Bach sees Xbox Live evolving
Console czar Robbie Bach gives CES-goers a glimpse into Microsoft's future online gaming plans.
It's two years into the Xbox experience and Microsoft is already ready to expand. That was the message Xbox chief Robbie Bach gave at the Consumer Electronics Show when he addressed a group of about 200 attendees earlier this week. Bach's speech didnt surprise those who have seen Microsoft tweak and re-tweak the Xbox agenda over the past two years. He wants to turn Xbox Live, the trash-talking meeting ground of testosterone-jazzed gamers, into a kinder, gentler realm reminiscent of Microsoft's other online playground, the Zone.com.
First, Bach addressed the success the Xbox Live service has achieved since launch. "We have built the largest paid content service in the world," Bach told the audience. "We have as of last June over 500,000 subscribers. We think we'll have a million paid subs by next June." He referenced a particularly good week for Xbox Live as well. "During the week of Xmas we saw a million game sessions a day for five days in a row," Bach boasted.
He then painted his picture of the future slowly, stating, "The essence of what's happening here is that we are finding a new way for people to have social experiences. We're blazing new trails. The business model is new. The concept model is new. The genres of content are new. This is all green field."
But then he dropped a more solid hint as to what the industry can expect from Xbox Live, referring to "a data point from the PC side." Bach said, "On our PC online site the Zone.com, which is a free site, 65 percent of people playing games are women. Thats not true with Xbox live today. But five years from now, I hope the audience on Xbox Live has that kind of breadth and that we can reach out to a very broad audience: Cater to the core gamers, but bring new genres and new capabilities to Live that builds the kind of community we think represents a broader population."
Of course, when it came time to roll some video, it was all about the boys. Bach showed a solid three minutes of spectacular Ninja Gaiden footage. It was certainly not Bejeweled or PoolJam, but Bach understood the context. "That game is a great way for me to close because it crystallizes for us the challenge. It will sell spectacularly well. It will appeal to the core audience that I talked about earlier. It's beautiful, it's exciting, it's engaging. The challenge for us is how to take the excitement that Ninja Gaiden generates with the core audience and figure out how we integrate with the home, how we meet with other media, and the way we build on that lifestyle and bring it to the masses to create great opportunities for everyone."