Xbox Explores Its Adolescence

By  |  Monday, December 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm

It seems the Xbox 360 is confused with itself, judging from a recent New York Times blog post entitled “What Xbox Wants to Be When It Grows Up.”

The author, Saul Hansel, notes that Microsoft “has resisted making the Xbox some sort of Frankensteinian MSN Windows Live Game Center Personal Spreadsheet Platform and Household Vacuum Robot.” Yet, that seems to be examctly what Shane Kim, the console’s head of strategy and business development, is angling for.

“We don’t have the hubris that says we have been supersuccessful in gaming so let’s chase this separate entertainment thing,” he said.”We are building out from where we are at.”

Right. So scrolling down the interview, you’d expect to see some discussion of how to improve the Xbox brand, perhaps by capturing some of the folks who strayed to the Wii. Instead, Kim says he’s thinking of a music service (like iTunes?) or a way to watch sports clips while talking to friends (like television?). He then says integration with sites like Hulu and YouTube are his first instinct (but not for free, we imagine, given Xbox Live’s pay-for-everything  MO).

So much for not trying to be all things to all people.

Expanding the Xbox’s capabilities isn’t a bad idea, but it’s not the best one either. The article notes how the Wii is walloping the Xbox 360 in popularity, but glosses over the fact that casual, family-friendly games are the reason why. Even if it wants to expand its multimedia offerings, the Xbox still has to build a healthy body through widespread gaming appeal as opposed to a few niche services. Unfortunately, Kim doesn’t get one quote in the article about game development strategy.

And here’s the kicker: Hensel says Microsoft is looking to integrate Xbox Live with Windows, eventually connecting it to MSN and Windows Live, pretty much exactly what he said the company had avoided in the past.

Mary Shelley would be proud.



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