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[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson

We got a chance to speak to Major Nelson, Programming Director for Xbox Live during the Leipzig Games Convention 2006. This interview took place in the lovely tent Microsoft has set up for its employees and guests. The Major was more than happy to talk about Xbox 360, Xbox Live, backwards compatibility and more.

Xboxic: How are you enjoying the Games Convention here in Leipzig?
Major Nelson: Actually I love this convention, I enjoy this more than E3. And who knows what happens with E3 next year. This is a fabulous convention, I love the facility, it’s really centric to the gamer.

Xboxic: Don’t you think it’s too crowded, compared to E3?
Major Nelson: The facility makes this perfect because it’s so wonderfully laid out. The booths are wonderful and the stands are great. It’ll get a little more crowded in the weekend.

Xboxic: Do you speak German now?
Major Nelson: I do not, I have a little list of about 10 words that my wife gave me. She travels a lot, so she gave me the words, so other than that, nein.

Xboxic: It’s pretty normal here in Europe for a big convention to have stuff in English. So it’s pretty weird don’t you think?
Major Nelson: It’s been an experience.

Xboxic: Let’s talk about the success of Xbox Live Arcade, it’s doing quite well.
Major Nelson: It’s indeed doing quite well, it’s one of the wonderfull stories of the Xbox 360. You have to remember, a year ago it wasn’t even here. We made the announcements last year at the Leipzig Games Convention, the price and the date and the packages. Less than a year old, Xbox Live Arcade is just fantastic.

Xboxic: Free Poker was released yesterday, do you have any figures on how many times it was downloaded?
Major Nelson: I don’t. I haven’t been able to download it, I’ve got my MU right here, of course I have no one to call ‘cause Major Nelson is right here (points at the memory card hanging around his neck).

Xboxic: It’s not in a vault then?
Major Nelson: It’s in a vault around my neck (laughs).

Xboxic: Speaking of the success of the Xbox 360, you’re owning the convention, the only next-gen console is the Xbox 360.
Major Nelson: And even some of the other developers are showing the Xbox 360 in their booths!

Xboxic: Most of the demopods are Xbox 360s, we haven’t seen any Gamecube pods, and a few Playstation 2 pods.
Major Nelson: PS2 is a great machine but it’s time to send it up to Pasture.

Xboxic: Are you afraid of coming to Leipzig again next year with all three next-gen consoles?
Major Nelson: No, I think the Xbox 360 is really gonna shine the quality of games, this time next year, you won’t be able to find football at any other platform.

Xboxic: Yeah it’s one of the major announcements, especially for Europe, football is really big.
Major Nelson: Absolutely, we know how big it is, so it’ll be a great year next year. There will be well over a 100 games available for Xbox 360. It’ll be fantastic.

Xboxic: Speaking about these games, we saw Viva Piñata at the Microsoft booth, it’s was practically a slide show. What happened?
Major Nelson: Yeah, I know they’re working on that. It’s the first time they’ve ever had hands-on demo. They’re not using the same equipment that we’re having in the States. It won’t be like that in the final. I think they’ve actually fixed it, you may want to check it out again. You should go back there, cause I was in the technical room and they were looking at it.

Xboxic: Back to the Xbox Live Arcade success. Is it easier to get publishers now ’cause it started with a lot of first party titles.
Major Nelson: It’s been much easier, Microsoft makes fantastic tools for our developers and it’s scalable with Live Anywhere. The ability to bring games to Xbox 360 and then Windows or vice versa, it’s a beautiful environment.

Xboxic: Live Anywhere and Vista, is that going to be a launch ‘title’ for Vista.
Major Nelson: Well, Live Anywhere is a vision, it’s not really a title. You need to think of it as something separate. It’s going to be a work in progress over time. Much like Xbox Live has. Xbox Live has changed since we’ve launched it 2002 to 4 years later. We’ve revised the system many many times and changed it for the Xbox 360. Live anywhere is coming in the future and I don’t have anything to announce at this time.

Xboxic: Is it possible that Live Anywhere is also coming to Windows XP.
Major Nelson: There’s gonna be a lot of dependencies within Vista and so forth. I don’t want to rule anything out but it’s not really our focus right now.

Xboxic: Speaking of the future, when are you going to announce the future plans. We know what you’re going to do this holiday with the accessories and the games but when are you announcing the next step?
Major Nelson: Obviously we’re focused on the holiday, we don’t want to confuse messaging. We don’t want people going to the store and can’t buy it. So we need to be really true to our messaging for the next few months. We have a lot of things in the pipeline. We’re focusing on the holidays, getting 10 million units out.

Xboxic: Speaking of those units, you’ve got the Core Xbox 360, is it doing as well as you hoped, is it a selling point?
Major Nelson: Absolutely, I mean, you have to remember we announced yesterday that we’re gonna be expanding into some of these other areas like South Africa, Poland, Czech republic and so forth. Having the Core system is an entry point. So while we knew up front it wasn’t going to be the majority of our sales, eventually it’s going to make up for a bulk of the sales.

Xboxic: Yeah but, since it’s a great idea to have multiple SKU’s, you don’t have a hard drive on every Xbox 360, you don’t have a wireless controller on every system.
Major Nelson: Yeah, but you can!

Xboxic: Yeah but you can’t develop with the hard drive in mind at the moment, is that something you regret.
Major Nelson: Not really, look at the games, they speak for themselves.

Xboxic: Yeah, but for instance Saint’s Row, they wanted to have airplanes, but they couldn’t because they needed the hard drive for that.
Major Nelson: I don’t know, I haven’t played the title that much. But I think if we look at the great titles out there, I think they’re pretty extraordinary. They’ll just get better as developers unlock.

Xboxic: Do you have any plans for bundles or discounts?
Major Nelson: No, we haven’t announced anything yet. It’s a little too early to talk about that. The Xbox 360 is going to be in 10 million homes this holiday season. We’re in our second year. We got some great things, over a hundred games already, 50 arcade games. So we don’t have anything planned.

Xboxic: The next dashboard update, anything planned?
Major Nelson: So we do dashboard updates twice a year. The spring one is really about user interface and features. The fall one is really about behind the scenes stuff. We’re enabling new things in games that will be available that holiday season. So it’s coming out this fall, but I don’t have a date

Xboxic: Are you planning on doing RSS feeds or podcasts, because the PSP has this feature.
Major Nelson: Not at this time, there’s unfortunately so few people that use RSS. We do, but we’re geeks! Does your mom use RSS? My mom doesn’t!.

Xboxic: It’s starting to come though.
Major Nelson: It’s starting to come, and I think we’ll do some thinking when it does get to that point. Never say never but that’s definitely not coming for the next few months.

Xboxic: When you’re doing updates, are you going to look at how Nintendo and Sony are doing their online features.
Major Nelson: Sure.

Xboxic: Sony has some pretty interesting stuff…
Major Nelson: Like?

Xboxic: Like recording the stuff you’re doing and then share them.
Major Nelson: Like we’re doing with PGR3 today?

Xboxic: Yeah but that’s photos though, Sony wants to do that with videos.
Major Nelson: Good for them! I’ll wait to see it. Cause they’ve announced a lot of things that haven’t played out in the past. All I can say is we’re in our fifth generation of Xbox Live, we’ll continue to innovate and build. I welcome the competition.

Xboxic: Speaking of updates: Backwards compatibility, are there still updates coming?
Major Nelson: Absolutely, very soon. I’d say a big one, pretty soon. Can’t say how many games, and how many days, weeks and months.

Xboxic: X06 is coming up, people were saying this (Leipzig) was sort of a build-up for X06, like they were calling rolling thunder. What specific things are considered rolling thunder at the moment?
Major Nelson: X06 is really just going to continue building on the success we’ve already had. We had a lot of great things, we announced the football exclusives. I think you’ll be blow away by the titles.

Xboxic: It’s going to be even bigger than Leipzig?
Major Nelson: Oh yes! I think a lot of people will be surprised.

Xboxic: The booth babes, how did you like them here?
Major Nelson: The boothbabes are phenomenal, they’re much better than E3. European women alone are just beautiful, there’s a different sense amongst them then the American ladies. American ladies are very standoffish, European ladies are very approachable.

Xboxic: What’s the future for you blog, since you’ve had a big overhaul
Major Nelson: I’m thinking of a separate part of the blog which is just marketplace announcements. I’m implementing and testing a system right now, where people can register their gamertag, you’re going to claim your gamertag. We’re going to confirm you’re actually that gamertag. So I’ve designed a system that does that. Brilliantly simple if I say so myself. My job is really to point to sites like yours. I want to be a jumping off point, I don’t want to compete. I’m on top of the pyramid, and want to say, look at this, look at that.

Xboxic: Viva Piñata, the show airs tomorrow for the first time, are you going to TiVo it?
Major Nelson: Yeah I’m going to, but we’ll be home.

Xboxic: We can’t receive it (in Europe).
Major Nelson: You’ll get it next year, I’m sure it’ll be on youtube.

Xboxic: Your announcement on the XNA thing: are there any specific things on how you’re going to distribute it?
Major Nelson: What we announced was this vision that we had, I’m just really excited about that. Nothing can unlock creativity like giving tools to the community. We are just so thrilled about that and you know we’re going have the club where you have to pay and can develop and so forth. Over the coming months you’ll gonna start hearing more and more details of how that works on Xbox live.

Xboxic: Are there any plans on safety? I can imagine exploit thingies.
Major Nelson: Absolutely, that is one of the key things. Just making sure the code is safe from day 1, that was our biggest concern.

Xboxic: Xbox Live vision, are there going to be full Xbox 360 titles like Eyetoy?
Major Nelson: You have to remember eyetoy is really about gestures. On the 360 you already have a game that works with the camera, Uno and the dashboard.

Xboxic: And the TotemBall game, just a gimmick?
Major Nelson: That will come out with Vision, and yeah it’s a gimmick. But it’s really about video messaging and sharing photos, sending and receiving picture messages. And then the gesture based stuff. And then of course, some of the developers like Ubisoft is going to be putting face in games with Rainbow Six: Vegas.

Xboxic: But are there concrete plans for specific retail titles made for Xbox Live Vision.
Major Nelson: Not right now that we’re announcing, there are a few in the works. We’re just figuring out how it’s going to work, how many people will pick it up.

Xboxic: Are you planning on doing a revision for the Windows drivers for the gamepad.
Major Nelson: No we’re not considering at this time, it’s up to the game developers.

Xboxic: Thanks a lot for this interview.
Major Nelson: Thank you!

The interview was a bit bumpy, the Major got called away a few times (not his fault) so there’s a bit of chaos going on in the line of questions. That’s what you get when you don’t schedule your stuff in advance. Sorry about that.[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson newsvine:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson furl:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson reddit:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson fark:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson Y!:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson gamegrep:[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson

27 comments on '[GC2006] Interview with Major Nelson'

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Should of asked him about what is going to be released on Marketplace this week?

Yeah we could’ve :P There are a ton of other things.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2006-08-28 11:32:28 | Reply

This is just getting silly now.

You are making me paranoid, there is a post thief on the loose.

Something went wrong in the site backend for a sec, causing this post to be reposted under a new ID, thus losing the comments.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2006-08-28 11:37:28 | Reply

Ah I thought my opnions were being gagged to protect peoples feelings.

Thinking for one horrible minute the site had finally gone all American and Politically Correct.

Actually I did send you a privmsg on the forum about that first comment that was there.

We’re Dutch and far from politically correct, but these comments are for replying to Xbox newsposts, not for fighting out vendettas. Don’t confuse the two.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2006-08-28 12:17:47 | Reply

I apologise, people get my back up at times, the red mist comes down I split another work shirt as my skin turns green and my muscles expand, and then my fingers just type abuse.

Hey if you think that was bad you should join us for a game of Texas Hold ‘em some time.

Yeah but…

Yeah… but…

LOL… Yeah, but…

Haha, seriously, nice interview. :) I liked how the Major reacted on your “yeah buts”. And the Sony thing, “Like?” and “Good for them!”. Classic.

Comment by The_Glovner on 2006-08-28 11:46:53 | Reply

The Glovner sulks off with his tail between his legs…………..

Viva Panata looks sweet. And the BC list update could be cool.

Comment by DSK UK on 2006-08-28 19:43:13 | Reply

i think they should work on a BIG BC list and then split it down the middle - release half of it when the Wii launches and the other half when the PS3 launches….thats way BC won’t be as much of a selling point for the consoles

Comment by no idea what to believe on 2006-08-28 12:12:25 | Reply

Here you say that viva pinada is like a slideshow, aka low framerate.
but in an other article you said it was much smoother this time, etc.
which one one you do i have to believe now?
I know people lie, like somebody here claimed that knami and ea soccer games would be xbox exclusive for 12 months, but this is really getting misinforming!

also viva pinada sucks ass!

it is not even for kids this BS. watch it.
the game should be boring when it is based on this, because basically it is watching the animals do stupid things. :S

The soccer deals were (mis?)information spread by Microsoft in their keynote speech. It’s still unclear how exclusive they are, although it seems probable that the PS3 will be getting PES6 this Spring (news coming up on that later today).

As for the slideshow comments, there seem to have been technical issues.

edit: PES6 update just got posted by Verbs :)

Comment by no idea what to believe on 2006-08-28 12:48:31 | Reply

okay it’s good then. I thought some fans made it up or something.

I do like the idea of that pinada, but they show was not so good for me: disliked the humour.

Also some people said that xbox1 was to have toy story like graphics, it was microsoft but anyway. The show looks like toy story quality, but i will bet my hand on it the game will not look like it. Maybe a little, but they’d have to sacrifice the framerate.
How long will it take to have cg-like graphics i wonder…

Actually I think the original Toy Story comment was “Pixar-level graphics” and originated from nVidia as related to the GF2 in 2000. Both MS and Sony subsequently mentioned Toy Story, Sony by mouth of Ken Kutaragi somewhere around the PS2 launch in 2000, and MS through Seamus Blackley around the Xbox launch in 2001 (!!!). Note that Seamus mentions “visual detail”, not “graphics”. Important difference, since one relates to polygon counts and texture sizes, and the other one includes shaders, HDR lighting and near-raytracing-level rendering pipelines.

I can’t find Kutaragi’s original quote regrettably, Google is not too precise with any queries regarding Playstations and Toy Story.

I think they’ve actually fixed it, you may want to check it out again. You should go back there, cause I was in the technical room and they were looking at it.

He was right about this, en that’s what you’ve read in the other article.

What Rival24 said.

And thanks for that Youtube link btw, looks awesome.

Christ you guys grilled him, i dont doubt the Major had to go back to his hotel to cool his ass down!!

I thought your balance of questions may have been off. There was a defo 35% ass kiss, 65% kill kill kill going on. Which i respect, mainly because a 100% ass kiss interview gets you nowhere.

But some of the grilling questions i thought were not relevant to what he would know. Nice interview though, enjoyed reading it!

We’re in the business to extract information, not to kiss ass ;) And Larry’s cool, he can take it.

We’re not like Kotaku yet :D

Comment by The_Glovner on 2006-08-28 14:30:47 | Reply

Kotaku don’t matter anyway, I can’t get into it from work and for that reason alone you guys still rule.

Comment by aries on 2006-08-28 16:29:04 | Reply

ok so viva pinata. is this cartoon part of the franchise also produced by rare? is the entire property owned by microsoft or rare r fox?

Comment by DSK UK on 2006-08-28 19:44:51 | Reply

I was kindof wondering the same thing - is the cartoon based on the game or is the game based on the cartoon??? Is that what u meant?

Comment by Anonymous on 2006-10-18 17:46:16 | Reply

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