May 12, 2007 / 4:44 AM / 12 years ago

Microsoft says working to broaden Xbox appeal

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - It’s the first public unveiling of Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT.O) alien-blasting action game “Halo 3”, but Shane Kim is already looking ahead to a kinder, gentler face for its Xbox 360 console.

The head of Microsoft Game Studios said on Friday that his division is working on two previously unannounced games aimed beyond the hardcore fans who relish the shooting, driving and sports games that make up the bulk of popular Xbox titles.

The idea is to make the Xbox 360 more attractive to casual gamers, who have flocked to Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s 7974.OS Wii console and its innovative motion-sensing controller.

“We have a couple games that have not been announced,” Kim told Reuters at a preview event in San Francisco for “Halo 3”, the next installment in Microsoft’s flagship franchise.

“I will tell you that they target a broader market. We think it’s very important this holiday, and to winning this generation, to expand beyond our core audience,” Kim said.

Microsoft has had mixed success in the casual area. Last year, it launched “Viva Pinata”, a colorful, quirky game in which players tend a garden and raise pinata animals.

The title won critical praise but sold poorly, which Kim said was due to the price of the Xbox 360 being too high to draw in casual players for that game alone. The Xbox sells in two versions: a $300 basic system and a $400 premium system with a hard drive.

“The fact is that we are not at a mass-market price point,” Kim said. “We have that work to do ... to make us more palatable to moms and stuff.”

At the other end of the market, Kim said a new “Elite” Xbox 360 that sells for $480 and comes with a larger hard drive and better support for high-definition graphics and video was selling well, despite concerns over the high price.

“We are selling everything we can make. People want the black color, they want the bigger hard-drive capacity,” Kim said. “And the price is great, especially when compared to the PS3 options.”

Kim was referring to Sony Corp.’s (6758.T) PlayStation 3, whose high price of $600 for the premium version is believed to be hampering sales.

Critics have said price comparisons to Sony’s machine are unfair since the PS3 includes a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player, while Xbox owners must shell out an extra $200 for a plug-in unit that supports the rival HD-DVD format.

“Obviously, the big difference between us and Sony is that we’ve made it the consumer’s choice,” Kim said.

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