Q&A: Peter Moore on marketing the next Xbox

Xbox marketing boss tells why the new console gets its first unveiling on MTV--and what Microsoft is saving for E3.

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In 1999, Sega used the MTV Video Music Awards to introduce the Dreamcast to US audiences. The man behind that effort? Peter Moore, then-marketing boss for the US subsidiary. The following year, the VMAs were the chosen platform to give the Sega.net initiative standing with the coveted gamer demographic. Again, it was Moore who spearheaded the effort.

This year, Moore, now part of the massive Xbox team at Microsoft (he is corporate VP of worldwide marketing and publishing) has once again chosen MTV as the primary vehicle for introducing a new product to the North American marketplace--this time the next-gen Xbox.

We spoke with Moore earlier this week.

GameSpot: Peter, how does a deal like this evolve?

Peter Moore: A year ago my team and I sat down to try and figure out how we bring this platform to life, not only to the trade show crowd at E3, but more importantly, to the tens of millions of people that have got us to where we are today with Xbox. And the tens of millions more that are going to join us in the next generation.

We discussed how do we do it in an entertaining way, in a constructive manner, and unexpectedly. And how do we do it with a great partner, and do it simultaneously, globally. And tie in music and celebrity, and all that cool stuff.

GS: So you picked MTV…

PM: As you might remember, in my past life, I worked with MTV on a regular basis, using the VMAs as a launch platform for one particular console.

So I went to see my old friends there in April of last year. We got into some great conversations about an entertaining way to do this. We've been working on this ever since.

Only a few weeks ago, we finally got all the details nailed down and felt comfortable in announcing this at the right time and the right place, and that's what we did last week.

GS: Does this send a message that E3 isn't as big as it used to be--as a platform to broadcast news to the game industry?

PM: Not at all. Not at all.

We have so much to say. We wanted to say things first to the consumer, and give them a sneak peek--albeit in a 30-minute television show--that will give them a peek under the tent of what's going on and allow them to see it at the same time as the rest of the world does.

GS: What's left for the E3 audience?

PM: Then on the Monday night, May 16, we do a real deep dive and will show the games in their full glory--getting into more detail in the Rob, J, and Peter show [Robbie Bach, J Allard, Peter Moore].

And, of course, then on the E3 show floor itself…where we can really show you the power of the platform.

GS: What grade do you give Xbox, version one, in the area of marketing and advertising?

PM: I'd say a B. One of the things that probably stopped us from being an A- is, [even though] we created a very cool and aspirational brand, we need to broaden the appeal of the brand. Not losing, or disenfranchising in any way, the gamers that got us there today--which is always a marketing challenge--but we have to grow.

But at the same time, we need to make sure we continue to talk to the more hardcore gamer, the early adopters. That has been an important part of our success, and we fully intend to do that. At the same time, we need to provide an even more approachable feel and tonality to the brand, and we need to do things differently.

GS: Is there an area you feel Xbox excels at?

PM: We're the thought leader in this generation. We need to turn that into market leadership in the next generation, and this is just one small example of how we will do that, and do that in a very aggressive manner, globally.

GS: Is there a little bit of cat and mouse with Sony behind this move--to show off the new console the week before E3?

PM: Not really.

GS: Not really?

PM: A number of people have asked me: "Was this in response to Sony moving their press conference and getting first place for the unveil?" I don't know. As I said, regardless of what our competition wants to do, we had a very clear plan in mind that goes back a year now to meetings in New York at the MTV headquarters.

GS: Is it a two-way street with MTV…any upside for them?

PM: We are very important to them. We're starting to drive an entertainment business that rivals music. As Nielsen reported two weeks ago, consumers are spending more money on video games than they are on music. That wakes people up.

But you have to have your own strategy and you've got to stick with it once it's nailed down. This is part and parcel of a strategy that's been in development over 15 months now.

GS: How many people are you expecting to reach with this MTV effort?

PM: We haven't put any metrics behind it, but clearly you want millions upon millions of people to see it. I certainly think that with MTV, we should get those numbers.

What I've always been impressed with--and my consumer marketing hat goes on here--is how they've changed their entire persona to the outside world, from a network that just broadcasts three-minute video music clips to being the originators of reality television with Real World, and Pimp My Ride, and MTV Cribs, and The Osbournes. When you think of all the stuff on TV right now, it was born on MTV--someway, somehow. Celebrity Deathmatch, Jackass

GS: This is the Xbox audience?

PM: I think that they are a major part of the generation that is part of Xbox nation, yes.

GS: You called the MTV program a "first look." What are you going to talk about?

PM: We'll talk name. We'll show the hardware--as much as you can do in a television show. You'll get a little glimpse of games, but we're saving most of that for you guys at E3.

GS: Is the MTV event all figured out?

PM: We're still developing the script. If we can find ways to talk entertainingly about features, we will do that, but we won't do anything that is boring or feels like an infomercial.

GS: You talked about "you guys," by which you mean the enthusiast press. Who's got the power now to best communicate your message? The enthusiast press? The mainstream press?

PM: Particularly in the early go, the enthusiast press still has the ability to create the stories that talk to the evangelists. But let's make no bones about it, it's not you, me, or anyone...it's the consumer that has the power. It's the guy that had to fish several hundred dollars out of his or her wallet when they want to make a purchase on a console. And over the lifetime [the] total cost of ownership [is] several hundred dollars more. Those are the people that are in control, and we've got to find ways, we--and I mean you and I--have got to find ways of talking to them in a relevant and entertaining manner, otherwise they're not going to read your stuff and they're not going to buy my stuff.

GS: What's the connection with The Killers, the musical group in attendance on the May 12 MTV broadcast?

PM: A: We love them; B: They've been on Game with Fame, on Xbox Live. They are hardcore Xbox gamers--and very good gamers. I can't think of a hotter band right now. I've been listening to their album Hot Fuss for about six, seven weeks on my MP3 player as I run. I love "Mr. Brightside." I think they have the right attitude.

GS: And what happens to Ourcolony.net on the night of May 12?

PM: Don't know. Don't know. Have to keep watching that thing. I'm not quite sure about that thing. It's difficult for me to follow...I'm from a different generation. It's way too complex.

GS: Ah yes, Peter...way too complex [wink, wink]. Thank you, Peter. We'll be watching.

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