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Monday, October 17, 2005

The Lowdown With J.Allard

The Lowdown With J.Allard

"During recent events in New York and San Francisco last week, Microsoft exec J.Allard sought out to answer one of the biggest questions surrounding the console -- what the actual gaming experience will be like. The company let journalists, analysts and a few gaming enthusiasts spend the day playing some of the initial Xbox 360 titles.

In an interview at the end of the San Francisco event, J Allard spoke about some of the new games for the Xbox 360, the future of the "Halo" franchise, and the gaming- related implications of Microsoft's surprise legal settlement and partnership with RealNetworks.
Allard also defended the 360's two-tiered pricing as a smart decision for consumer choice.

And of course, there's the subject of market leader Sony -- an area where Allard has exemplified Microsoft's feelings by displaying, in his office, a Sony PlayStation 2 punctured by a machine-gun bullet. Allard spoke about the rivalry and hinted with a smile that one of Sony's new PlayStation 3 consoles could meet a similar fate after they're released next spring.

Edited excerpts from an interview with Allard:

Q: I played some of the Xbox 360 games today, and the graphics do seem better. But is that alone going to be enough to convince people to upgrade?

Allard: No, I think it's really a combination of things. Obviously we're all visual people, so it's the first thing that attracts your eye, but hopefully you experienced what I've experienced on 360, which is a greater level of immersion. Graphics can both be an attractor and a deterrent. ... If it shatters the illusion because it's not good enough, it reminds you that you're playing a video game. We're now at that point where the graphics are good enough to preserve the illusion and make you feel more immersed in the environment. The audio is amazing. The enemy troops sneaking up behind you. You can hear the key in the ignition of the car. ... And then the last component that I think a lot about is the community. Actually being able to play both with and against other human beings is the nature of play, and we've lost a little bit of that in video games. And so we're bringing that back with Live (the Xbox Live online gaming system) and the multiplayer support.

Q: There were listings by some online retailers citing a spring release date for "Halo 3" among their pre-orders. What can you say about that?

Allard: Well, maybe they know more than I do. (Laughing.) You know, Bungie is definitely working on an Xbox 360 title right now. The thing that's made Bungie games special, always, is they don't rush it. They don't hold themselves to an artificial date. They preserve quality and the depth of the experience above all else.

The original "Halo" was 4-and-a half years in development. The next "Halo," people gave us a lot of heat for slipping it, what, six months from the originally anticipated date. But it was the most successful title on the Xbox platform, one of the most influential titles of the entire last generation. And so we're glad we waited. The next Bungie title, I think you can expect not more of the same, but rather a title that holds itself to that same kind of bar." [more]

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