I recently got to ask some questions of the author of ‘The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft’s Next-Generation Video Game Console’ and ‘Opening the Xbox: Inside Microsoft’s Plan to Unleash an Entertainment Revolution’, Dean Takahashi.
KLind: How early in the process did you begin writing The Xbox 360:
Dean Takahashi: I began collecting material during the spring of 2002, just after my first
book was published. But I didn’t know if it would turn into another book. I
kept my notes. By the spring of 2005, I was actively pitching publishers and
Microsoft to do a book. They all turned me down. Then I landed my current
publisher in August, 2005. I went back to Microsoft in October and talked to
Peter Moore in Amsterdam. He approved it. But my first interviews didn’t
come until December. Then I had to start writing furiously, interviewing
people by day and writing by night.
KL: When taking on a project like this book, how much time did you spend
interviewing people, and did you have to travel far to do so?
DT:I can’t remember now. I did much of the work while working at the Mercury
News, where I covered the game business on a daily basis. I took some days
off. I went to conferences such as the DICE Summit in Las Vegas and the X05
event in Amsterdam on my own time and dime. I didn’t make it to Japan,
though I would have loved to go. Where I couldn’t go to the events, I relied
on news reports from those who did go.
KL: Can you ever see yourself writing a book about a different console?
DT:Yes, but it depends on the access. So far, the Japanese console makers have
turned me down. The language barrier doesn’t help as I don’t speak Japanese.
KL: Do you feel that Microsoft missed an opportunity by not including
Motion Sensing, and can you see them ever creating a controller that
does for the 360?
DT: I think that motion sensing is a good step forward, but it’s not the only
change that will come in the user interface for games. There are plenty of
other advances that they could try to capitalize on in the future as we make
our way toward the Star Trek Holodeck.
KL: Do you think that with the praise Nintendo has been getting with the
Wii console, there is any way that it can fail.
DT:If gamers don’t like the GameCube 1.5 graphics, then it will fail.
Nintendo’s biggest mistake may have been its failure to support
high-definition graphics at all. I don’t know if the graphics will wow
KL: With the Zune being unveiled, do you think that we’ll see the
Microsoft Game Handheld anytime soon?
DT:I know we won’t see a game handheld this year. But it makes sense to do a
family of devices with Zune, or maybe a game brand.
KL: Do you think that Gears of War can make a big enough impact to get
gamers to pay more attention to it, compared to the PS3 (which are
launching 5 days apart).
DT:I think it could be the biggest game of the season. It has some tough
competitors in titles such as Resistance Fall of Man. But we’ll wait until
we see them.
KL: With the downsizing of E3, game development costing millions (which
doesn’t always translate to sales), and new consoles and games getting
priced higher and higher, do you think that the industry is in trouble?
Do you think it’s possible we’ll see it crash again?
DT:I think that parts of the industry are in trouble. But look at the growth in
cell phone games, online games such as World of Warcraft, and casual games
on web sites such as Pogo.com. That’s where there is plenty of growth in
gaming that is expanding the gamer market.
KL: The XNA announcement was a surprising one allowing people to make
there own games for the Live Marketplace. Do you think that many games
will actually make it onto the Marketplace?
DT:I think the chances are small. But a new Tetris could come from anybody.
KL: Sticking with the Marketplace theme, while looking to the future, do
you think that VelocityGirl will ever be able to sell her clothes to
eager buyers? And could you see a feature like that being introduced
within the next year?
DT: I think that’s what Bill Gates hopes will be the end game for the Xbox
consoles. I don’t know if they will get there anytime soon.
KL: With all the negative press that the 360 got in the beginning
(shortages, overheating, the power brick), is the mainstream beginning
to accept it? (The reason I ask is because 4 out of 5 times I mention
the 360 to people, I get the same response “Yeah, I hear those all blow
DT:I think the backlash of lack of consoles is over. They did lose a lot of
opportunities, but they are likely to cash in if Nintendo and Sony have
KL: With the success of “I Love Bee’s” do you think Microsoft will use
Viral Marketing again for Halo 3 (or any other of the big titles)?
DT:I’m confident that they will use it, but sparingly. It takes special people
and creativity to come up with those campaigns.
KL: You mentioned that you wanted to do an update to The Xbox 360
Uncloaked. What format would this be in, and do you have any idea when
we’ll be seeing it?
DT:I think the first thing we’ll see is an edition with some corrections and a
new cover. After that, it will be based on demand. I’m prepared to write it
if the market demands it. I expect it would include information that is as
current as I can make it.