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Defending hard drive decision
Perhaps the most talked about Xbox 360 issue has been the decision to launch with two SKUs, one with the hard drive and one without. Microsoft has faced much criticism for this, but Allard doesn't believe it has much impact on consumers or developers. He defended the multi-sku decision in speaking to Edge Online:
"I don't know who we've let down. There isn't a game on 360 that you can't play without a hard drive, so I think that's a good thing for consumers. We've made a commitment to broadening the audience, and while I think most of our energy here at X05 is about the hardcore, over time we're really setting the stage for making this a bigger category for everybody. So from the developer point of view you have the best tools and the commitment of the most well-resourced company in the world going worldwide with this product and saying that we want to grow the audience. So that seems like a win for developers -- I'm not sure who's supposed to be disappointed."
He continued, "...at the end of the day we're trying to run a business, and you have to make those trade-offs. It was a difficult one -- I was the biggest fan of the hard drive and its potential, but the problem is that we sold 22 million Xbox consoles and 5 million, maybe 10 million just don't care about it. But we paid for it. So who pays for it this time? We can either ask the gamer to pay for it, pay for it ourselves, or prove that there's enough value in it and have the gamer say 'I want to pay for it' -- I think that's the right model."
Expect pre-loaded content
Consumers that either pick up the premium 360 version with hard drive, or purchase the hard drive later on, will be treated to pre-loaded content. For the first time in an interview with Game Informer, Allard hinted at what will be on the HDD. "There's going to be a little bit of video content, some audio content. I don't know if I'm actually allowed to talk about this... I can talk about this. I'm the boss. There will be a soundtrack. We're putting together a custom soundtrack with some pretty good tracks. So it basically comes with a free album. We're going to have some video on it. We're going to have a little 'making of Xbox 360' and a couple of other little video samplers, some gamer tiles, Hexic, a puzzle game," he said.
"Basically what we're doing with this extra content on the hard drive is starting to show users, you know, it's really no fun to go to the video section and have it say 'no videos found'...Part of it is to get the gamers understanding the capabilities of the system and discovering more and encouraging them to discover. Part of it also is giving them an extra bonus for either buying a hard drive and adding it to the core or buying the premium system," continued Allard.
Taking on Sony
In the same interview, Allard also had some tough words for Sony. "I hope that Sony's nervous right now, honestly, because the launch lineup looks great. They've shown two really good movies and a picture of a console that doesn't have any ventilation holes in the cabinet. I mean, their list of claims vs. their list of proof, there's a big gap to close between now and spring 06. So if I'm in Sony's shoes I'm a little nervous now because our lineup looks great, our hardware's the same, we got a kick ass online service that just got better, our media support is really really good, and we got the industrial design right. If I'm sitting in Mr. Kutaragi's shoes I've got a lot of work to do between now and spring," he remarked.
He also suggested that Sony may be relying too much on its strong brand recognition. "And I hope they're not being complacent saying, 'We've got a great brand. We've got a great couple of franchises. We're unstoppable because we've had two rounds,'" Allard said.
The Rev controller
Allard then shared his thoughts on Nintendo's Revolution controller, saying that it's well intentioned, but he's not so sure about its implementation. "I think it's great for them to say, 'We've got to make it more approachable.' It's the same reason our DVD remote, at the press conference I could have done our whole demo on the DVD remote because we put A, B, X, Y on the remote. We put the guide button on the remote. We put the media center button on the remote. You're going to be able to play casual games on Live Arcade with the remote control," he told GI.
"I don't think that's the way you're going to play FIFA. I don't think it's the way you're going to play Madden. I don't think it's the way you're going to play racing games. I think the traditional controller for traditional categories is really going to be what drives that. I don't think most Electronic Arts games are going to be played with that thing. I think they're going to be designed for the classic controller."
Slamming shortage fears
Allard also recently addressed concerns that Microsoft would not be able to meet the demand for Xbox 360 during its worldwide launch (the first of its kind). In speaking with U.K. trade publication MCV, Allard said fears over stock allocation are completely unfounded. "The allocation issue is kinda 'BS'," he said. "EA's Gerhard Florin thanked us on stage for effecting a global launch, and in no small way hinted that rivals should follow suit."