Shane Kim is a man on a mission. Microsoft's Xbox General Manager was on top form when we joined him in New York at last week's announcement of Rare's intriguing new offering Viva Piņata.
As well as telling us about how Viva Piņata will give a new younger and possibly fluffier aspect for Xbox 360, Kim was in discursive mood about subjects as varied as the 'mythical Halo 3', the 'alleged' Xbox 360 camera, the problems Sony might face with its PS3 worldwide launch and what Microsoft has in store for E3 this year.
We could go on with a longer and far more waffly intro, but far better to hear it straight from the horse's mouth as it were, so ...take it away Mr Kim.
Viva Piņata is very different from the majority of Xbox 360 games out there. Why did you decide to target the younger audience like this?
Shane Kim: It's very important to point out that Viva Piņata wasn't created just as a means to target younger gamers. This is Rare's idea. The idea originated with them at this is what they're passionate about. We didn't just go to them and say, "Hey, go create us a cute animal game!" This is something they've been working on for a long time and something they thought would resonate well with our consumers. Fortunately for us it coincides very nicely with a strategic initiative of ours, which is to win this generation of games consoles. We've already done a great job with the core audience on Xbox and Xbox 360, but we need to go beyond that core audience and develop titles that appeal to a different type of customer. Viva Piņata couldn't fit that bill more perfectly. And when you combine that with our TV deal with 4Kids and the kind of exposure and familiarity with the characters that it will bring, Viva Piņata is a great winning proposition for us.
Is it fair to say that Xbox and Xbox 360 have lagged behind Sony and Nintendo's console in appealing to younger gamers?
Shane Kim: I think that's fair. We would all acknowledge that we've done a great job with the core gaming audience thanks to titles like Halo, and that's something we're very proud of. If you look a t Nintendo, they've always appealed the younger gamer well but they've had some problems going the other way. And Sony has just been around for a lot longer and has a much broader back catalogue. In the last generation I think Xbox definitely lacked behind in appeal for younger gamers, but going forward with Xbox 360 that's something we're going to change.
Thanks to the recent stock shortages most Xbox 360s have gone to very hardcore gamers. Are you confident that by the time Viva Piņata launches later this year that there'll be a big enough installed base amongst less hardcore gamers for the game to be successful?
Shane Kim: I absolutely am confident about that. We're still well on track to have between 4.5 and 5.5 million Xbox 360s out there by June and we'll be in full supply very, very shortly. By the end of the year I think we'll have a very large installed base in place. The key thing, however, is that Viva Piņata is the kind of product that will help us drive Xbox 360 console sales into the younger, more casual sector of the audience. In the same way that Halo made people buy an Xbox, I believe that families will buy an Xbox 360 because they want to play Viva Piņata.
You've called Viva Piņata 'the biggest Xbox 360 game this year'...
Shane Kim: Yeah, don't tell the Epic guys working on Gears of War that I said that!