"We've seen it a few times ourselves and sometimes we get almost blasť about how powerful it is." So says Chris Lewis - regional vice president, Xbox, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) - of Xbox 360, Microsoft's next-gen powerhouse that can catch even those company men who have had the pleasure of several fiddles by surprise, it seems. And that wasn't all Chris had to say on Xbox 360 when we cornered him recently for a chat about the console...
What was the motivation behind offering two Xbox 360 packages?
Chris Lewis: We want to offer the gamer a lot of choice. That's the key thing for us. We're very keen to listen and to learn about what the gamers want, and we understand that some gamers want to scale the system at their own speed. The Premium system offers the best value and the best scalability for the hardcore gamer because it's got everything in the box, it's got the 20Gb hard drive. But for the gamer who just wants to jump straight into high-def gaming and doesn't yet know how or how much they want to scale the system, then the Xbox 360 Core system is perfect for them.
How do you think people will react to the price point?
Chris Lewis: We've already had a really positive reaction to the price point. We've listened to what people want, we've learned from our Xbox 360 experience, and we're going to reflect that with Xbox 360.
Is it proving difficult to deliver your promised simultaneous launch in the US, Europe and Japan?
Chris Lewis: It's tough, but it's also recognition of just how important Europe is. I personally feel a huge weight of responsibility that we win in Europe. We will be simultaneous with the US and Japan, and sure, there might be a week in between, but in reality its as simultaneous as it could be.
There's been a lot of talk about potential Xbox 360 stock shortages at Christmas. Do you feel confident that you'll be able to meet demand?
Chris Lewis: Yes. Yes, we will. We wouldn't launch in a territory if we didn't have the right quantities to meet the demand. I'm sure we will not only have the right amount of Xbox 360s available, but that they'll also be available in all the key countries of Europe. We'll be in every country where we're active with Xbox, and I'm confident we'll have the right quantities to satisfy demand before Christmas. Hey, you know, coming out of the back of Christmas we may well be sold out or in thin supply, but the critical thing is that we can replenish very quickly. You won't see supplies dry up and then have a long wait. You will see replenishment week on week. That's an important thing to do and I'm confident we'll be able to deliver.
Are you planning any pre-order schemes?
Chris Lewis: We won't initiate our own pre-order system, but our retailers will. You'll see retailers doing pre-order schemes and we'll support that, but you won't see Microsoft having its own scheme. It's something retail does very well.
How much of an advantage does the late 2005 release date give you over Sony's PS3, which is expected in spring next year at the earliest?
Chris Lewis: This is something that comes up a lot and I want to get this straight. The timing's not about the competition. The timing's about listening to what gamers want, and listening to what the market wants right now. It's about giving people the next-generation of gaming, now. People want high definition, they want deeper gameplay, they want more riveting stories, and people want to do a whole lot more things. They want to connect their music, they want to rip tracks, they want to plug their iPod or PSP in, and I think it's about giving people what they want, right now, in a scaleable way. If that works well in terms of timing, then great.