drives me crazy! (no pun intended)

VFA-102
VFA-102

In response to rasstarman's comments about what people are putting on their hard drives, people are putting game and tv content on them. I have 4 eps. of South park, plus 1.5 gigs of game content. Now, when you download hd movies, that takes over 7 gigs of space. With new downloads coming out for games at over 100 mb's a shot for levels, that will mean that I won't be able to rent HD movies very soon. As it is, myself and other people, are starting to have to micromanage our space. I would just like a 40- 60 gig hdd to be able to have some breathing room.

SumerianDaemon
SumerianDaemon

Microsoft"wii interesting/PS3 weak" So thats the situation : XBOX & WII VS PS3 But that wil be also the situation in sells !!HAHAHA!!!!

AceCometh
AceCometh

I'm glad to have an Xbox 360. It's like being part of an extended family! I know that was corny, I just felt the need to post something.

rasstarman
rasstarman

What are people putting on their xbox hard drives I wonder, I still have 13gigs. If you are downloading high def movies they are only rentals and will delete automatically. Who keeps demos and videos downloaded from the market place? It makes no sense to keep them so I think the people complaining about hard drive space need to simply clean out the useless junk on it.

esbshalo
esbshalo

At least Microsoft cares for about others and what they think. Just look back at what Sony said about Nintendo's Wii. Ignorance is a bad bad trait. Look out Ken...we all know where you live.

jrod9999
jrod9999

Microsoft should buy the rights to now bankrupt Replaytv the software will be cheap and man it was more user friendly than Tivo.

GrimBee
GrimBee

Its wierd, on GS everytime they asked a sony rep about nintendo they just said stuff like "huh? did they? we dont care about what the competition is doing". Its good that M$ are looking at what the public are doing right now. The big difference with this generation is that products need to be updated, and changed. Technology is moving at an even faster rate. Ipods now redesigned every year, or so. Tv's no longer are made to the same-ish specs each year. each year a TV will change size, cost, connections, power consumption.. etc. Digital services demand new connections, HD is coming in... its a gamble to base a product entirely on HD, right now. I think that the next 3 years will be dramatically different to whats avaliable now. And the same as Nintendo redesigned the DS within a year, the same thing could happen with the 360. Heck, even the wii is supposed to have a dvd playback thing in place... As things evolve, its great to see that the games companies are actually looking at the market, and are willing to change with it, instead of slap in what THEY think should be there.

burgertime
burgertime

It will be interesting to see how IPTV competes with a product like Apple TV. $2 per episode vs $30-$50 a month. Pluses and minuses to both.

Sanguis_Malus
Sanguis_Malus

Choice is good but I'm not personally interested in IPTV and I'm not investing any of my money in new formats until the price is right and the longevity is clearer. Its likely that a bigger HD will be become available at some point, if enough people want it then Microsoft or somebody else will sell it. I like games first and foremost, on that level I'm pleased with the 360.

Irve
Irve

at the very least you've got to get a bigger HD .. after all with the PS3 you cna just pop a new drive in whenever you like ... MS need to at the very least bring out a HD enclosure to for hte 360 charge $30 so they make their markup and let you stuff in as big a HD as you like ... everybody happy !

GKBeetle
GKBeetle

joestrummer999 I actually bothered reading that because it was an interesting read. . . I got about 1/4 of the way through it, and decided it was too boring for me to finish.

darkDemyze
darkDemyze

I like how when Satchell is addressed about a larger hard drive, he states: "..if we see an increase in pressure.." as if no one has already been asking for a bigger hard drive. Why does Microsoft have to be blind to this? Meh.

ftjx
ftjx

no larger harddrive???????? C'mon!

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

I just ant wait for Live Anywhere in this Summer.

TheKretinousQ
TheKretinousQ

Well in the UK we don't seem to get Video Marketplace like they do in the States which I find quite ridiculous and this IPTV best be free I'm not spending yet more money on Microsoft products that never truly seem to pull it off. With regards to the new XBOX360 v2 I hope those of us that have current 360s that break get one. Oh and HD-DVD is the way forward, the general public won't really notice the difference and all it amounts to is more special features on BR discs anyway! Oh and HDDVD players and discs will be cheaper than BR another winner with the public.

Mr_Saturn26
Mr_Saturn26

i think BR is the way, the more mem. the better for developers.

sonitus_aus
sonitus_aus

'mkirklions wrote wat does IP mean?' Intellectual Property