M'soft lauds Live at Leipzig

Exec talks up Xbox Live to game developers; confirms Halo 2 and Shadowrun to be first Live Anywhere games, releases slated for early next year.

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LEIPZIG, GERMANY--For many players, Xbox Live is an integral part of the Xbox 360 experience, and Microsoft is hoping to capitalize on that success by expanding the reach and scope of its premium online service.

At the Games Convention Developers Conference in Leipzig, Germany this week, Microsoft third-party account manager Steven Blackburn gave a presentation about the past, present, and future of Xbox Live. The presentation began with a summary of the history of Xbox Live from its beginnings in 2002 through two revisions during the life span of the Xbox, and the relaunch of the service in 2005 with the release of the Xbox 360.

After noting a handful of milestones and key features of Xbox Live, Blackburn turned to the numbers. According to the figures presented, Xbox Live has a 60 percent attach rate to Xbox 360 consoles, which is a huge leap from the 10 percent attach rate of the original Xbox. By Microsoft's estimates, Xbox Live is on track to reach 6 million subscribers, though when that number will be reached was left to speculation. Also, according to the data more than 2 billion hours (about 236,000 years) have been logged on Xbox Live to date, with an average of 900,000 text and voice messages sent through the service each day.

Blackburn then moved on to discuss Xbox Live Marketplace. First he discussed the various types of available content on Xbox Live, emphasizing the impact of demos in particular on sales.

Once again, Blackburn backed up his pitch with statistics. According to the data presented, 80 percent of the users on Xbox Live are using Marketplace, and 30 percent of users have purchased Microsoft Points, which are required to pay for premium content. More than 1 billion Microsoft Points have been activated, which by the current exchange rate comes to about $12.5 million (US dollars). Blackburn also noted that the average Xbox Live user has downloaded about 25 pieces of content, with about 45 million overall downloads.

After getting the audience caught up on the current state of Xbox Live Marketplace, Blackburn offered a brief and intentionally vague glimpse of what Microsoft has in store for the future. He began by stating that there will be a switch to "in-game enumeration of content."

Put simply, that means that instead of browsing downloadable content from the Xbox 360 dashboard, the feature will be built into the game. Blackburn offered the example of a combat flight simulator, where you can peruse new airplanes and weapons in a hangar and access the downloadable content without ever leaving the game.

The second improvement in store for Xbox Live Marketplace is an update that will allow players to preview premium content before purchasing it. Currently, players have to purchase content sight unseen, but eventually the downloadable items will include pictures so that the buyers can see what they're purchasing.

The third and final point regarding the future of Xbox Live Marketplace was simply a brief mention of the Live Anywhere service announced at E3 2006, which will allow players to earn achievements and download content for multiple versions of the same game.

The next subject discussed was Xbox Live Arcade. Once again Blackburn let the numbers do the talking. According to the data, 65 percent of connected Xbox 360 owners are playing Xbox Live Arcade games, with 5 million total downloads so far. He noted that the price structure of the games doesn't have a negative impact on sales, with the 800- and 1,200-point games bringing in more revenue than the 400-point games.

The top five most downloaded games according to the figures presented are: Geometry Wars, Uno, Marble Blast Ultra, Gauntlet, and Zuma. There was no mention of when that data was gathered, so it's unclear if the list is still current. There was very little discussion of what the future holds for Xbox Live Arcade, other than noting that Microsoft has plenty of new games in the queue.

Before the presentation, Blackburn made a point to boast about recently earning 1,000 achievement points in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, so it seemed inevitable that he would discuss achievements. This time there were no numbers, only suggestions to developers about how to make achievements an integral part of every Xbox 360 and Windows Vista game.

He said that achievements are effective at broadening the audience for a given game by providing incentive to play the game in many different ways. He criticized games that make achievements too easy to earn, as well as games that award points for simply finishing a level. Blackburn said that achievements must be attainable, but not too easy, so that the player always feels as though he or she can earn points by playing "just five minutes more."

After a quick mention of the Xbox Live Vision camera and its features, Blackburn said the peripheral would be released on September 19 in the US, and two weeks later in Europe and Asia. There was little discussion of how the camera will be implemented into games aside from creating a custom avatar in Uno.

The presentation ended with a look toward the future, with Blackburn stating that in early 2007 the first two Xbox Live Anywhere-enabled games will be released. The first is Halo 2 for Windows Vista. It's not clear exactly how the Live Anywhere service will be implemented in the PC version of Halo 2, since the Xbox version is without many of the current Xbox Live features. The first true multiplatform game to showcase the functionality of Xbox Live Anywhere will be Shadowrun, which will ship for the PC and Xbox 360 in early 2007.

The session closed with Blackburn taking questions from the audience. One question was about whether or not Microsoft would demand exclusivity from third-party developers who want to sell games on Xbox Live Arcade, since it seems likely that Sony and Nintendo will have similar services when their respective consoles launch later this year. Blackburn said that Microsoft has no intention of making all Xbox Live Arcade games exclusive, so it's feasible that a developer could create a multiplatform title for download on the Xbox 360, Windows Vista, PlayStation 3, and the Wii, as long as such a service is available on each platform. However, Blackburn didn't seem particularly concerned with the competition, perhaps because it doesn't exist yet.

Discussion

86 comments
Fiku42
Fiku42

About time microsoft made something innovative on their own.

soulknight63133
soulknight63133

Riadon- you have a comprehensive skill level of a 2 year old. How can you "buy" something if it's free. Do us all a favor, show your stupidity and lack of intelligence somewhere else.

earthwormjim_3D
earthwormjim_3D

Riadon, do you know what buying means? You can't buy anything for free. And don't flame.

boocreepyfootdr
boocreepyfootdr

Vista, Windows, graphics, leipzig, points, shadowrun, halo, pc

Riadon
Riadon

xbox sucks i wouldn't buy it for free

The_Weekend
The_Weekend

Erm, shouldn't Shadowrun be more like an RPG at the end of the day?

babyeaterwolf
babyeaterwolf

the only problem i have with achievements is that, like is said, there isnt much incentive to get them. You just complete a level and u get points. I just don't see the worth in them at all On the other hand if, for example, you completed the game on its hardest setting/completed all the achievements, how on earth would it hurt microsoft to give out microsoft points to those individuals, not of a large sum just a small amount. Surely that would entice more people to buy the games and give some kind of reward for "achieving"

Willdyer10
Willdyer10

Cool! can't wait to get a xbox 360 and xbox live:)

k-diddy66
k-diddy66

september for xbox live vision.cant wait to get a 360 now

NeonNinja
NeonNinja

Live Anywhere is true innovation from MS, I agree with GFofgaming. They're doing soemthing special to bring together 360, PC and cell phone gamers. Good job MS.

GFofgaming
GFofgaming

This is a very very innovative feature from microsoft. Despite i'll buy ps3, I applaud Microsoft, GREAT JOB!

drack48
drack48

I love my 360, seriously take a look at the freakin lost planet trailer for the love of GOD! Microsoft came through this time.

killroycantkill
killroycantkill

if ppl dont got xbox y dose this matter and will it cost extra to buy it since got all this stuff.

PigJiggin
PigJiggin

IT's simple Destroyeron13. Live anywhere uses 3 platforms. The 360, Vista PC, and your cell phone so you can play games and check stats anywhere. Only arcade games on cell phones though, and games like Shadowrun and Halo 2 can cross-platform so you can play people on the 360 against people on a Vista PC.

Ironclash
Ironclash

Someone forgot their Lip years ... Hein, Hotzizzy?

Destroyeron13
Destroyeron13

OK quicksilverzxc, ok. I don't understand the Live anywhere service either, whats the point?

rodders1991
rodders1991

i hope this does not affect the price of games in the future

peeweeshift
peeweeshift

it wont be a future ewith micro transactions so don't worry. games are being built so people can enjoy them with-out any new transactions.

dodgyd55
dodgyd55

oh god they are trying to push the "micro transactions" i hope it doesnt catch on cause it means an expensive future for us gamers :(

RocKtheCasbaH
RocKtheCasbaH

Liveanywhere? FPS's are hard enough on consoles. I don't want to play against a guy with a mouse and keyboard whilst I'm on a joy pad. There better be options to restrcit games to consoles only. and vice versa for flying and driving games.

Hotzizzy
Hotzizzy

Interesting, just a couple things I want to point out though.First off, that's 228,000 years, not 236,000. Second, regarding if the list of the top Xbox Live Arcade games is current - It's not, here is the most recent one: "Top Xbox Live Arcade titles: Geometry Wars, UNO, Bankshot Billiards 2, Marble Blast Ultra, and Street Fighter® II' Hyper Fighting." From http://www.xbox.com/en-US/community/personality/elle/20060814-shoptilyoudrop.htm

ZosoFan
ZosoFan

Well, wii360 ftw. But you forgot Gears of War, which imo will be better than Halo 3

quicksilverzxc
quicksilverzxc

Anybody up for some Wii online and Nintendo virtual console games? Except for Halo 3, the Wii will own. Just wait til October.

mariokart64fan
mariokart64fan

wii does have back catalog maybe thats where some of its games can be at and nintendo did state the developers could release new games on the catalog , meaning iif blackburn wanted to create somthin they could i hope they all do ,

killercortez88
killercortez88

-evry1snice- "Xbox Live rules and only a PS3 Fanboy would deny that. ~I'll deny it, but I'm a Nintendo Fanboy :p Could care less about PS3 (I'd rather buy me a new computer for that price)" I was about to say that. You can buy an actuall computer than buy the PS3 which sony say would replace computers. And there is probably not going to be cross platforming because people have been playing halo 2 for a while and will own PC players. Also they are adding a map editor to the PC version.

The_Sniper_9
The_Sniper_9

--reece590 --I look forward to the halo 2 cross-platform, I wounder if pc players would have an advantage over xbox because of mouse instead of contropller? I dont think halo 2 will be cross platform i remember bungie saying something about it not being able to since its on the old xbox live version and since this was said in the article "TIt's not clear exactly how the Live Anywhere service will be implemented in the PC version of Halo 2, since the Xbox version is without many of the current Xbox Live features."

Trigun1
Trigun1

Riadon "Xbox 360 is a Joke, I returned mine yesterday. Hopefully many others will too. The life cycle of the xbox 360 is only 7 months." Riadon you are joke and lies are a pathetic act of a $onyfanboy who does not have enough faith in sony. Your collection is only Ps2 and say you owned a 360? wow i hope you grow up and make better choices.

enemyvillain
enemyvillain

Xboxlive is the best .its easy to use.even my mom could find and play uno by herself without even asking me to help her out.long live xboxlive.

ultrazone
ultrazone

More XBOX Live improvements? No complaints here. Gonna be hoping the PS3's online service will be at least on par with XBOX's, I mean, who doesn't want to see improvements on this stuff, regardless of console?

andyrook
andyrook

Hmm some people just dont get it!eg Sony fanboys lol!I have ps2 and 360 and xblive is amazing...great servers,friends list downloadable content etc etc.Sony cant even get one server running properly for ps2!KILLZONE ANYONE?LMAO!anyways my point is SONY are very good with marketing and advertising and MICROSOFT have been in the business of internet products for years,so lets just say that each one has its merits.But I along wiht many others DOUBT very seriously if SONY will come within a mile of MICROSOFTS online support.....oh and one last thing.SONY said last week that they werent too interested in the online side of things only last week..PEACE OUT :)

SecretWasianMan
SecretWasianMan

I respect your unbiased opinion PS3_3DO. Its all about the facts not the hype.

Kayrod29
Kayrod29

I'm riding Xbox LIve till' the end.

obotex
obotex

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

PS3_3DO
PS3_3DO

PS3 online won't touch XBL and anyone who thinks it will needs a reality check.

Riadon
Riadon

Xbox 360 is a Joke, I returned mine yesterday. Hopefully many others will too. The life cycle of the xbox 360 is only 7 months.

shasam712
shasam712

Man, some xbox guys are gonna get owned by the PC guys in Halo 2.

reece590
reece590

I look forward to the halo 2 cross-platform, I wounder if pc players would have an advantage over xbox because of mouse instead of contropller?

BonziBoce
BonziBoce

i like how people say the PS3 is the best, even when its not out.

evry1snice
evry1snice

Xbox Live rules and only a PS3 Fanboy would deny that. ~I'll deny it, but I'm a Nintendo Fanboy :p Could care less about PS3 (I'd rather buy me a new computer for that price)

tidusjeff
tidusjeff

if only halo 2 was as good as the media saids it is.

Pablo620
Pablo620

Here's another good stat. 100% of Live online gamers pay to do so. 0% of future PS3 owners will pay to play online