J Allard answers tough Xbox 360 questions

Webchat highlights concerns, smoothed with gloss

Posted by Staff
Broken limbed Xbox frontman J Allard took the brave step of answering gamers? questions in a webchat late last week, tackling subjects such as 360 load-times, Xbox 360 pricing, the controversial hard drive issue and more.

A full transcript is reproduced bellow for your perusing pleasure. Please note that time taken tidying up this webchat probably took longer than the event lasted in the first place. Keyboards eh? Cant live with ?em?

QUESTION: Can Microsoft guarantee that the HDD will be fully utilised when present or are we going to see long load times with a slow DVD unit as standard from most developers.

J ALLARD: Just like last generation utilization of things like Xbox live and the hard drive will be up to the game designers and just like last time we expect game developers to be excited by this. We have been in clear communication for more than a year that some scenarios will include a disconnected hard drive and it has not slowed them down

QUESTION: Will Xbox 360 games use the hard drive for game saves and caching like the original Xbox did?

J ALLARD: Absolutely. We think game designers have all kinds of innovative ideas that the hard drive will be used for. Use of the hard drive is not limited to game scenarios. Like Xbox 1 you will be able to do things like rip and store music and don't forget about live scenarios and all the downloadable content

QUESTION: Why is the hard drive so highly priced? A 20GB hard drive currently sells for about $20 to $30... Why $100 for the 360? I believe this will deter a lot of sales.

J ALLARD: The 20 GB hard drive is a 2.5 inch user-serviceable drive and is more expense than a pc "crack the box" drive. it's one of the reasons we pushed to create a compelling premium bundle. One of the reasons that we designed a user removable hard drive is in direct response to the hard core gaming audience to make it easier to take game saves, game maps, soundtracks, etc easily to their friend?s house or LAN party. They also wanted the ability to upgrade to larger capacity drives. And if the drive is not present because someone in the house took it on the road, you still want to be able to use the console for movies, music or games.

QUESTION: Will losing the hard disc mean that all games will be made without the unit in mind, therefore effecting users of the premium pack?

J ALLARD: Absolutely not. Consider this last generation where somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20% of game consoles had hard drives attached. This did not deter game developers from utilizing the hard drive both for exclusive games and cross platform games on Xbox. This generation, our first party team and our exclusive content developers are just as committed to using the hard drive and like we they demonstrated with this generation our third party cross platform developers are committed as well. Games like Splinter Cell, Madden, and Tony Hawk?s all demonstrated unique capabilities in hard drive configured systems.

QUESTION: Can we stream videos from our PCs?

J ALLARD: Yes. If you have Windows Media Centre on those PCs, you will be able to stream standard and high definition video.

QUESTION: Why even offer the core package as it seems quite useless?

J ALLARD: Great question! The thing to remember is that while we designed a no-compromises game system, a huge percentage of our customers are not like the folks in this chat room. Recognize that more than 75% of the folks on Xbox have not played Halo. By introducing the core system we are sending a signal to the market that we are committed to this part of the market just like with the Xbox 360 premium bundle that we are committing to you. The significance of this message can not be understated. Many of the publishing and retail partners want our commitment to grow the market. And as you have heard from us in our press conferences and such we are very committed to growing the market.

QUESTION: Can you use your Xbox live Gamertags for Xbox live gold on the 360?

J ALLARD: Absolutely. We want to make sure you can preserve your identity, friends, and investment in Xbox live moving forward with Xbox 360 and of course you can keep gaming with your identity on Xbox 1.

QUESTION: Why not package the Xbox 360 with only the hard drive and a wireless controller for $349.99, so that you can have one SKU?

J ALLARD: Good question and one of the many combinations we looked at. With our research with hardcore gamers, retailers, and the broader market, we felt like these two configurations were the right starting point. The great news is that the way we have designed the system in a modular way we can easily adjust these configurations over time.

QUESTION: Will the cables in the $400 (279) package work with my TV that uses A/V cables?

J ALLARD: The AV pack bundled with the premium pack will work with component and composite cables. This means it will pretty much work with all HD and SD sets out there. The other cool thing is that you can take that cable between high def and standard def TVs.

QUESTION: What is your opinion on HD-DVD?

J ALLARD: It's going to be interesting to see how and if a high def format for movies plays out. When we designed the initial Xbox, many people asked if SACD or DVD audio would be the successor to the CD format for music. As everyone knows the real successor was MP3 and digital distribution with things like Napster, iPod and MSN Music. While there is a lot of talk about this in the industry it will be interesting to see what the exact future of this is for movies. Of course I think there will be a need for higher capacity optical media for storage applications. We prefer HD-DVD to Blu-Ray in terms of the flexibility it offers to different applications as well as the infrastructure costs to the market.

QUESTION: Will consumers be able to purchase and download songs or other media directly through the Live Marketplace?

J ALLARD: Not at launch. It is something we would love to get your feedback on. Please give us your thoughts.

QUESTION: Will developers utilize the hard drive when one is detected, or will most games be made without using it at all? Will the HD speed up load times?

J ALLARD: Speeding up load times is one of the many things a hard drive can be used for but really it is up to the imagination of the developer. We have been talking with game developers for a while now to make sure that games will load efficiently without a hard drive present. In terms of load times, as a gamer i am super sensitive to how frustrating load times can be, which is one of the reasons we put in a dual layer 12x DVD in the system to make sure gamers get great performance with or without a hard drive. One of the challenges with new optical formats when they first come out is the performance of the media which was a consideration when we decided what the optical format for Xbox 360 would be.

QUESTION: Can USB Memory be used by the Xbox 360 as the 360 has USB ports?

J ALLARD: At present our design for Xbox 360 uses the USB ports in a read-only capacity for playing music and viewing photos. If there are other applications that you guys think are interesting then please give us your feedback.

QUESTION: Why doesn't Wi-Fi work out of the box?

J ALLARD: We worked with game designers and talked to hard core gamers and asked them what their top priorities were and the bulk of our investment went into the silicon to the CPU and the GPU so we would have kick **** games. We had a fixed budget and could not do it all. In the end we had a budget and had to offer Wi-Fi as an option, but we did decide to add "a" as a standard in addition to b and g. we are also compatible with existing devices already on the market.

QUESTION: Will the core system come with a memory card? if not, how can u save games?

J ALLARD: No it does not come with a memory unit. Gamers will need an MU or a hard drive to save games with, which is consistent with the games industry for the last decade. I think it is really important to emphasize especially for the folks in this chat room that we did not design the core system around you guys. Similar to the shuffle, the Boxter, the 4:3 TV, we designed the core system as a way to get folks to come into the family at a cheaper price and decide if and how they scale the system. The great thing about our approach - unlike these examples - is that the core owner can upgrade the system and match the capabilities of the premium system when the time is right for them.

QUESTION: Will a completely black 360 be available?

J ALLARD: Not currently in plan for launch but, as you know, we will have removable faceplates and I expect down the line we will get feedback that people want other colours and we will provide it

QUESTION: $399 price point for Xbox 360 seems steep.

J ALLARD: I think that the capabilities we are offering with Xbox 360 are unmatched in the history of videogaming. It's a great value, and the system that most of the folks in this chat room are going to prefer. I saw a posting earlier today where someone looked up the historical prices and capabilities of games systems. It was worth noting that the PS2 launched at $368 (in Japan) with no hard drive, no online service, no wireless, no voice, no network adapter, no remote, and only support for 2 controllers. That?s not the reason we priced the system this way but it does provide a comparative frame of reference for what you are getting. When you consider you are getting the most powerful games system, best CD player, digital media player, movie player, etc. it's a great value.

QUESTION: Why do they have the core package? Why doesn't Microsoft just release the package with the hard drive so developers will be able to fully utilize it?

J ALLARD: Independent of the configurations we have at launch, it was imperative that we work with developers now to abstract the storage system because (1) the drive is removable and we want people to play even if the drive is not present, (2) another possibility is that 5 years from now you want more storage on the box or on the network and will be able to take advantage of that. By abstracting storage in the system we are making sure that all Xbox 360 games will work on all configurations moving forward and early customers will be able to take advantage of future scenarios like bigger drives and network storage.

QUESTION: What about backward compatibility in the core system?

J ALLARD: Because we didn't abstract storage in the first generation Xbox, back compact will require a hard drive. The good news is that the core system owners can upgrade if they desire to update at a later date.

QUESTION: When can we expect an official release date to be announced?

J ALLARD: This is our last question we are able to take for the chat and then i have one thing i want you guys to know after. Answer in short is: stay tuned. Just like all of you talking about the system around the clock we are working around the clock to finish the system and the games. We will have more announcements soon.

J: I just want to thank the community for the enthusiasm and passion for Xbox since the beginning. Conversations like this are super valuable and we would love to do this again.

In summary we tried to optimize launch around three critical audiences:

One - The game developer - by offering them a no compromises platform with great hardware, tools and the leading online service with live.

Two - The hard core gamer - by putting together a configuration with everything you would want at a compelling price.

Three - The entry level gamer - that wanted to get into next generation gaming and was excited by the media capabilities and wanted an entry level option

I know the multiple configuration strategy has introduced some confusion and concern with the hard core gamers in particular. Hopefully this has helped explain some of the thinking that went into it. If you - like me - want gaming to get bigger and want to see more creative games out there we need to grow the market.

Like the consumer electronics industry or the automotive industry, having a family of products (we believe) will be good for the market.

At the end of the day, you guys make Xbox a success and we designed Xbox for you and dialogs like this are what have gone into the Xbox program to date and will continue to give life to Xbox for years to come. Check out our Live Updates at Club Skill, on the webchat with J Allard, who will be answering questions on Xbox 360.


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Comments

DoctorDee 22 Aug 2005 15:39
1/17
If you - like me - want gaming to get bigger and want to see more creative games out there we need to grow the market.


How does this reconcile with the fact that all the most creative games were created when the market was MUCH smaller.

Would that be because the corporate shareholder took much less of the revenue in those days.
ohms 22 Aug 2005 15:41
2/17
"We prefer HD-DVD to Blu-Ray in terms of the flexibility it offers to different applications as well as the infrastructure costs to the market."

man, that guy just cant say anything nice about sony.

I remember in an interview with him in edge after 2004's e3, he was asked about the DS and psp (which has just been unveiled and blown everyone away). he complemented nintendo on their innovative system, but he just couldnt bring himself to say one nice thing about the psp.

what's it like being bill gates' bitch J?


EDIT: oh yeah, anyone else notice in their lame mtv special, how playstation was missing from the history of videogames?
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TigerUppercut 22 Aug 2005 15:59
3/17
DoctorDee wrote:
If you - like me - want gaming to get bigger and want to see more creative games out there we need to grow the market.


How does this reconcile with the fact that all the most creative games were created when the market was MUCH smaller.

That would be becuase there was more to create. Everything can only be new once. Though DS and perhaps Revolution have and should change the current state of, erm, play.

[quoteohms]EDIT: oh yeah, anyone else notice in their lame mtv special, how playstation was missing from the history of videogames?

Edit: YES! Like, holy f**king s**t!

Read the Peter Moore interview - he hates Sony more than anyone, presumably from the Sega days...
Joji 22 Aug 2005 16:02
4/17
Its clear, though not to J Allard, that you should have a certian amount of respect for the enemy but perhaps he clearly has none or is scared to consort with the enemy camp even with some positive comment.

I do agree that compared to PS2 360 for the price you are geting a good deal, but I notice he hasn't said that PS3 can support 7 pads, wifi pads as standard and wifi out of the box (the latter something I think 360 was supposed to do), he uses the PS2, old tech as an example instead of say the PS3 or perhaps GC which might have been better suited. One things for sure though. 360 Core pack could do serious damage
to PSP sales at such a similar entry price range.

EDIT: oh yeah, anyone else notice in their lame mtv special, how playstation was missing from the history of videogames?


Damn did they really do that? That's a bit of twisted truth. How sad.

I saw something similar recently on MTV's Pimp My Ride. A dude had his car done in a sweet half blue/half red colour style. In the boot/trunk of his new ride where three new PSPs with which he could game with his friends, but for some weird reason (probably loyalties to MS after the 360 crap unveiling) they felt the need to bleep out Xzibit and co saying ''We got your three new ..... for you to have fun with your friends''.

We could all see what they were! MTV so totally sucks arse anyways.







Rod Todd 22 Aug 2005 17:11
5/17
TigerUppercut wrote:

That would be becuase there was more to create. Everything can only be new once.


Oh, c'mon, dude. I know you're new hobby is sucking Microsoft's cock. But please!

They aren't even trying these days. The whole industry is set up to piss on creativity, and to trample innovation.

Shareholders want another game like that last one that sold millions. EXACTLY like that last one.

I mean, if you're happy being the industry's bitch boy apologiste...
OptimusP 22 Aug 2005 19:49
6/17
I now know what the J stands for: JERK or Jackass!

Innovative ways to use a hard disk...let me see ,the PC gaming scene had it like 20 years and they still haven't figured out anything innovative to do with it. Peter Molyneux tried but (again) didn't deliver. Nintendo tried with the 64DD but it flopped but i have a hunch they'll try it with the Revolution again (with that inbuilt 512 mb flash memory). If those industry big guns of innovation can't come up with a innovative use of a HDD (or flash memory) Microsoft hell won't in a hunderd years!

Using the core system to get better entry in the market trough families...or translated by the corporate BS program: we're screwing them over and abusing their marketignorance for one thing *singing* we want the money, we like the money ,we want the money.

And seriously J, Why is the 20 gb HDD priced $ 99...you didn't answer that really... you just spinned around some bottle, a empty bottle too...

That's the ranting part because he did had a few good answers too some questions.
But i hope Microsoft realizes how lucky they are that their launching first and Nintendo hasn't said/showed anything tangible about their Revolution except the stuff everyone knows.
Nintendo has a good shot at blowing the X360 out of the water if it has a lower price (very likely) and more to offer then the core package (WiFi out of the box is one, no need to buy a Memory Card is two ect.)
C'mon Nintendo show them your vengeance!
soanso 22 Aug 2005 20:59
7/17
I don't think Revolution will blow anything out of the water I'm afraid. Microsoft have some major support for this new system and I can't see Nintendo getting that kind of thing.
But yeah, of course, it's EA that's supporting thiem the most. So it's mindless games for the masses. Quite frankly they can keep them. See what EA's support did for the Dreamcast!! Beautiful machine that it was.

That J guy still didn't answer the questions for my liking. The core system is pointless, there's no way around it. The PSP cheapo pack was pointless and got dropped, people didn't see it as good value and it never left japan.
But come on, Why no Harddisk? why does it cost so much? why does it link with windows media pcs and not just plain ordinary bog standard windows and where the hell is the wifi?
When they first mentioned the price, I thought it was good value, and it sort of is for that full thing, but you are still needing extras added on top.
I bet PS3 and Revo both have everything you need to get started in the one box at the one price.
BustyKrusty 22 Aug 2005 21:41
8/17
So basically what's he's saying is X360'll get 50/50 something release ratio for core/deluxe packs. Now, that's alot 'entry Lv gamers'.Sure there's nothing wrong with that, but what about the games?

I suppose Japan won't see a core system launch,as they'd probably see it as an insult to their gaming code.
scanman 23 Aug 2005 08:16
9/17
what did Allard do to his leg??? Ive been away for a few weeks and do not know what this story is talking about. how come you don't explain what he did? was he moving a lot of old xboxes to make way for 360's ... and dropped it on his leg?!?!
king skins 23 Aug 2005 11:47
10/17
Joji wrote:
I do agree that compared to PS2 360 for the price you are geting a good deal, but I notice he hasn't said that PS3 can support 7 pads, wifi pads as standard and wifi out of the box (the latter something I think 360 was supposed to do), he uses the PS2, old tech as an example instead of say the PS3 or perhaps GC which might have been better suited.


Why would he? This was an xbox360 chat not a PS3. PS3 pads are Bluetooth not Wi-Fi.


OptimusP wrote:
Using the core system to get better entry in the market trough families...or translated by the corporate BS program: we're screwing them over and abusing their marketignorance for one thing *singing* we want the money, we like the money ,we want the money.

And seriously J, Why is the 20 gb HDD priced $ 99...you didn't answer that really... you just spinned around some bottle, a empty bottle too...


The core is designed for casual gamers, they don't care if the system had a HDD or not. I know a few casual gamers that have a PS2 or Xbox but they only play a couple of hours a week (if that), if you started talking to them about HDD's their eyes start glazing over. As long as they can pop FIFA into the drive and it works they don't care. If you don't want it, don't buy it.

HDD price, he did answer. Its 69.99 because its a 2.5 inch drive, like you find in laptops
http://www.vtec.co.uk/catalogue/hard_disk_drives_hdd/2.5_inch_notebook_drives/index.asp

53 for a 20GB drive, xbox360 HDD 69.99. Still a bit more expensive, but factor in the extra cos of making it more durable and the extra casing...


soanso wrote:
why does it link with windows media pcs and not just plain ordinary bog standard windows and where the hell is the wifi?


It links with XP and Media Centre Edition, but you can only stream music off XP (needs an update). You need the Media Centre Edition to stream Video, maybe a limitation of XP?

Wi-Fi is a bit of a subjective thing... I have a Wireless router in my house. But as i live in an old house with thick walls the reception is s**t, I have to leave all the doors open from the dinning room (where the router is) to my bed room (where my 360 will be) just to get any reception and that is still really poor. So I'm glad I'm not paying extra for it as I wouldn't use it.


BustyKrusty wrote:
So basically what's he's saying is X360'll get 50/50 something release ratio for core/deluxe packs.


Where did he say that? All the talk I have heard is more of a 20/80 split between 210 and 280 respectively. Although that is not official, but I would go for that as the people who buy them at launch are hardcore gamers and early adopters that would want the HDD version.
king skins 23 Aug 2005 12:03
11/17
Rod Todd wrote:
TigerUppercut wrote:

That would be becuase there was more to create. Everything can only be new once.


Oh, c'mon, dude. I know you're new hobby is sucking Microsoft's cock. But please!

They aren't even trying these days. The whole industry is set up to piss on creativity, and to trample innovation.

Shareholders want another game like that last one that sold millions. EXACTLY like that last one.

I mean, if you're happy being the industry's bitch boy apologiste...


Aristotle said that there are only 7 stories but a million variations. I think this is what TiggerUppercut meant
BustyKrusty 23 Aug 2005 14:36
12/17
"In summary we tried to optimize launch around three critical audiences.

One-The game developer
Two-The hard core gamer Three-The entry level gamer

75% never played Halo"(he's a lying bastard that J)

There you have it,critical audiences(casual player) surely make up for more than 20% of MS actual audience and by the sound of it a significant portion of the market will grow thanks to them. 20%,no way man.
king skins 23 Aug 2005 15:20
13/17
Casual gamers are a critical audience, they make up the majority of a consoles audience. Why do you think EA do so well? But they are not typically early adopters, which is why I think the split would be more towards the HDD bundle.

We could argue about the split between the two packages all day, but neither of us know. So what's the point?

I'm assuming you are calling Allard a liar over the "75% never played Halo" comment?

In 2004 (the only figures I could find) Halo 2 had sold 4.2million copies
Click here for 2004 Sales Figures

With Xbox having an install base of 22million(?), that gives us the following formula

4.2 * (100/22) = 19%

Now as its 2005 Halo has sold more copies. Lets say Halo 2 has sold an extra 2million copies? Which I think is a lot as games have a crap shelf life...

6.2 * (100/22) = 28%

So that's 72% of people have not played Halo 2. Still stand by your accusation?
claudioalex 23 Aug 2005 16:55
14/17
Now Square-Enix says that you cannot play FFIX in the XBOX360 unless you have a HD,
so, there you have., buying the core pack is a waist of time,
fluffstardx 23 Aug 2005 17:00
15/17
Erm, one game does not a waste of time make. Of course you need the HDD for a game with downloadable content - how big do you think the memory cards will be?

But some people don't use downloadable content, believe it or not. And some people only want Live Silver so they have a free telephone that can call international...

Yes, there is a use for the basic package. They call them "children". Games for small kids (the Willy Wonka game and the like) have no use for a HDD except caching. You can't really sell a new machine to parents for 280, but they'll buy one for 210...
sunkai 23 Aug 2005 17:25
16/17
At the end of the day, there is going to be a child who opens his Christmas presents this year and will be overjoyed to see a brand new shiny XBOX 360.

He's going to be smiling ear-to-ear. Which, in turn, will infect his parents with a profound sense of achievement in seeing their child so happy, and they too will crack open a wide smile.

However, the scene is spoilt. It is the "Core" XBOX 360 package. Sold to the parents as an economical option by an unwitting retail assistant, who did not realise the implications of regurgitating the marketing material they rote learned.

Back under the tree, the knowledgable child's face falls as they open the box, and he looks up quizzically at his parents. Their faces echo his concern, but they do not understand until their child has to awkwardly explain that his brand new present is missing parts. The father offers to go to the nearest corner shop and buy some double-A's. The child murmurs, "Not like batteries Dad, no."

Under another tree, Mr.Allard's casual gamer child cracks open the package with avid enthuisiasm. His parents busily help him set up the XBOX under the television with a couple of comical mistakes along the way that raise a titter. The father felt particularly proud of his efforts after plugging the new machine in to the family's internet connection, having found the right cable in the cupboard.

After Christmas lunch, the child has moved on from playing his first title. He prods his parents awake, clutching the user manual in his sweaty little hand. The worried expression he wears alarms them.

He wanted to watch his new Madagascar DVD but couldn't find the remote control in the box. He wanted to play the demo of the Madagascar game on Live, but it told him he needed a hard-drive. And when he texted Tom about all this, Tom said that his XBOX had cool metal bits on it.

On boxing day, the perturbed father rushes back to the shop with a notebook of scribbled down questions. The smiling assistant addresses each point in the list with the joyous news that the XBOX 360 is "modular", and that it was okay, as each of the premium package additions could be bought seperately. Although the assistant's ignorant smile never falters throughout, the father's face falls as he realises that his Christmas budget has just been shattered, and that his goal to start the new year in the black was now out of reach.

Did you think about that Mr.Allard, when you were in your brainstorming sessions? It didn't occur to you when the idea of a "Core" console, for entry level gamers, was initially broached did it? At the stage of its genus, the purity of the idea and its potential to bring your vision to more people hid the truth. But, after the idea was grown and began to develop, you saw the children didn't you? You saw the reality of the decision that was about to be made. You saw the fallen faces and the desperate parents, but you kept quiet. The rest of the overpaid, self-important people in the room had bitten; hook, line and sinker. They were raving about expanding the user base, offering a route in to the Microsoft franchise for a seam of untapped revenue.

You've held on to the idealism for long enough that you've almost started to believe it. Dig a little deeper. Remember the sinking feeling when you first imagined that sad child's face, and think of the disappointment, sadness and distrust this will cause.

I think I'm going to go somewhere and cry.
BustyKrusty 23 Aug 2005 18:58
17/17
I reckon those are the figures but J Allard is a MS's gamer statue, he in a world should know that every 7 and 17year old bought Xbox for Halo whether they got it in new or used.If you live with your grandma chances are even she played it while you were out.Hmm, changing topic...

if PS3 gets a 400$ treatement, Core price should drop significantly maybe to the point of being the cheapest next-gen system and then many more unsuspecting casuals will bite,not bad for MS eh?
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