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Interview with Chee Chew

image Microsoft held a Games for Windows Launch Event in San Francisco on January 23rd, 2007. It gave the press and some of the Microsoft MVPs a hands-on look at Vista, DirectX 10, the new Games for Windows brand, and some of the upcoming games that have been built with Games for Windows in mind. Some of the games included Supreme Commander, Crysis, World in Conflict, Age of Conan, Shadowrun and Uno, as well as casual games from Microsoft that ship with Vista. One upcoming feature is Games for Windows Live, which is the Xbox Live experience brought to the PC. I had the opportunity to interview Chee Chew, General Manager of Xbox Live for Windows, and was able to get a better idea of what this was all about.

Interview with Chee Chew, General Manager, Xbox Live for Windows at Microsoft, by Kester

Transcription of an interview conducted January 23rd, 2007 at the Games for Windows Launch Event in San Francisco

Chee Chew Kester: I'm here today with Chee Chew. Could you start by telling us what you do at Microsoft?

Chew: I manage the team that's bringing Xbox Live over to Windows - Games for Windows Live.

Kester: How soon is this going to be made public?

Chew: Come out to the world? Well we're demoing here the real running code for connecting to Live, but you'll see it available for consumers to purchase in the games Shadowrun and Halo in the next couple of months. We haven't announced specific dates, but they'll be coming out within a few months.

Kester: Is this something that will be available on a game-by-game basis?

Chew: For now, we'll focus first on making it available within the games, Halo, Shadowrun, Uno, Marble, and then as far as the vision long term, you'll be out of game, so that you can have a client that runs always, even if you're not playing a game, and you can be invited to it and be connected to that community.

Kester: How does this relate to the Xbox 360? If a game is cross-platform will you be able to play and find your friends there?

Chew: Yes, it's one service. So everyone who's on Live is connected to the same service, whether you're on PC or connected to the console on Xbox. So on your account, you can log in to either. You can matchmake and find a game, and play against either. And it will be up to the publishers and developers whether they implement the cross-platform play or not. So for Shadowrun, they're implementing cross-platform play, you can play it right there on the (event) floor, and have a good game of PC's with mouse and keyboard playing against console with controller.

Kester: So if you have a gold subscription to Xbox Live, that carries over to G4W Live?

Chew: If you have a membership to the service, it's a membership over the entire service. If you have a gold membership, it's gold everywhere.

Kester: I can see a lot more PC players making the move then, if they can use the same membership on both platforms.

Chew: Hopefully, and what we understand is that the majority of people who play games on the console, on the 360, are dual gamers, so they also play on the PC. So we hope that for those people, they'll also now be able to enjoy gaming on Live on their PCs. And they can add to their gamerscore on either.

Kester: Do you think that cross-platform games are the wave of the future? Because, as far as RTS games goes, BFME2 is available on the 360 and PC, and the upcoming C&C3 will be the same way. Those games are available on both platforms, even though players on one can't play against players on the other.

Chew: Yes, I think what a lot of people are realizing is that a huge part of gaming is social, and the need to be connected to people. MMOs are popular hugely because of the guild, and the friends that you have. A game like Uno is popular because you connect and you chat with other people. So if you connect cross-platform, you have more people to play with. And I think as people understand that appeal of having the social connection as you're gaming, then people will realize that cross-platform, multi-platform, is more and more important.

Kester: Do you have to have Vista to have Live on your PC? Can you use it with XP or older operating systems?

Chew: Right now, the titles that we're working on - Halo and Shadowrun for early on - they've chosen to be Vista only. And so, as a result, Live has chosen to be Vista only for now. We're definitely evaluating XP. XP is a huge install base right now, so if games and titles want to go XP, that's something that we'll consider.

Kester: As far as older games, is that up to the publisher or the original developer to decide if they want to make it available on Live?

Chew: Yes, if a developer wants to update their game and bring it to the Live system, that's something we'd help them with, so we'd support that.

Kester: Is there anything else you'd like to tell a community of PC gamers about this new service?

Chew: The PC gaming service, in my opinion, right now is tailored for a lot of hardcore gamers. People love it with the systems they have, but one of the things I worry about with PC gaming as it is today is that it's less approachable for a new player, someone who's not as technically savvy, and/or who's not as good in a game at this point in time - they're learning. And it can be kind of a brutal environment sometimes. It doesn't need to be. What we're trying to do for Live is encourage and still facilitate the strength of the PC environment, but also enlarge it so it's more addressable to people who aren't as hardcore, or who potentially are great gamers, but aren't as technically savvy. We just want to open the environment up, and that's our goal with it.

Kester: OK, thanks for your time!

After the recorder was turned off, Chew continued sharing his vision for the possibilities of cross-platform play of Xbox 360 and PC. Imagine a game with a battalion leader in an RTS game on the PC, able to look at the battlefield as a whole, and able to deploy troops playing in an FPS environment on their consoles, all communicating via Live. This could definitely open up new possibilities for gameplay!

Additional event photographs