Thursday, February 22, 2007
OXM's Francesca Reyes
Recently I had a chance to talk shop with Official Xbox Magazine's editor-in-chief Francesca Reyes. She's cool, funny and a blast to talk to. Its filled with insightful, humorous questions from me and laughter filled answers (which, unfortunately, you can't hear) from her. Here's our conversation.
TT: Before November there seemed to be a lot of trepidation from Microsoft’s end with the upcoming launch of Nintendo and Sony’s new systems. Nobody really knew for sure how the 360 was going to be affected. But in all honesty, Bill Gates must have a Julia Roberts sized grin on his face because everything he’s planned has more or less fallen into place. His console was the number one seller during November and December, Xbox Live Marketplace has no competition, online play is miles above anything else available and the best games on the market (Gears, Halo 3, Oblivion) are on the 360. All of this was done without Halo 3. Is there anything Microsoft could’ve possibly done better?
FR: I don’t think so but I think they also got lucky with the PS3 and Wii being in short supply. Microsoft also did do a lot of things right. They have a solid library and they’ve filled all of the slots gamers are interested in.
TT: After all the things I’ve mentioned, why isn’t the Xbox 360 selling more units?
FR: There’s an argument that can be made that people aren’t ready for the next-gen level. The PS2 is still a huge seller so I think people are still hesitant. You also really need an HD for a next-gen console and a lot of gamers are not ready to invest in an HDTV. With prices coming down you’ll probably see more of a bump.
TT: What are your impressions of the Wii? Is its motion sensing controller a novelty? Will we eventually see something like it on all consoles in the future?
FR: I love it! I haven’t played a lot of the games but I really do like it. I agree with people who say Nintendo takes games in another direction. Unlike other systems its just a gaming system with a lot of cool features. They really focused on the gaming experience. As for the motion sensing feature, part of me thinks there’s no going back. Its kind of like rumble. Why would you take a step backward? I think future iterations will have some aspects of it.
TT: What are your opinions of the PS3?
FR: Its okay. There’s nothing about it that’s blowing me away. When it all comes down to it, its the games. Right now there are no games for it and in the next couple of months there doesn’t look to be anything for it either. The PS3 has to compete against the Xbox, which already had established games and is already a developed machine. I will get a PS3 at some point but it will really depend on the games. That and the $600 price point is a bit steep.
TT: In an interview in Japan recently Bill Gates said the Wii was Xbox’s biggest competitor, is he counting the PS3 out to quickly or is he right on?
FR: I think if he’s counting out the PS3 he’s doing it too quickly because we don’t know what Sony has in store. No one thought Dead Rising could be a huge seller for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 might have something like that. Maybe he discounted the PS3 on purpose to add a little bit of salt to the wound (the PS3’s horrible launch) but I still think Sony shouldn’t be counted out at all.
TT: In a recent entry on my gaming blog, I mentioned that as an owner of all three systems I use my Wii with my family, my 360 as my primary adult gaming machine and my PS3 as a very expensive DVD player. Isn’t this how Microsoft should be targeting their audience? If their biggest competitor is the Wii, shouldn’t they be differentiating that the Wii is a kid console and the Xbox is an adult console?
FR: I think it would be dangerous to say that your console is only for adults. Its like the difference between the PSP and the DS. The PSP is more fragile and more expensive and because of that I certainly wouldn’t buy it for my 7-year old. If that kind of mentality goes into selling consoles you leave a demographic out. I think Nintendo and Microsoft are trying to reach the same audience. I don’t think you’d see Gears of War on the Wii but they both have their own built in audiences and are still trying to reach wide audiences.
TT: The whole Blu-ray/HD debate seems like a dead issue. Is buying a $200 HD add-on for my 360 worth the money, or is it like buying a Betamax?
FR: I read some blurb recently that Blu-ray is winning the war and then I’ll read the opposite. I think its far from over because there’s not enough people to buy the kind of equipment you need for those types of players. Its kind of like broadband, there’s a lot of people who still don’t have it so its too early to tell. That and the jump in picture isn’t really big enough from DVD to really want one.
TT: Lets look forward a little, how do you see each console shaping up during 2007?
FR: I think the Wii will continue to have a solid year, building on the momentum it already has. As long as Nintendo keeps making games and consoles, it will do well. For Sony it all depends on the games and right now most of their games are cross platform. Multi-platform has really hurt the PS3, which is quite a reversal from last-gen. What Sony really needs is a killer app, a console exclusive. A killer app is more powerful than the price of the system because gamers have no trouble spending money for a system if it has a great game they want to play on it. A price drop would be a smart move that may save them but it would be a desperate one.
TT: What game should I most look forward to this year?
FR: Besides Halo 3? A lot of guys in the office are stoked about Mass Effect. I haven’t played it yet but it looks gorgeous. The story elements have a lot of gamers excited. I’m also really looking forward to Bioshock. It looks really different than a lot of games out there. And of course, Halo 3, which you know is going to be good and will sell. In 2008, Resident Evil V and Marvel Online. Who knows what they’re going to be like but I’m looking forward to them.
TT: Time for some role play – your’re on a deserted island with a TV and your choice of a next-gen console, what do you choose and why?
FR: That’s actually really hard. The Wii could tell me the weather back home but I think I’d have to pick the Xbox 360. Its library of games and many ways to communicate with others is great. The point system would keep me busy.
TT: Last question, when in the world will Cyberball, the greatest robots-playing-football game ever be released? Who do I have to kill for this to happen?
FR: (Laughing) I don’t know. You never know with Microsoft because they’re Xbox Live Arcade titles are sometimes surprising. You’d probably have to ask Atari, since they still have the rights to the game but as soon as I hear anything, I’ll email you.