Q&A: XBL's Aaron Greenberg

Microsoft's group marketing manager for Xbox Live talks about the future of the Wednesday program and how people use the Marketplace.

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Last night, Microsoft reps braved a journey to San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin district to hold a retro-themed shindig at The Phoenix Hotel's Bambuddha Lounge to unveil its summer Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays program.

The promotion, an answer to frustrated 360 owners demanding more downloadable Arcade games, has already kicked off with this morning's release of Frogger on the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace. For the next four weeks, a new game will go live on the service every Wednesday at midnight (the lineup is Cloning Clyde, Galaga, Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting, and Pac-Man, in that order).

Xbox Live group marketing manager Aaron Greenberg took some time for a poolside chat with GameSpot at the event. The discussion started with more details about the newly announced program before stepping back and taking a look at the larger trends surrounding Live Arcade and the Marketplace.

GameSpot: On the Wednesday program. Is that just for the summer or will it run in perpetuity?

Aaron Greenberg: People may have noticed we've gone a little quiet on Arcade lately, and that was definitely done with thought. We have been getting our portfolio lined up to be able to provide a regular scheduling of titles for consumers. Going forward, Wednesdays will be when Xbox Live Arcade games launch.

GS: Now that's not a guarantee that we'll be getting a new one every Wednesday, is it?

AG: No. It's just a regular flow of titles. This is the first wave that we've been able to confirm and lock down launch dates of, and there's a second wave following that. We'll have 30 games by the end of summer, and 50 titles by the end of the holidays, just for Arcade. Going from 21 games today to 50 by the end of the year, you're going to see a lot of those titles that we announced at E3--things like Lumines Live, a lot of the other retro titles--those titles will be coming between now and the end of the year.

GS: Will demos be coming on any kind of a regular schedule?

AG: Those are really determined based on when we get the content from the publishers and when they go through our certification process. With the Arcade games, because that's our own platform within Live, we're able to manage the publishing process a little bit tighter. So we've got titles that are completely done or at the very last phase of their certification process and have been able to agree to the timing of when they will launch so that we can roll out a new title every week. And we think that's important. Consumers would rather [have us] not dump three games on them in one week and then have nothing for a month. … We still want to manage the portfolio in an appropriate way.

GS: Why wasn't the regular release schedule done from the beginning?

AG: We were totally surprised at how Xbox Live Arcade took off. We never expected it to be anywhere as big as it is. We always thought, "Arcade is going to be this great destination that is going to provide broader game content to beyond the core user--games maybe your sister might play, or younger gamers, or just people who aren't as core to the game experience." What really surprised us is that the core gamers were crazy about it. Geometry Wars, everyone called that the killer app for the 360 launch, the Halo of Arcade. ... We're just now catching up a little bit to the reaction from the community around that. Now we feel like we've got our ducks in a row.

GS: Do you expect the Xbox Live Arcade market to be seasonal in the same way the brick-and-mortar market is?

AG: Good question. I actually think it's almost antiseasonal. It's almost the opposite of what we'd see at retail in some regards. At the holidays, it's so much about gift-giving and people going with the safe bets and the big franchises. People are buying the Need for Speeds and the Maddens and the Grand Theft Autos of the world. And what we're seeing with Arcade is that the summer is like the perfect time. People are off from school, every game has a free trial… [Games like Small Arms] really haven't had a place to be before. Those are games that we think people are going to be willing to try out and experience in the slower times of the years for the retail business.

GS: It hasn't been quite a year yet for the Xbox 360 Arcade, but what trends have you noticed?

AG: We look a lot at what we call the trial conversion, what percentage of people that download trials of games go on to purchase the full versions of them. When we first launched Arcade, we looked at the PC market and the cell phone market, and they're usually seeing that 1-2 percent of people that get a free trial go on to pay for something. With Arcade, we're seeing sustained levels of 20 percent trial conversion across all titles. Our top game, which right now is Uno, is converting at 50 percent. Those are trends that really caught our attention.

GS: If someone buys it outright, does that count toward the 50 percent, or do they have to buy the trial first?

AG: That's just the people who go trial and then buy [the full version].

GS: Have you looked at how Live Arcade downloads compare during weeks when there aren't retail releases coming out or when there isn't a demo coming out?

AG: Right now we've just looked title by title. We haven't necessarily compared it to what else is going on in the space. With few exceptions, the Prey demo being one, these games stand on their own. Even if there's a new demo, people are still going to want to get this game either way. But if we did a playable demo for Gears of War, yeah, that would probably impact it.

GS: How long do you think it will be before Nintendo and Sony get their online content services up and running?

AG: Well Sony hasn't said much. It's hard to know what they're doing with online. Nintendo's got a great back catalog of stuff and I think they'll take a different approach. In a lot of ways, we're the first to do this and breaking ground in this space. And in some ways, I think it will complement what we're doing. One aspect that we're focusing on that I don't think anyone else will is with independent developers. I don't think Sony or Nintendo is going to be in that space in a really big way.

GS: Before Live Arcade, if any of these independent or casual games wanted to be on the system, they would have to go through brick-and-mortar channels or Web sites to reach consumers. Has the success of Xbox Live Arcade caused any concern or friction with your retail partners?

AG: We've made efforts to keep them involved in the ecosystem. First and foremost, the games that we're selling in Arcade today are not games that are sold at retail. There's no way to sell a $5 Frogger at retail--the economics of putting Frogger on a disc, advertising it, distributing it--there's just no way to do that. Or the independent games like Cloning Clyde, that game would never get published, unfortunately. So we're not really competing with what [retailers] are doing.

And the way we keep them in the ecosystem is with prepaid points cards. So anybody that doesn't have a credit card, anybody that wants to give those as a gift, you buy those at retail. And those are selling really well, so the response from retailers around that has been really positive. The other thing that we've done that not a lot of people know about is that if you're an Xbox Live gold subscriber and you renew through your credit card through your system, it's $50 for a year. But if you buy a prepaid card at retail, you get a free month. So you get 13 months for the price of 12, and you only get that at retail. … We've tried to provide some incentives and a way to differentiate for retailers.

GS: Now there's a Live Arcade Unplugged coming out later this year?

AG: All we have said about Live Arcade Unplugged so far is that we're looking at it as an opportunity to reach the unconnected gamers. At this point we haven't announced timing or price or what would be in it, but we are in the investigation stage and we are looking at doing a SKU that will provide Arcade on a disc for people that aren't connected to Live. But beyond that we haven't given any details.

GS: Thanks for your time.

Discussion

55 comments
need_id07
need_id07

Micro$oft has a cuple exculsive you know, Cough Halo Cough which sells an ungodly amount of systems by itself. PGR, Rare stuido games are all under the big M's payrole. When I think Sony I think of the Final Fantasy games as a big point but guess what, Sqaure is not owned by sony. If sony can't put out enough ps3 Suare is going to start making its games for other consoles in order to get the big sales numbers. They already switched from nintendo to sony, who is to say swaure and others won't move away. The only way Sony can keep exculsive content is to do what Micro$oft did with bungie (halo studio) and buy the thing to make sure they won't split.

K1LLSWITCH
K1LLSWITCH

crazy_boy166 "Man Microsoft just dosent stop do they I personaly think that Sony is in Deep S*i*." I agree that the Xbox platform has great features, but thats all they have, really. They only have a handful of truely fun games. The Playstation platform on the other hand, doesn't have great features. But the area where they succeed the most is in the games. They have the best exclusive content around. I believe Microsoft is in deep Sh*t if they keep doing what they're doing, porting games from other systems. They've been around for 5 years now, and they still have yet to prove if they can deliver on exclusive content. Sony already established that over a decade ago. Thats why Sony is on top, and Microsoft is trailing behind.

crazy_boy166
crazy_boy166

Man Microsoft just dosent stop do they I personaly think that Sony is in Deep S*i*.

eggfou
eggfou

I don't think anyone buys a 360 just for arcade, but its a nice bonus and lots of fun. Also, I know people are still willing to pay to play these old games. Next time you are in a real arcade look for the Galaga or Ms. Pac-Man cabinets. I know all the ones around here have them. It must be because they are making money. I can't wait to see the online leaderboards. How long til someone has a perfect score in Pac-Man?

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

nice...hopefully all this will be there when i get a 360

gigabz666
gigabz666

XBL Arcade is a pretty damn good idea if you ask me, and I think Microsoft underestimated the fact that gamers do enjoy playing some of the older titles again and of course with the newer generation, they never got a chance to really play these games and no is a chance to experience it. It's not enough for me to buy the X360 since I would want to buy it based on the bigger games and nothing is really pulling me into a X360. PS3 is the better option for me in terms of games I like, but I do hope Sony adopt something similar to Arcade because I will feel a little left out if they don't. The best bit about Arcade is the quirky games which normally wouldn't be published would now get a chance to get out there and it will help developers improve their profile. That's the ideal world, whether that happens or not I don't know.

zippyzee
zippyzee

XBOX ARCADE is a friggin sweet bonus to an already killer console. I'll eventually get a PS3 but so far the 360 is dominating because Sony shot themselves in the foot with their E3 press conf. and haven't said anything compelling since.

skiberdi
skiberdi

i dont see how anyone can see the arcade as a bad thing. its just a nice variety. like after a long session on oblivion its nice to just blow sh*t up on geometry wars. will be sweet when more of the classics are released with online play. im praying for golden axe with 2 player co-op. haha now that id get 360 for....

terrabreak13
terrabreak13

Chubbums said "So many tools on here praising M$ for releasing retro games. You people are blinded by fanboyism and wont accept the fact that 360 is lacking great games. Nothing says "NEXT-GEN" like playing frogger in 720p/1080i." Chubbums go to IGN and checkout the ingame footage of Mass Effect. If that isn't NEXT-GEN enough for you then nothing is. Retro games is just a bonus it wasn't even intended for hardcore gamers but obviously it's successful with everyone.

Mr_Bodywave
Mr_Bodywave

Hoserboy: They release them at midnight at their location. MS is Pacific Time. It isn't so that everyone is past midnight--it is when MS headquarters is midnight.

Ponsardin
Ponsardin

Frenzied, I won't buy a 360 for OLD ARCADE GAMES. I would buy a 360 for Hexic HD... Didn't you understood that all these remakes are meant to be played alot by X360 owners until some gigantic titles such as Gears of War and Halo 3 are released.

jancotianno
jancotianno

Frenzied - you are so very dumb. Yes i bought a 360 JUST for frogger.

FrenziedRaldo24
FrenziedRaldo24

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

Hazmat_Owl
Hazmat_Owl

I can't wait until Contra comes out for the XBL.

grave_rob
grave_rob

none of these upcoming games really have me stoked...wonder what else is on the horizon?

hoserboy15
hoserboy15

To anyone that is wondering why the games dont show up at Midnight exactly is because they dont release them until all the time zones in the US have passed midnight. I figured that out because I live in the east and couldnt download frogger until like 3 or 4, which would be about 12 on the edge of the Pacific.

chibi-acer
chibi-acer

I'm not into the retro games. They're fun, but I've already played em. If I feel nostalgic, I'll run an emulator. Where XBLA shines (IMO) are the original titles, like Geometry Wars, Uno, and so forth. Not that these games are completely original, but they're pretty fun for the price.

halo2maniak
halo2maniak

Ok this sounds great. And all of you that are downing this, think, both PS3 and Wii are doing the same thing. But 360 has games from sega and atari, they are clasics, but I wouldnt mind playing super mario on the wii.

gamer_10001
gamer_10001

I don't have XBL yet but I will soon, so this is still good news even to me.

StriderNickolas
StriderNickolas

Well, as long as I get more Lumines, I'm good... Hurry up already, my drought is running out!

RunnerGunner480
RunnerGunner480

It almost seems that the XBLA on the original Xbox isn't getting any credit. I guess no one really knew about it. I did, and I bought Marble Blast!

jcloverboy
jcloverboy

50 XBLA ttitles before the year's end - that will be amazing.

Chubbums
Chubbums

So many tools on here praising M$ for releasing retro games. You people are blinded by fanboyism and wont accept the fact that 360 is lacking great games. Nothing says "NEXT-GEN" like playing frogger in 720p/1080i. :roll:

-BC-Soldier91
-BC-Soldier91

Sounds like they're keeping their promise with their services and its starting to come together alot better! Keep up the good work MS!

lhardwick692
lhardwick692

You guys know that sony ps3 will be doing the same thing but i bet sony gets picked on for releasing old school games for 5 to 10 bucks a piece--but i guess its alright since microsoft is doing it--- the thing about old school games is this--they should be free since i have and lots of others have paid for xbox live--i am not saying that everything should be free-- but releasing frogger with small window in middle of screen for frogger and border is just a design--come on guys--i can download frogger for free and play it on my pc---nothing hi def about this crap-- once again i sit here waiting for dsomething to come out worthy to play thats next -gen and still all i get is old school crap and lets not forget the two releases this week of prey and chromehounds---a first person shooter which is pretty detailed but really no better than some fps out there---and chromehounds--mech game---both games i dont care for as i dont like mech gamesor first person shooters----is first person shooters--and mech games and old school games all the 360 going to hold for the 360--- i hope not

latinaggie01
latinaggie01

I bought Frogger....since I enjoyed it when I played it on the Atari 2600. Why do they say it will be available at midnight when it actually doesn't show up for an hr and a half later? They should give a time period (midnight to 2am) or just mention the date.

valspar0075
valspar0075

Old school gamer here! Defntitly going to enjoy this!!

samekila
samekila

I still love the old school games and Live has gave them a great new life with online play and achievements. Im sure XBLA will be just as great in the end as Nintendos virtual console. Im going to love them both !

kkkknaruto
kkkknaruto

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

kinncolts
kinncolts

u know last year i thought XBL Arcade sucked...(cuz it did)...but im impressed with the way Microsoft turned it around...its great service...i hav a bunch of free trails and i bought a couple of games...i think Microsoft is goin to do really well with this

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

If they can keep their game a week schedule then I will be a satisfied customer until the big guns hit later this holiday (Gears of War). Call me a cynic but I just don't have any trust left in these guys to hit their targets. 50 games on XBLA by December 31? I'll be counting while not holding by breath.

makemeweak
makemeweak

UntoldDreams: "Is it really okay with people to pay for Pacman and frogger again?" Hell yes.

simpsons_tv
simpsons_tv

I'm impressed about MS's desire to satisfy all types of customers.

EvanO_O
EvanO_O

I love XBL arcade. The only real problem is that there's not enough games. I'm glad Microsoft is providing more and more games for the summer. This should really spark the arcade's popularity. ub3r l33t skillz11?!1

69TriP63
69TriP63

Wow that was a really good explanation for the need of microsoft points... good to know their thinking about everyone...

tidusjeff
tidusjeff

''Sounds like some great things are coming to XBL.'' Great things come to those who are perfectionist's.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

XBOX LIVE Arcade games follow the structure of 200 pts allocated over 12 achievements, but how in the hell is this going to be possible for a game like Texas Hold'Em? I can think of a few possibilities, but will going for achievement points affect the quality of poker being played? If you go beyond things like percentage of hands won, games won, consecutive hands won and tournaments won, I think then you'll end up with people playing like maniacs just to get achievements, and certainly no achievement can ever be allocated for hitting a particular rank of hand.

Poltergeist13
Poltergeist13

XBL is gonna be awesome this summer. A new title per week. I'm game.

limpbizkit818
limpbizkit818

The I am really happy with the arcade. Keep up he good work.

jared81799
jared81799

im tired of hearing about xbl, they should just cancel all games and make their money selling horse armor and diffent skins that nobody can see but you

xavier14
xavier14

great news from a great system i love the 360

T1Panda
T1Panda

The Arcade/Marketplace are great. And for the most part, the prices aren't that bad.

Mr_Bodywave
Mr_Bodywave

Xbox really has a huge lead over Sony and Nintendo online. Live is the "killer app" of the xbox.

artemisgone
artemisgone

Honestly... is anyone else sick and tired of all the complaining that goes on here about the prices of Live Arcade and content downloads. Seriously, if you don't like the price, then don't buy it. Plain and simple. I for one just enjoy playing games and if something I really enjoy is just a couple of bucks, then so what... I'll pay it. People complain about the prices on live arcade and marketplace, but yet they'll run out and buy $60 games and such. Sure, more advanced games and what not, but my point being that if you don't like the price, then don't buy it and don't complain. It's like the people that nag about what's on TV or Howard Stern on the radio... if you don't like it, change the friggin station!

Ericvon71
Ericvon71

Dank101 The arcade is aweful, and 20 year old games arent helping You need to stop smoking that dank!!!!!

PiNoYPrOjEcT
PiNoYPrOjEcT

Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged better be playable online.. if it's cheap and it saves alot of hard drive space.. i'ma buy me one..