did you decide on the gamertag Major Nelson?
That's one of things I
get a lot of questions on. Really what happened was I have been at
Microsoft for many years, when I came over to the Xbox team I was talking
to my manager and he said we really want you to come up with a gamertag
that people can contact you on and communicate with. I went home that
night and my Tivo recommended "I dream of Jeanie" (the 60s series). I
started watching it and I realized this guy has a really cool life -
because he was an astronaut (one of the cooler jobs on the planet), he is
a single guy living on the beach and keeps his woman in a bottle. So I
realized I am going to be working in video games which is kind of like the
astronaut of the next generation so I thought this was perfect.
changes were made to Xbox live to accommodate the new console?
We made a lot of
changes. We completely rebuilt the backend to accommodate both the Xbox
360 and the Xbox consoles. To be clear, they talk to the same service.
When you log-in, we are able to dissect whether you are on a Xbox or Xbox
360. So we rebuilt the service from the ground up to allow a much more
robust offering. It's obvious when you look at the Xbox 360 and you see
the achievements and how you can go up online and view those achievements.
In addition to building up the base service (the matchmaking and private
list), we also built up this entire concept of these achievements and the
gamer score and brought these to the web. Really, it was an entire redo.
The beauty of having a
centralized service like Xbox Live is that we can push down updates
are your favorite games to play on Xbox 360?
My all-time favorite
so far is Kameo. That was a game that really wasn't on my list to do when
I got my Xbox 360, and then I started playing it and got totally sucked
in. Kameo is on the top 5. Of course, Perfect Dark Zero has great
multiplayer achievements. When you are playing on Xbox Live, you can
actually unlock some cool achievements when you are playing against your
buddy so that one is great. Need for Speed: Most Wanted that one is just
beyond addicting. I think I am only up to the 8th or 9th of the black
list. Project Gotham Racing 3, I am not into racing very much because I am
not very good at because I go into the first turn and crash into the wall,
so I play the whole game catching up. All of the EA games look fantastic.
I just got my hands on a copy of Full Auto so I need to take a look at
that one now.
long before May 12, 2005 was the actual name for Xbox 360 chosen? Can you
share any of the names that weren't chosen?
I don’t know any of
the names that were chosen. That was actually a closely guarded secret. I
only found literally a day and half or two days before we announced the
name publicly. There was only a small group of people who were aware of
the name. I had heard it was one of the names that were being considered.
I just dismissed it until the name was finalized. There were a lot of
folks who knew about much further in advance, like J Allard. He probably
would have told me if I would have asked but I didn’t want to know! I just
wanted to keep focusing on doing my job.
was your experience at the launch event "Zero Hour" like?
It was great. The
event was in Palmdale in the middle of the desert. It was great because it
was an event for gamers and it wasn't a real press event or anything, it
was primarily for gamers. To hang out with some of the gamers for a day
and a half it was really nice to meet so many people and to see their
excitement. Then when the Best Buy trucks rolled into the venue and threw
the backs open and see the Xbox 360s come out - it was really a once in
the lifetime opportunity.
you been working with the Microsoft Xbox MVPs in the development of the new
Xbox Live service for Xbox 360?
Absolutely. In fact,
we have essentially doubled the MVP program from when I started. I think
we brought them out here in April 2004. We really sat down with them and
asked them what they would look for, etc. One of the key areas that you
can see a major part of their influence is on the Xbox forums, on
forums.xbox.com. So over there we've got this concept of the gamer card is
displayed in line - where people are actually posting under their gamer
tag. Not only that, we have this concept of "community rebel" where the
your status is not just related to post counts but a variety of things.
That is one area where you can see the MVP fingerprints all over it. They
also met with many other members with the staff. The reputation system
where when you are playing against other players where you can give them
reputations is another area they gave us a lot of feedback on.
were some of your responsibilities you had in preparing for a successful
launch of Xbox 360?
As of the director of
Xbox Live programming my job is one of the coolest because I can focus on
a lot of the things I like to do. One of the areas I focused on is really
taking the feedback from the community and funneling it back into the
product group. That was one of my main responsibilities. Also, keeping
exciting new programs going like the Mystery Gamer, so on, etc. So its
really about taking what the community is saying and bringing it back -
bridging the gap and then going to to the product group and taking what
they are saying back to the community. So I'm shuttling information back
and forth and that's one of the reasons I use my blog at majornelson.com
to use that as a way to distribute information. That was one of one of my
responsibilities was to keep in touch with the community.
you feel about the new Xbox Live subscription options?
I feel great. The fact
of the matter is there is only one more, which is a free subscription.
Those who were on the original Xbox Live go over to a gold subscription.
If you didn’t have that now you get a free subscription and if you are not
interested in playing multiplayer you can still have access to the Xbox
Live Marketplace, download arcade games, etc. Its really a win-win.
do you say to those folks that say there was a Microsoft sanctioned Xbox 360
I would say it's
entirely wrong. Trust me, there is a no reason for us to create a
shortage. We had a 3rd manufacturer online recently to ease of getting
your hands on a Xbox 360 and supply is now coming in at 3 times more
than it was during holiday.
do you think Microsoft has done better this time around with Xbox 360 after
having 4 years experience with the previous console?
Of course I am biased
to Xbox Live. I think Live is much better. It's so pervasive now, the fact
that we created the concept of the dashboard and how it sits next to the
game so it is always accessible (one button away). I think we took a lot
of what people wanted from Xbox Live and brought it into Xbox 360 and its
so seamless, its like "why didn’t we think of this before." Absolutely,
how people want to access Live, and the things they want to do with Live
and we put that into the Xbox 360.
the planning stages of the new Xbox Live were there some items that you wanted
to put into the new service but couldn’t get in by launch time?
Absolutely. There is a
list on my wall I am looking at right now that I wont talk about because I
don't want the competitors to steal the ideas. (laughs) But, we definitely
have many, many things we want to do with Xbox Live in making it the best
online experience in gaming on the planet. So, while I can't tell you what
they are there is a long list of things we are going to do. And we are
listening to the community - so we are going to reprioritize based on what
we are hearing.
you feel the community is embracing the Xbox 360 so far?
I think they are doing
a fantastic job. As you alluded earlier, I wish more people will get their
hands on the Xbox 360 - and they will, but I really enjoy what the
community has done with the data that we have on the web with the
achievements, etc. I think they really have embraced it and as I said
earlier we are always listening to the community and we want to do what we
can do to bring the community in as a part of it. Xbox Live is just a
service - it's the people on the service that really make Xbox Live
exciting. I have 99 friends on my friends list, I love going online every
night and always having someone to play with whether they are in Boston,
Japan or in Pittsburgh. With Xbox Live we have really tightened up the
What do you
think of Halo 3?
For Halo 3…let’s just
say we’re very excited to what Bungie will do with the Xbox 360.
What do you
think of E3 2006?
It’s all about
momentum. We’ll have 10-Million consoles in gamers hands by the end of
this year, and we’ll be well into our second generation of titles. It’s a
fantastic time to be an Xbox 360 owner!
Interesting Xbox Live Statistic:
Here is this past weeks Xbox Live Top 10
list (based on users playing):
1 Halo 2
2 Call of Duty 2
3 Ghost Recon 3
7 MotoGP 06 Demo
9 EA SPORTS™ Fight Night Round 3
10 Lost Planet Demo
Note: Number 8 is 'PlayOnline Viewer' which
means ‘Final Fantasy XI.’
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