Q&A: Microsoft on Xbox Originals

Xbox Live group marketing manager Aaron Greenberg fills in the blanks on the plan to make last-gen's best and brightest downloadable on Xbox 360.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced Xbox Originals, a new program that will see entire retail games from the first Xbox made available for download on the Xbox 360. Set to debut with the system's next firmware update on December 4, Xbox Originals will offer gamers a selection of offerings including Halo, Crimson Skies, Fable, and Psychonauts, with each one selling for 1,200 Microsoft points ($15).

Although it will arrive several weeks after the fifth anniversary of Xbox Live, Microsoft is still including the launch of Xbox Originals on its list of celebrations to mark the occasion. In addition to the new program, Microsoft will allow Live users to download a free game from the Xbox Live Arcade for 48 hours, beginning on November 15, the actual fifth anniversary of Live. Most Live subscribers will be able to grab Carcassonne for free, whereas Korean users will get a complimentary Hexic 2.

This morning, Xbox Live group marketing manager Aaron Greenberg answered GameSpot's questions about the service, from how often new games will be added to how they're chosen in the first place.

GameSpot: Why offer downloadable Xbox games when they're already backward compatible?

Aaron Greenberg: We've always said we felt like online and digital distribution was the future of this business, and I think this is the next step in that evolution, to be able for the first time ever to allow people to digitally download and own full retail games. We've never done that before. Frankly, I think with the exception of Halo, almost all these titles are next to impossible to find at retail anymore, so we're making them very available to consumers who would like to purchase them.

GS: How frequently will you be releasing Xbox Originals?

AG: [It will be] a very regular flow. Obviously we have a large library of backward compatible titles, so we'll have access to that library, and over the coming year we'll release a very steady flow. Ideally, it will be close to a weekly basis. We haven't ironed out exactly the flow, but it should be similar to what you see for Xbox Live Arcade game releases.

GS: So the work you've done on backward compatibility is the basis for the Xbox Original releases?

AG: Exactly. You basically download the bits of the game and they have to have passed all our backward compatibility certification and testing. We're only going to make available the ones that we know perform extremely well and have a high quality, if that gives you an idea of some of the titles you may see. To start, I think we have a good lineup. To be able to download them, own them, and if you delete them you can download them again, it's very similar to how Live Arcade games work.

GS: Beyond having a game that runs well, what are the criteria for selecting Xbox Originals?

AG: We look at sales of the titles, which is obviously important, and we look at the performance of the game. We also look at a third criteria--if it's a cult classic. Psychonauts is a great example of that. It's a title that maybe didn't sell extremely well, but we know is very popular with our community and is something people would like that is not available at retail anymore. We'll continue to make those titles available.

GS: What steps are being taken to resolve the known in-game issues with the downloadable titles?

AG: We're selecting the titles that have the best performance, so ideally there should be very little to no issues with the games. I understand there may be small things with certain games in certain regions and settings, but we're not changing the games. Whatever's a known issue if you buy the game at retail on a disc is the same known issue if you buy the game as a digital copy.

GS: So there won't be enhanced content or added online play in Xbox Originals?

AG: No. What we're basically doing is taking the games as they were originally created and maintaining that. We want to preserve the integrity of what that original game experience was like. If they have online multiplayer, it's there. Whatever functionality was built into that original game is what people will get. We're not going back and getting the teams that made the game and having them open the vault and recode them or anything like that.

GS: Will achievements, in-game messaging, and the rest of the Xbox 360 trapping be integrated somehow?

AG: It will perform just like a backward-compatible game, so you'll have limited access to those things. You'll be able to hit the guide button to get into the dashboard, but you won't have access to in-game messaging and things like that.

GS: You've already got games from Vivendi, Majesco, and EA set for the service. Which other third parties are on board with Xbox Originals?

AG: My understanding is pretty much all of our top publishers will be part of the program. I'm not aware of any publishers that are not participating; it's more an issue of picking the right titles and the time that they will launch. These publishers have already made these games; I think it's pretty straightforward that they would want to rerelease them digitally.

GS: How big will the game files be?

AG: They vary. I think original Halo ran close to 2GB, to give you an idea. To be fair, there are games that will be bigger than that, but that's the one I downloaded and tried.

GS: We know about Xbox Originals and the Family Timer controls. What else will be included in the December 4 update?

AG: At this point we haven't gotten into any of the other details. Just like any other update, there will be changes to the dashboard and the blades, cosmetic stuff. We always have fine-tuning of playback of movies and music. But at this point, we're going to wait closer until that date--probably the last week of November is when we'll do a lot of show-and-tell with everyone in the media so people can see what they're getting. The reason why we do that mainly is because the team is still finalizing and testing a lot of the functionality. There are always a couple of things that are on the bubble.

GS: Is the 1,200 Microsoft points ($15) price set in stone for all Xbox Originals in the future, or might we see some higher or lower?

AG: Set in stone. We decided to keep it simple. Rather than have some games at $20, some at $10, we kept them all at 1,200 points. Every game will be at that price, set in stone, at least in the foreseeable future.

GS: Is there any way Xbox 360 owners can suggest new additions to Xbox Originals?

AG: Yes! That's one of the things we really do want, because we have this catalog of titles [to choose from]. We'd love to hear feedback from the community on what titles they want, because frankly, we're doing this for them. It's easy to pick Halo and maybe a Fable, but it would be great to know if people prefer Psychonauts or Dead or Alive. Do people want ToeJam and Earl? Jet Set Radio? I know there are a lot of cult classics that were popular, and it would be helpful to get an idea of what people's appetites are for those games today.

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Discussion

402 comments
ChiefFreeman
ChiefFreeman

Microsoft sadlygave up on thr Xbox originals way too soon.  Now the PS3 has downloadable PS2 classics.

BravoOneActual
BravoOneActual

I like to visit obsolete comment sections and be sad.

acastaca
acastaca

i really would like live with my bc games,and also crash tag team racing

CrazyRabbi
CrazyRabbi

Who cares about the achievements, just play the game. Don't you have better things to look forward to in your live then xbox 360 achievements? How about adding online play! That would make the games alot better unlike achievements. Halo would have been so much better with online play.

Kiro92
Kiro92

cool, im happy that u wont need disc but c'mon Microsoft we want achievements!

VGLeo34
VGLeo34

No Chronicles Of Riddick(not surprising) b ut if theyt could include 250 Gamerscores achievements. AND NO SPORTS GAMES..................................................................................EVER

Gamebox88
Gamebox88

I want to see MVP Baseball 2005, NFL 2k5 and XIII( yes i happened to like that game).

LP005
LP005

I hope they include The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

breakdown84
breakdown84

Yes!!!finally this so so awsome MS you are finally giving some cred back to the orig xbox....YESSSSS!!!!Don't forget ab out Serious Sam1

Shishio817
Shishio817

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, please!!!

earlmccormick88
earlmccormick88

If they get marvel vs capcom 2, its over. And also, what did yall expect the file size to be on the xbox originals??? 500mb's or somethin??? Yall shouldve already expected the filesize to at 2gb!!! I dont wanna hear no complaining.

maquefort
maquefort

We want achievements! gimme gimme

GeigerdolylWodd
GeigerdolylWodd

2GB? Are they serious? Time to get that 120 GB hard drive. No you are not alone mrjohnno. Is that your name sorry an extra n. But yeah that would be nice but and I guess they could change their tune in the future maybe but I wouldn't cross my fingers for it.

Price point aside? I'm still more concerned that this means we won't be able to sell them back ever and get a portion of our money back. I mean if I wanted to purchase and own a lastgen game digitially I'd pay for a subscription to Gametap. The bigger pressing issue however is the size of these games versus the standard 12 GB harddrive space assuming you have one.

SopranosFan
SopranosFan

I tend to agree this is basically a waste. You can find all of these for cheaper somewhere else, but you have to understand Microsofts standpoint. If they sell any of these it is making money off of titles that haven't made money for them in years and they already have the staff so it is no big deal for them to do this. The disturbing thing to me is the statement about future new release downloadable games. I for one enjoy going to my Gamestop and looking for new games and browsing used games for a bargain and am afraid of the slippery slope this could lead to.

mrjohno
mrjohno

they say they dont wanna change the orignal of the game, so thats why they are not going to add acheviments/online to the titles........ but its ok to do it for the likes of streets of rage2 and paperboy!?!?! in other words, they dont wanna work too hard for us to splash out $15. I would love to play through halo CE with some achivements and the muiltplayer via live, and im sure im not alone.

Deadly-Dosage
Deadly-Dosage

Marvel vs. Capcom 2, and watch the MS stock rocket to the moon. :)

DragoDracini
DragoDracini

STUBBS THE FRIKKIN ZOMBIE!!!!! PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY!

OMGitsZAL
OMGitsZAL

Isn't $15 quite high for Xbox games? I'm sure you could get them cheaper on eBay.

omegakie
omegakie

Yay I'll be playing Halo 1 all day

ENDOT12123
ENDOT12123

why does everyone go on about acheivments who really cares about them, they dont gie you nothin special and they dont mean anythin either ''in the real world'' so why?? and to be honest yh i can get xbox games way cheaper than wat 1200 points cost

Zazalon
Zazalon

WWE Raw 2, would be cool specially with its content and comparing it to this years WWE game.

-SiiLeNCE-
-SiiLeNCE-

if they do any game it has to be jet set radio future. i haven't seen that game as a stand-alone disc since the first week it was released; and that's the only version that works in the 360!

JimBurber
JimBurber

I was really excited about this until I read this article... no online multiplayer and no achievements to Halo = no reason whatsoever to waste my money on this. If someone wanted Halo, they could get the hard disc for cheaper than this and save the hard drive space. Microsoft has dissapointed me with this move.

2x4b96123
2x4b96123

if HALO: CE was being rendered internally in HD and you got online play then it wouldve sold it for me... but it doesnt... you missed out on a great opportunity MS

OriginalPiMan
OriginalPiMan

Luigi's Mansion was about 40 MB. Animal Crossing was even smaller. 4.5GB is the size of a single layer single sided full size DVD, GameCube discs were under 2 GB. Although 512MB is still pitiful and I wish Nintendo didn't keep it so low, it still fits the purposes Nintendo has given it.

diablobasher
diablobasher

THK123: Gamecube minidiscs were 4.5gb. But the size of the discs doesnt matter, the majority of games use barely half of the space of the disc they are on. But you are right nonetheless, 512 of FLASH memory is not good for permenently storing downloaded games, and it is nowhere near enough for any GC game i can think of. Maybe one of the worms games or something like that.

diablobasher
diablobasher

So no achievements? Ok, no sale then. I have all these games already, and if i didnt, i could get them either second hand, or from a clearance bin or ebay for a few pounds. Way cheaper than your overpriced MS points.

bshaw84
bshaw84

way too much money. you can find these games on e-bay for way cheaper, and it won't kill your hard drive.

silent_h3ro
silent_h3ro

Halo 1 costs $10 at Best Buy. Most of these games you can probably just buy cheaper and save some hdd space.

slayersdeath200
slayersdeath200

it sounds good but achievements would of made it that bit more special and a suggestion is silent hill 2

thk123
thk123

@runejedi As cool as it would be to have GC games on the VC, the Wiis 512mb probably wouldn't hold one :P GC may not have been DVDs, but I bet they held more than a CD, and that is 700mb. They need to release a Wii-Drive. Especially if WiiWare is going to be any sort of successes.

d3vilg0d
d3vilg0d

I never played jade empire.ninja gaiden and kotor 2.

MalteserGezar
MalteserGezar

its true $15 / £10 is a lot for what its worth old games with noting added and you can just go down to a a second hand shop and buy the game for half that price, but for lazy people who have a credit card and like old games i suppose its convient.

Smoolander
Smoolander

Booooooo. Achievement points would make this a much more attractive proposition, as others have said. The only game I would consider getting is Psychonauts, as I missed playing that the first time round.

runejedi
runejedi

Cool :) all we need now is Gamecube games on VC.

jimbo7up
jimbo7up

Achievements would make this profitable, without anything new this will just be something interesting to the crowd.

gamesfreak4ever
gamesfreak4ever

its over priced but im sure ms will get smarter and add achievments to later games like halo 2(that would be cooolllllll!!!!1)

Neo9898_98
Neo9898_98

Oh. How creative! The Microsoft Virtual Console!

thomas10soa
thomas10soa

No achievements? Overpriced? No Live for games previously without Live? THAT ALL SUCKS! $3.34 ea. for all of the 4 games listed above at a used game store like EB Games, GameStop, of GameCrazy! What a rip-off! I would spend $10 on the Xbox Original, Halo, IF they included ACHIEVEMENTS. IF they threw Live into the mix, I WOULD be willing to pay $15. But since Microsoft is being so ****in' Lazy, why would anybody pay $15 dollars for (a) game(s) they probably already have?!?! WHERE'S THE LOVE? ... and the Achievements... come on... everybody is addicted to Achievements... who could resist buying a game they already played, beat, and own, if it had Achievements? I know I couldn't. .... Live would be nice too, but fine. Maybe they could release HALO for the PC on Xbox Originals instead. I need to go simma down now.... my thoughts exactly

jakjbt
jakjbt

well if im to choose games from xbox to play on 360 its gonna be fable (never playd it beforee) and morowind which i can only get on PC o and san andreas ofcoarse. i hope these games have more achievment points than the XBL arcade games id settle for 500-750 points per ame

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

OLD IDEA... Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, as you can see... But nonetheless, its a great move, I'll finally get Fable

HVPinc
HVPinc

OMFG!!! I love MS now!!! I never bought Fable but i probably will now!

bennylo
bennylo

what is the point of downloading games that are already BC, they should offer games that are not BC for download instead.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

So if all of these are on the BC list, then this service only serves those that want to download a copy of a game they could go out and buy and actually own. Ebay isn't that hard to learn how to use and normally will bring home these games in hard copy for less than $15.