Interview with Microsoft’s Andrew Jenkins

Almost 4 years ago, Microsoft released the Xbox 360, their second video game system that has since thrown down some fierce competition to residents Nintendo & Sony.

A few months ago, Microsoft pushed the Xbox even further with the release of the “New Xbox Experience,” a software upgrade that aimed to push the Xbox in a way that made everything friendlier and allowed you to connect to the games community in a way you previously couldn’t.

Some people haven’t made the move yet so we had a chat to Xbox Australia’s Andrew Jenkins to see why you should…

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(transcript below)

Andrew Jenkins (AJ): It’s a software update that really reinvents the Xbox 360 from the inside out, making it more approachable, adding a ton of new features, just really adding some great visuals, and just making it an experience that everybody’s going to be able to enjoy.  For instance if you want to play games, obviously we’ve got one of the best gaming consoles on the market with five hundred plus games available as well a whole bunch that you can download directly to your Xbox 360.

But we also have the ability to watch movies, to pause and play live TV, to connect with your friends, to share photos. You know social networking is a huge phenomenon over PC as you see right now. You’ve got products out there like Facebook and MySpace; well you can do similar stuff on your Xbox 360. Where I can share photos with my friends, my family all over the globe and  share those great experiences. I could be video chatting,  I could sit there and have a conversation basically with anybody at any time from my living room. It’s fantastic.

Leigh Stark (LS): I’m curious about the “pause” and “play” TV thing, because I didn’t actually think my Xbox could do that.

AJ: Ah, well see that’s actually something that the Xbox allows you to do and the way that it allows you to do that is most people have a PC in their house, and through connecting to your PC through the Media Extender, you’re actually able to record live TV. So you see a lot of devices out there right now, digital recording devices that allow you to the exact same thing that the Xbox 360’s going to allow you to do. Now it does require a connection to your PC, but the great thing is that opens up a whole world of other possibilities. Being able to get any of your media that you may have stored on your Xbox or your PC and share them in your living room.

I showed someone how to set it up just yesterday and it took me all of maybe a minute just to plug in the simple eight digit code  that it tells me what the code is. All of a sudden, I’m connected up and running.

LS: That’s interesting. Tell me about the social networks side of things. I understand that people could be playing games as they talk to their friends.

AJ: Yeah, the social networking. The community over Xbox 360 is massive. We have over seventeen million members right now on Xbox Live and it’s growing by leaps and bounds every day. We practically doubled year over year on how many members that we have locally in Australia joining the Xbox Live service. What that allows you to do though, it allows you to stay connected with your friends, with the community, and take advantage of not only gaming but also being able to chat and being able to have video conversation.

So we have a feature on the Xbox 360 that allows you to plug in a camera, and you could sit there and have a video chat conversation with anybody that’s connected on the other end with an Xbox 360. In games, multiplayer games, and I happen to love playing definitely some of those more challenging shooter games–

LS: You’re a “Gears of War” fanatic, aren’t you?

AJ: (laughing) I am a “Gears of War” fanatic. But you know, there’s basically every game that launches right now on Xbox 360 has an Xbox Live component to it. So of it’s downloading new content that enhances the gaming experience and extends it into new maps and new missions or if it’s going head to head multiplayer like in a “Gears of War” match where I truly do love doing that, you know that’s all part of the Live Experience you can do. So I could chatting with my friends, and I actually find it very useful for me because I moved to Australia two years ago and I’m able to stay connected with all my friends back in the US and in Canada through the Xbox Live service.

LS: Huh, that’s cool. So basically, it’s not just a video game system. It’s become the, it’s not a replacement for the computer but it’s more the extension of the computer in the living room.

AJ: It does help you connect to your PC, but that’s just one feature of the many features that the Xbox 360 offers. You know it is your entertainment hub that connects you to all different forms of entertainment. So if I wanted to pause and record live TV, I can do that through connecting to my PC. However if I wanted to download a movie or download it a video over Xbox Live, I can do that as well. Or if I wanted to download additional game content, if I wanted to check out the latest blockbuster trailer of the upcoming “Watchmen” movie or something like that, it’s available directly from your Xbox. As long as you’re plugged into an Ethernet port, you could do it right away and it’s right there at your fingertips in your living room.

LS: I have to assume that it’s available on pretty much every Xbox that’s sold. What about the older Xbox’s?

AJ: Well so the great thing about the Xbox Experience, all you need to do need to do is plug it an Ethernet port and if you have the old Experience, it’ll automatically update to the new Experience and it’s almost instantaneous. I mean it is one of the quickest downloads I’ve ever experienced, so flawlessly and automatically does it and it’s so intuitive that it takes you right through anything that you want to experience right away.

LS: Do you need the hard drive? Because there’s still a lot of Xbox Arcades being sold.

AJ: Well the hard drive is an option. It depends on how you want to experience your Xbox 360. Personally I recommend the hard drive because there’s so much content out there and so many ways that you can take advantage of this that the hard drive and enhances that experience. So if you’re a heavy arcade gamer – which is our user friendly, smaller bite-sized games that you can download over Xbox 360 –  you may want to play games like Joust, Pac-Man, and Galaga.

LS: I’m a fan of Braid.

AJ: Oh Braid’s a phenomenal game. (laughing) I’m an absolute fan of that as well. So you can download those onto your actual hard drive and you’re going to want to do that, and obviously it sounds like you take advantage of the hard drive quite extensively.

LS: Mmm.

AJ: However you know if are just someone who wants to plug in a game and play that they bought at retail, you could definitely take advantage of the Arcade and do that as well. I will have to say though that that memory does open up a whole world of experiences over Xbox 360 that you’re definitely going to want and we recommend getting the hard drive.