Interviews// Chris Satchell, Head of Microsoft's Game Developer Group

Posted 9 Jul 2008 15:41 by
Chris Satchell
Chris Satchell
There's much chin-wagging about empowering users and communities knocking about the games industry these days. With 'enabling gamers to forge their own experiences' seemingly at the top of everyone's 'to do' list in this generation of gaming.

Microsoft, with its XNA Game Studio suite of tools, is firmly in the pack hoping to capture the user-provided originality. XNA gives bedroom developers the tools to build their own games. Then there is the web-based Creators Club through which the creations can be shared.

At this year's GameHorizon conference I sat down with Chris Satchell, general manager of the company?s game developer group and the man responsible for XNA, to chat about the tools, the future of gaming and how working with games is better than working with pigs.

SPOnG: How are you finding the conference so far?

Chris Satchell: It's cool. It's obviously early, but the second set of talks after the one I gave today was really interesting ? looking at the online space and just seeing the huge amount of growth potential worldwide and how the medium's expanding with casual gaming and bringing in different business models and bringing the community into it. It resonated very well with how I've been thinking the market's going to evolve.

SPOnG: The stuff you're doing with XNA is tapping into, if not the same business model, perhaps the same mentality behind the games that market produces. Do you ever see there being, say, micro-transactions on Xbox Live?

Chris Satchell: There could be. I mean, we've done a lot
of engineering to make smaller transactions possible and I think you've seen us progress from doing just the triple-A blockbuster games at retail to having Xbox Live and having movies and music and television shows and games on Xbox Live Arcade. This year we're going to have community games on Xbox Live, and so there's progression there. We're bringing richer types of medium to the online space and I think we'll keep trying new things like we're doing with XNA and, you know, trying to reach out to the community there and seeing what they find interesting.

SPOnG: What sort of platform will we see for the community games? Will it be a separate space to Live Arcade?

Chris Satchell: I think it'll be a separate space, so that you clearly know, 'am I in Xbox Live Arcade, or am I in this community games section?' Then, we have to have more tools to be able to let people find it. There's going to be so much content that you have to be able to let people find it effectively and find the games they like.

The other thing we're doing on the community side is we're backing up - the whole catalogue will be available on a website, as well. Obviously, it's a lot easier to do detailed searches on your PC with your keyboard and mouse and everything. So, it means you'll be able to... you could be at work and get the web browser going, look at all the new content from the community, choose which things you want to download, and start the download from the web and have it complete.

SPOnG: So you'll be initiating the download on the web and it'll be going to your 360?

Chris Satchell: That'll be one way. I mean, you can just go into your 360 and do it as well, but our plans are to enable the start of the transaction on the web. Hopefully we'll get it for launch, it's not 100% guaranteed yet, but we will definitely have that feature and hopefully we're going to get it for this year, but we will have the whole web catalogue to help you find it.

SPOnG: I can certainly see how it could be easier to navigate on the web.

Chris Satchell: Plus, then you can do it from work, do it from wherever you (have a) web browser.
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