As one of the top people in Microsoft's Xbox hierarchy, Peter Moore is required to be enthusiastic about his company's products.
So when he explained that the new Xbox isn't called the Xbox 2 in part because it wouldn't sound up to snuff with a certain competitor named PlayStation 3, he added: "We tried Xbox 2. We tried a number of names. Went around the world for four months, and Xbox 2 got a shrug of the shoulder. Then we explained the Xbox 360 as a living entertainment experience powered by human energy [that] revolves around you and makes you at the center of your experience [and] people were like [snaps fingers] ... 'I get that.' "
Earlier this month, Peter Moore, corporate vice president at Microsoft and one of the chief architects of the Xbox 360, sat down with MTV News to dish details on his company's new console. He revealed new ways a 360 owner might make money with the system, spoke about the 360's gaming future and nailed down at least one Xbox game that will be playable online between Microsoft's past and future consoles.
Moore, who oversees the marketing effort for the system as well as first-party game development, also said he thinks episodic gaming — the release of game content at regularly scheduled weekly intervals — will become popular in the future. Players are "going to have the same experience as people who religiously watch 'Lost' or '24,' who can't wait for Wednesday nights at 8 o'clock or whenever," he said.
He revealed that the game he is proudest of for the 360's launch is the fantasy game "Kameo" (see "Xbox 360 Games Promise Potato Grenades, Bloody Pipe-Swinging, Spiderbots"). He also lavished praise on "King Kong" and "Call of Duty 2."
Moore acknowledged the console's flagship first-person-shooter "Perfect Dark Zero": "It's taken some knocks because it was built in a visual style that doesn't show off next generation well," he said. Moore, who's played the only-in-testing 50-player version of the game, said "Zero" would shine best when played by the retail-maximum 32 gamers when it arrives next month.
"Kameo" and "Perfect Dark Zero" are the creations of Rare, the studio responsible for pre-Xbox favorites "Donkey Kong Country" and "GoldenEye." Moore said spring will bring an announcement of two more Rare titles for 360, both with almost two years of development already in the books. Moore said Microsoft intends to "leverage Rare's incredible ability to broaden the demographic that are attracted to the consoles."
Moore confirmed that the free silver membership of Xbox Live on the 360, which allows downloads and networking with friends, won't require a credit card for sign up. The gold membership, which allows multiplayer gaming, still requires credit card registration and payment.
He fleshed out plans for the Xbox Live marketplace, an environment announced at E3 that will not only enable pay-to-download new cars for racing games but will also allow 360 owners to create their own game-related content and sell it through Live. Moore said system owners will even be able to sell machinima or character avatars on the service.
Backward compatibility is one issue that has perplexed those looking into an Xbox 360. As gamers have known since E3, Xbox 360s that are armed with hard drives (part of the $399 premium all-options-included Xbox 360 pack or $100 if bought to complement the $299 basic 360) will be able to play "top-selling" Xbox games. Moore said an initial list of compatible games will be released on Xbox.com in the next week or two, with e-mail updates available as the list expands.
One original Xbox game sure to work on a 360 will be "Halo 2," according to Moore. He said players competing online could be using different systems and shouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Addressing whether Microsoft should even be charging gamers $100 for the system's 20 GB hard drive — or even $40 for the far tinier 64 MB memory cards — Moore conceded that his company was trying to find a profit somewhere, since consoles themselves are designed to be money-losers initially. "The ability for us to be able to drive the hardware price down requires us to have some kind of a business model elsewhere," he said. "We've set the pricing where we think it needs to be priced in the marketplace, and that's where it's at."
With the games lined up and the system less than a month away, Moore said he's feeling confident. He's also firmly aware that there's a freight train called PlayStation 3 heading his direction, possibly for a spring release.
Moore's been in a similar spot before. In 1999 he took the reigns of Sega of America, helping the launch of the "Sonic" company's final console, the Dreamcast. The system had a strong launch lineup and fan following that is rabid about the system even to this day.
What did Dreamcast in, he said, was the lack of support from mega-publisher EA and the lack of a long-term plan to provide a consistent flow of quality games. That left the system vulnerable to the counter-marketing campaign for the then-looming "PlayStation 2," which didn't arrive in the U.S. for another year.
So is he worried some gamers may again hold off on a system he's overseeing in order to buy the next Sony console? "If the PS3 is so incredibly superior to the Xbox 360 in game quality, game quantity, game breadth, game visuals, depth of the digital entertainment experience and price, God bless them."
Otherwise, he has a system he'd like to sell you.