WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!
I'm Albert Penello, and I'm the senior director of global marketing. We have long titles.
WP: You've got possibly the longest title for a console, the Xbox 360 Modern Warfare 2 Limited Edition, which was just announced. Amazingly, you left the word "Elite" off of it. For $399, you get a custom-designed Xbox, two controllers, a copy of the game, and the standard accessories. Why Modern Warfare 2? What was it about that game that inspired Microsoft to debut the 250GB hard drive with the game bundle?
AP: We don't do these things that often. We did it once for Halo; when Halo 3 came out, we did something like this. You know, it's hard to say. It's a matter of the right time, it's a matter of the right game. We knew this was going to be a huge game, we'd already done one for Halo once before, we knew that a game like this attracts an audience that's really big on PDLC and downloading content. We had an opportunity to work with Infinity Ward, and they were interested in doing it. It's funny; I wish that I could say there was something more scientific than that, but it was just a great opportunity and they're great to work with, so we decided to do it.
WP: Call us nosy, but we were looking at the box, and in the fine print on the side, it said that the hard drive includes games and demos. Would the games on the hard drive just be the Hexic HD standard, or have you included some new hard drive bundles?
AP: That is a great question that I do not know the answer to! (laughs) I do not know what the image on that hard drive is.
WP: As far as the drive itself, is that going to be available separately, or is this something that's specifically exclusive to the bundle?
AP: I don't think we've decided yet, so there are no plans. Right now, it's going to be exclusive to the console.
WP: What goes into making a custom design? You had mentioned the previous Halo bundle, but you're looking at the Modern Warfare 2 console, and it's not the standard white or the standard black. It's kind of a nifty gray, it's got some sketch designs and drawings on it to go with a console. How do you decide what looks cool and what doesn't?
AP: Well, you work with a creative team like Infinity Ward. Once you decide you're going to do something like this and they're interested, you let the creative people go to work. We let our designers and the Infinity Ward designers work together, and it just ends up being a back-and-forth about what we can manufacture and what looks good. It ends up being a pretty fun, artistic process, and then you land on something that's balanced and something that we can make. You know, what you can make on 2-D artwork versus actually manufacturing with the curves and things like that, which is why our manufacturing team and the artists at Infinity Ward work together. It's just a really collaborative process.
WP: For the more techie Xbox fans out there, Microsoft is known for tweaking with the internals. Does the Modern Warfare 2 Elite console have Jasper inside, or is it yet a new motherboard revision?
AP: I don't know. I'm pretty sure it's the standard console that we're shipping now.
WP: You've described what goes into a successful design. How many bad ideas came out of this one? What did some of those initial designs look like?
AP: You know, it's funny. There was actually a different design before this that I would say was a lot "louder." Let's just put it that way. I'll just go with that, "louder."
WP: Does this also mean that we'll be seeing other possible accessories to match those colors, like Live Vision camera or a Natal camera in the new gray? Or is the new color specifically for the console and bundled accessories?
AP: It's actually the same black as an Elite.
WP: It must be all the green lighting here! Aside from the console, why such a big involvement with Modern Warfare 2 in the Call of Duty series? I know Microsoft is known for putting a lot of weight behind its own franchises or even second-party titles, but going for a third-party title to this degree is a little outside the norm, isn't it?
AP: It's interesting if that's your perception. There have been a lot of games — I think every platform has games that people feel are associated with their console. For us, you could go back to games like Splinter Cell and things like that. I think Call of Duty is one of those games that we've always felt was sort of associated with us. You know, Call of Duty 2 was a launch title, and Call of Duty's always been a big franchise. It's always been at the top for Live users. I don't think we thought about those party lines when we thought about doing this. We thought it would be the right customer, the right kind of content. It's going to be a huge game, and we like celebrating the big franchises.
WP: So that's what it comes down to? It's just a really cool game, so let's make a kick-ass console?
AP: You know, it's funny. In some ways, with the bigger hard drive and the Live play, and we know that we're going to get the first two maps first on Xbox, and the timing was right. We wanted to do something cool, and they wanted to do something cool, and that's how it happens.
WP: Going back to the normal, standard consoles. The price drop happened recently. How has that been working out?
AP: The numbers that we've seen have been great. I don't think that we've disclosed anything publicly, but I think the results that we've seen have been really, really good.
WP: In terms of colors and branding, with the new Modern Warfare console, two of the standard SKUs will be black, and only the Arcade will be white. Was it intentional to move the default color from white to black, or is that something that just happened?
AP: We still think of white as our primary color, and I still think that now at this time, you're going to find a pretty even mix of customers, between people who are buying the Arcade and people who are buying the Elite. This SKU is only going to be out for the holidays, so I don't really think that we're going to shift the perception that much. I just think it's an easier thing to differentiate now. I like that we have a simpler value proposition for people so that there's a low-end without and a higher-end with, and it's just a lot cleaner for new people coming in who are thinking about buying an Xbox.
WP: So when you say "Limited," it really is limited just for the holidays. It's not the "limited edition" that we see with some games, where it's still out months and months after the launch.
AP: We did one run, and honestly, I don't know what the numbers are off the top of my head. With something like this, we work with retail. They give us an order, we say we're going to do one run, and we do one run, and that's it. We manufactured these, we're going to sell them, and then that's it. Once they're gone, they're gone.
WP: Is it available day and date with the game?
AP: Yup, day and date. November 10th.
WP: Aside from the game and hardware, is there anything else that will be included in the bundle? Some DLC codes, perhaps? Or is it strictly the hardware that was announced earlier?AP: The hardware, the two controllers, the game and the headset.
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