Following this morning’s Xbox One reveal in Redmond, MCV spoke to Xbox Australia Product Manager Adam Pollington for more details.
The essentials regarding the Australia and New Zealand rollout understandably weren’t yet available, so there’s no further clarification there, but there was still a lot to discuss, and Pollington was quick to point out that there’s a lot more to come on the games front ‘as we approach E3’.
There were a multitude of TV and Xbox Live app services announced today. Traditionally, Australia has had to wait for these services to land. Do we have any visibility on which of those features will be available at launch here?
The goal is to roll out to all markets where Xbox One will launch all the services that you saw today. Regarding specific timelines, again we don’t have anything to announce at this stage.
You can expect us to deliver all those services.
The HDMI through cable feature gives us great scope to be able to deliver Live TV experiences. The nuances in the way in which television is delivered around the world, whether that be over the air, by cable or by the internet will be catered to by Xbox One.
Playstation not only emphasised indie gaming in its presentation, but even went so far as to have Jonathan Blow on stage, and has recently made a big push to get indies programming on the Playstation 4 hardware. Can you tell us anything about Xbox One’s support for indie gaming?
Directionally, if you look at what we’ve done on Xbox 360 with XBLA and in other markets Xbox Indie Games, that’s still definitely a priority for us, and we’re looking to roll those out in markets where Xbox Live is.
How is Kinect tied to the new console?
The new Kinect sensor is an integral part of the system. Not only have we improved the features that you just mentioned on there in terms of the span of the sensors, its depth processing, but we’ve also made investments to improve tracking finer movements. It’ll track fingers, it’ll track clenching of the fists, your eyelids closing, even your heart-rate.
We’ve also made adjustments to the audio functionality of the Kinect sensors, so it will be more refined at filtering out ambient noise, it’ll respond to more conversational text instead of the more standardised prompts which are built into the Xbox 360. today. In addition to that, we’ll have an active IR system in it so it can see in the dark.
There are a number of new features that have been introduced which we’ve announced today, including 1080p video calls through the Skype app. We’re also seeing advancements in the way the Kinect sensor interacts with other devices like the wireless controller.
We announced the ability for the wireless controller to sync automatically through the Kinect sensor as opposed to us having to manually key in by pressing buttons on the 360 like we do today. Without a doubt, Kinect sensor is an integral part of the operation of Xbox One.
And how is the cloud factoring into the experience?
Your gamertag, gamerscore and the like will carry across, and there is unlimited cloud storage. All your content, experiences, achievements and save games will be stored in the cloud and will travel with your profile. You can access your data by logging into your profile on other Xbox One consoles.
If there were one main thing which you’d call the point of difference with the Xbox One, what would it be?
One things for me that really differentiates Xbox One from what we’ve seen on other platforms is the cloud.
I don’t think we necessarily spoke about that in a whole lot of detail this morning, but it really does resonate, I think, with gamers.
No longer are you restricted to the Xbox One’s hardware’s processing power.
A lot of that processing which has traditionally been done on the Xbox 360 can now be done in the cloud. What we’ve seen is that for every Xbox One console which is enabled in the living room, Xbox Live effectively enables another three in the cloud.
The ability for that processing power to evolve as the cloud itself evolves really future-proofs the architecture of the Xbox One console. I think it’s a huge competitive advantage that Microsoft has.
Is any of that going to be a problem here in Australia? Supposing the NBN doesn’t end up happening here, we’ve been known to struggle with high demands on our internet connections.
From everything we’ve been told to date, expectations around download and bandwidth requirements are comparable to what the Xbox 360 utilises today. The internet capabilities we currently have in Australia are more than adequate to deliver for Xbox One.
So it’ll be streaming data after processing, which will be turned into images on the local console rather than an on live style transmission of images?
At this stage, they are some of the inclusions, yes. That will definitely continue to evolve. And the power of the cloud grows, so too will the power of the Xbox One unit.
I feel this is a question I have to ask. Is there going to be a mandatory always-on internet connection to run your Xbox One, or can you still play games and movies offline?
That’s certainly a question that’s been raised. To be very specific, Xbox One doesn’t require an always-on connection, but it does require an internet connection to deliver certain things.
We’ve designed the box to be connected to the cloud and always ready and to be able to do a number of things like system update without you having to wait for them to install. At the same time, we’ve created the box to enable people to play games, watch Blu-Ray movies and watch TV if they lose their connection to the internet. A large portion of it will come down to the developers and whether they want to use that functionality or not.
So with the Playstation 4 and Wii U both having some form of touch interface in your hand, is it safe to say Kinect is the primary driving focus of Xbox One’s unique control inputs?
We’re taking a balanced approach to that. The Kinect sensor is certainly one way to interact with the Xbox One, as is the traditional controller, but we’re also really amping up our smartglass functionality. Customers who do have a smartphone or a tablet will be able to control their Xbox in a large number of ways using that peripheral device.
Stay tuned for more details there, but we’re definitely building on what we’ve already delivered on SmartGlass from a control standpoint, but also for complimentary TV viewing.
It seems as though the new hardware isn’t designed to deliver one specific experience, but is aimed at opening up as many possibilities as it can for developers to exploit down the track. Would you say the Xbox One isn’t a known quantity in that regard, and has many possible applications?
The device we’re looking to deliver into the market with Xbox One is a device that is an all-in-one games, TV and entertainment system.
There will remain a huge focus on providing new generation blockbuster games, but there will also be a focus on delivering new TV and entertainment experiences, just like we announced today through Steven Spielberg with the new Halo Live action series that’s coming from Xbox Studios.
The key to delivering on both TV, games and entertainment is developing a system that is simple for people to use, that enables you to switch quickly between those activities in an instant way, and a system that really provides a complete service across games, Live TV, on-demand content, the internet and social experiences like Skype, music and so forth.
But I think one of the key things, however, is the ability to instantly jump between applications. I know for me personally (I’m a big multiplayer gamer and I love playing Call of Duty) I love playing Halo titles. A frustration for me personally in the past has been waiting in matchmaking lobbies while players jump in before the game starts. With Xbox One, while that’s happening I can watch Live TV, I can jump into an XBLA game. The Xbox One can communicate with me when that match is ready to go, and I can instantly jump back into that experience.
Enabling these types of things across games, TV and entertainment really is a pivotal part of Xbox Live.
Microsoft dropped support for the Xbox very quickly once the Xbox 360 came out. Do you still plan to suppport the Xbox 360 once the Xbox One is on the market?
We are in no way, shape or form walking away from the Xbox 360 platform. That’s a platform that we will continue to deliver software, live services and live updates to for many, many years to come, so expect to see Xbox One and Xbox 360 ranged alongside each other at retail.
Thank you for your time.