Posted on February 23, 2008,

GDC 08: John Schappert Talks Indie Games, HD DVD, and More

360-hd-dvd-add-on.jpg

John Schappert was Microsoft’s main man at GDC this past week as he presented Microsoft’s keynote. Eurogamer had a chance to speak with him a day after the keynote and touched on quite a few subjects, including why Peter Moore’s replacement – Don Mattrick – wasn’t the one doing the presenting. He explained the Mattrick was back “holding down the fort” and that we can expect to see more of him later this year.

Schappert was quick to both praise the Wii (when asked about it selling more than the 360 has now sold in just a year’s time) and shrug off the PS3 (when asked what he thought about the PS3 gaining ground on the 360). Whereas he sees the Wii as something that is not so much competition and more of a compliment to the 360, Schappert simply pointed towards superior month-to-month sales of the 360 versus the PS3 prior to the holidays.

The most interesting part of the interview came when Eurogamer pushed Schappert on the subject of HD DVD. When asked what Microsoft plans to do with the 360’s HD DVD add-on, he said, “I don’t know what the plans are on that. It was a low attach rate. It wasn’t one of the high-selling accessories if you will. The people who bought it knew what they were buying. What I will say is that I think it circles back – it’s about a gaming machine we have that actually is the best gaming machine out there, which plays 7 of the 10 top-rated games, has the highest attach rate in history of 7 games purchased per console.”

Unsatisfied with that answer, Eurogamer continued to push him and pried some more.

You say it’s a gaming platform primarily, but you did want to have the HD-DVD drive – it’s not like it was forced on you or anything -

We wanted to offer people a choice -

Sure, so now with that in mind, ignoring the fact it’s the competition, would you do a Blu-ray drive and are you going to do one?

I don’t think we have any comment on that right now or any plans, but my focus is I’d rather give you community gaming and contribute to more games you can play and focus on the fact that you’re walking in, you’re buying that box and it plays great games and has the best online service. I think the fact that it does movies and sometimes TV shows in other territories is great but not the primary reason.

But in the interest of choice, in the pursuit of choice, which is something that you espouse, surely the next obvious thing to do now that this has been decided is to make a Blu-ray drive?

What I’ll say is we have nothing to comment there. We have no plans to announce or anything like that right now. But I’d also urge you to look at the attach rate for the HD-DVD drive.

So you’re saying that given that it wasn’t as popular as it could have been…

It was a 3 percent attach rate. So again, when you’re saying ‘the obvious thing’, you also have to take into account how did the other accessory do when you look at the future. We have nothing to comment right now on that and my focus is how we make Live better, how we get more great games and how do we empower the community. That’s what I wake up and think about, and it keeps me awful busy.

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7 Comments on GDC 08: John Schappert Talks Indie Games, HD DVD, and More

Norbit

On February 24, 2008 at 5:26 am

You have to start worrying when people constantly bang on about attach rates. That’s exactly what the HD-DVD group said in every single interview over the last year when confronted with dwindling sales stats.

Its also funny how they have constantly gone on about offering the consumer ‘the choice’ but dont seem to want to give them ‘the choice’ of adding a Blu-ray player.

Joelteon7

On February 24, 2008 at 6:39 am

It’s also worrying when interviewers realise they’re not going to get an answer, but carry on regardless. You can tell when someone is not going to provide an answer. Asking twice, fine, but asking someone the same question five times? Bit excessive. At that point, even I would just reply with the same answer. I’m not saying what he had to say was quality, but they’ll make him to be an idiot when all they did was say the same thing too.

Phil Migrowen

On February 24, 2008 at 1:51 pm

“It’s also worrying when interviewers realise they’re not going to get an answer, but carry on regardless.”

No, it’s not worrying, it’s admirable. That’s what real journalism is: persistence for the truth through the bull P.R. spin. And, here it paid off as we didn’t get the 3% attach rate figure out of the evasive Microsoft ass until the fifth time. His continued evasiveness also basically confirms that there won’t be a Blu-ray player for the XBOX 360 from Microsoft. It will most likely wait until the next XBOX console in 2009 or hope that digital downloads make Blu-ray irrelevant.

Joelteon7

On February 24, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Persistence for the truth doesn’t mean you have to be persistent in stubborness. The 3% attach rate is something that likely would’ve been easily got from other figures. Besides, the general knowledge was that it had sold badly. Not with any particular numbers to that degree, but that wasn’t needed; the only info. needed was that of whether it failed for them or was successful.

I also fail to see how what he has said means there won’t be Blu-ray? Earlier interviews from about a month ago has let the decision be inconclusive and considering console lifespan, it’s not unreasonable to say it will happen.

Going back to the persistence; most journalists re-asking a question is 99% of the time later found out to be due to them stalling for time. The interviewers usually know after the first question (sometimes before) how much info. they’ll get.

As for ‘bull P.R’ spin, every company does that. The only company of the big three that needn’t is Nintendo, whilst Microsoft need to say “yeah, we’re still doing well” with their material and Sony to say “nah, we’re fine, leave us be”.

Phil Migrowen

On February 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

“Persistence for the truth doesn’t mean you have to be persistent in stubborness.”

Find a literate adult to introduce you to a dictionary because you have no understanding of the word persistence.

“The 3% attach rate is something that likely would’ve been easily got from other figures.”

No, fool, the only reason we got the figure out of that Microsoft is because he felt pressured to divulge it by the relentless interviewer.

“Besides, the general knowledge was that it had sold badly. Not with any particular numbers to that degree”

But, now the public has definitive confirmation to that speculation thanks to the persistence of this interviewer.

“I also fail to see how what he has said means there won’t be Blu-ray?”

This interview certainly leads to that conclusion as this Microsoft exec had plenty of opportunity to hedge his statements about the possibility of such a Blu-ray player but didn’t even acknowledge the possibility. That is a significant departure from Microsoft’s earlier statements.

“considering console lifespan, it’s not unreasonable to say it will happen.”

Considering the previous XBOX’s lifespan of only four years coupled with the high rate of hardware failure on the XBOX 360 and the PS3′s recent resurgence from the dead, and it is most likely that Microsoft will abandon the XBOX 360 in the fourth quarter of 2009 for the next version to try to stay ahead of Sony. It would also give Microsoft a major new platform on which to push DirectX 10 as Vista has failed to take hold partly because XBOX 360 ports to the PC don’t need it.

“most journalists re-asking a question is 99% of the time later found out to be due to them stalling for time.”

You obviously have no actual knowledge of journalism, and unlike you I don’t need to make up a statistic to prove it.

“The interviewers usually know after the first question (sometimes before) how much info. they’ll get.”

Sure they have expectations, but the very reason why good journalists persist and rephrase and reask questions is to put pressure on the person being interviewed to be more forthcoming. The first answer is not the whole story. It’s just the beginning.

“As for ‘bull P.R’ spin, every company does that.”

I didn’t say Microsoft was alone in that. My point is that the only way to cut through it is persistence as this interviewer did.

Joelteon7

On February 24, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I like how you criticise half of my points by attacking me. I’m simply not going to respond to that kind of attitude, nor a ‘holier-than-thou’ one you are presenting. I will however reply to the ones you’ve put a decent argument up for without resulting to petty insults,

“But, now the public has definitive confirmation”
That is indeed true. However as I said, it’s likely the information could’ve been recovered from elsewhere, such as NPD. This is certainly a quicker and cheaper option!

“This interview certainly leads to that conclusion as this Microsoft exec had plenty of opportunity to hedge his statements about the possibility of such a Blu-ray player but didn’t even acknowledge the possibility. That is a significant departure from Microsoft’s earlier statements.”

To be fair though, that’s mostly down to interpretation, just like my comment. A radicle departure doesn’t mean too much though. It could be to shake us up, to go “oh, we were never expecting that” upon a release of such peripheral. It could be as you suggested though. At this stage, it’s hard to tell just who of us is accurate. Perhaps neither of us are!

“Considering the previous XBOX’s lifespan of only four years coupled with the high rate of hardware failure on the XBOX 360 and the PS3′s recent resurgence from the dead, and it is most likely that Microsoft will abandon the XBOX 360 in the fourth quarter of 2009 for the next version to try to stay ahead of Sony. It would also give Microsoft a major new platform on which to push DirectX 10 as Vista has failed to take hold partly because XBOX 360 ports to the PC don’t need it.”

Hmm, I don’t think it’d be prudent to judge MS on their previous console. It joined late, it didn’t have very good share in the system…both of those have changed now. They may push it for considerably longer, so long as there is long-term profit and considering the mechanical issues are on a decrease and profit is on an up, if they deem it economically viable, I’m fairly certain they’d go for it. This IS MS we’re talking about afterall. That is one alley we can judge on from past experience.

“to put pressure on the person being interviewed to be more forthcoming”

Most developers and publishers will know of the characters likely to interview them, so there’s a reciprocal piece of expectation right there. There’s also the changing of NDAs in terms of what information can be revealed at what point. Some may end up being contradictory to previous information, for example. As such, I think the first answer is likely just the beginning, but if they can’t give more than that, they can’t give more than that and no amount of re-phrasing is going to get an answer. See my above comment in my previous reply about that (and yeah, the number is a bit off, but it’s an exaggeration to make a point, one I don’t feel you got).

“I didn’t say Microsoft was alone in that. My point is that the only way to cut through it is persistence as this interviewer did.”

Fair enough. However if my full sentence was digested, you’d see I was clearly saying what kind of spin we’d be expecting. With that in mind, we can pretty much guess what the spinning is. Persistence does help in some cases, but in this one, don’t really see it happening. We got a figure which could’ve been obtained anyhow and I don’t really think it was worth it, unless the interviewer purposefully wanted to make Mr. Schappert seem like an idiot, which may or may not have been a hope.

If you reply to this, which I hope you do because you raised some good points, please do not presume you know my character from so many lines of text on a gaming news website. To call someone else a fool and ignorant and be ignorant of that person is a worse offence than that of which you accuse.

somewhat

On February 24, 2008 at 6:18 pm

@ Joelteon7
You’ll come to realise that that mig fella above usually only responds with insults. He does try to make a point from time to time, but usually includes some personal attacks to help justify his comments. He goes away for a while, but always ends up coming back to hurl a few more insults to aid his opinions. Which usually ends up doing the opposite, but he seems incapable of realising this. :roll: