Aaron Greenberg, group product manager for Xbox and Xbox Live, has been drawing comparisons between Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s rival online offering. He said that Xbox Live pricing wasn’t an issue and that PSN needed more work.
Speaking to Geoff Keighley on the latest episode of Gametrailers’ Bonus Round, Greenberg (pictured) said that Microsoft’s decision to charge for Xbox Live in comparison to Sony’s free online service wasn’t an issue.
“To me I don’t think price is a big issue. I really think that if you look at Live almost everything we offer is free.”
“Yeah but you’re creating your friends list, messaging…. instant messaging, you get a good 80% of the Live experience for free…we feel our multiplayer offering is good value at 50 buck a year.”
Greenberg reasoned that if pricing was an issue, why would more than half of the 6 million plus Xbox Live users be paying the premium annual subscription fee. He hinted the number of Gold registered users could be as high as 5 million.
When asked whether paying for the service would prove a barrier to Microsoft’s ambitions to target a wider demographic and broaden the appeal of Xbox, Greenberg was evasive and made a comment that had the studio in rapture briefly.
“I think you get what you pay for, There’s no hacking, cheating, grieving. Well, not any more.”
The Xbox executive wasn’t all Sony-bashing as you might expect. He said that the fact that Sony was focusing on online gaming itself was the main thing in its favor, even if the PlayStation Network still needed a lot of work.
“Well first, the fact that they are investing online validates what we believe is really important to the space and to grow gaming… We feel if online matters to you you’re going to vote with our console because we feel we have the best online offering but I would say their commitment is probably the most important thing.
“It’s not a unified service so if I’m playing Resistance for example and a friend of mine is in the dashboard, I can’t invite him into the game… unifying that across all the games and the dash, there’s not that consistent experience. It’s not built into the core platform which is something for us which is very important.”
Greenberg also said that leveraging the digital distribution of media content was a key part of Microsoft’s strategy and that he was surprised that Sony wasn’t further ahead in this respect either.
“I’m somewhat surprised that Sony hasn’t done that considering they have that stuff in-house.”
He then offered PSN faint praise.
“I like their store. It’s different… It’s more like being on a web page so to me it’s a little slower and a little harder to navigate because of that but visually its familiar.”
“I think the original PS1 games. I think bringing those back makes sense, it’s in their library.”
On the topic of future enhancements to Xbox Live and whether it would be opened up to more closely resemble a service like YouTube where players could really get creative with games in the same way that PS3 users are hoping to do with Little Big Planet, Greenberg said work was in progress. He was vague about a timeframe however.
“You’re talking about creating a map on your PC and customizing it and uploading it. Well, there are some challenges there. I think one is that we want to make sure there’s no way to mod or cheat or hack in a way that would make it unfair… The other thing is you run into intellectual property issues."
“The key is to take this huge audience… we know there are this many people making TV shows and movies and …to do the same thing for gaming. To bring that into the console experience is something that we very much want to do. We’re looking at it and coming up with solutions right now… I think it could come as early as this fall but the exact time frames of that…”
View the entire episode here.