To millions of Xbox gamers, Larry Hryb is known as “Major Nelson,” but the Microsoft exec plays an important role at the company beyond being a public figurehead. Hryb is the Director of Xbox Programming, which allows him to use his direct access to an active Xbox community to try to deliver what they’re looking for in video game and entertainment experiences. After a rough start at its pre-E3 and E3 press conferences this summer, Hyrb did a ton of damage control with the public and has been out front in relaying Microsoft’s revisions in policy with next gen. Hryb has been crisscrossing the country leading up to the launch of Xbox One, speaking with gamers at conventions, at retail locations and at other events. The [a]list daily caught up with him to discuss what the next generation of Xbox will deliver in this exclusive interview.
What do you feel will define the next generation of games beyond better visuals?
Variety and limitless creativity. Our vision for Xbox One is to build a platform that allows creators of all sizes — from development teams of hundreds to a team of one — to bring their ideas and passions to life. Xbox One will be the home of exclusive blockbuster new IP like Ryse: Son of Rome and Titanfall, some of the most popular franchises in gaming like Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3 and Halo, and captivating new experiences and indie games like Project Spark and Below. Powered by amazing exclusive next-generation features like the cloud, Kinect, SmartGlass, Upload Studio, Game DVR, Smart Match and more, there’s no limit to the kinds of games and experiences you’ll find on Xbox One.
What role will exclusive games play for Xbox One as the next generation console battle evolves over the coming years?
Exclusive games and experiences are one of the biggest reasons for someone to choose Xbox One. We have more titles in development now than at any other time in Xbox history, including new IP, heralded blockbuster franchises and indies. Games like Titanfall, Dead Rising 3, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Motorsport 5, Quantum Break, Project Spark and Below take full advantage of exclusive platform features like the cloud, Kinect, SmartGlass and Xbox Live to fully demonstrate how Xbox One makes games better. We’re also working with the best third party developers and publishers in the world to create unique and compelling games for Xbox One because we truly believe that games are what matter most.
What role do you see original exclusive entertainment on Xbox One like the Halo television series playing in the entertainment landscape today, given the success we’ve seen with Netflix originals like Arrested Development and House of Cards and Warner Bros’ success with Mortal Kombat Legacy?
Xbox One was designed for the living room of today and the next decade. We looked not only at our vision for what a future gaming console could be, but also at usage trends and how gamers and non-gamers alike interact with their entertainment content. We then built a system that is made to evolve with the changing gaming landscape, including how and where people play games. The TV remains the premier screen for today’s consumer, and Xbox One starts there, integrating all your favorite entertainment, the TV you already have, and the mobile devices you already own.
How has the evolving gaming landscape with mobile and free to play’s growth impacted the design and development of Xbox One?
Xbox SmartGlass is a free app you can download for most iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices, and instantly turns your mobile device into an intelligent second screen so you can experience your Xbox One games, music, movies, TV shows and sports in all new interactive ways. We’re proud to have great free-to-play games for Xbox Live Gold members today on Xbox 360 such as the smash-hit World of Tanks, and we’re very excited to bring some of the biggest next generation titles into the free-to-play program on Xbox One.
What opportunities does SmartGlass open up for Xbox One entertainment?
Our vision for entertainment starts in the living room but it also integrates with smart devices you already own. We’ve seen innovative second-screen experiences created from entertainment partners on Xbox 360 for TV, movies, sports and more. With SmartGlass built in from the beginning there is a deeper level of integration with Xbox One. More devices, more control of your console and new ways to navigate. You can be on the go, hear about a movie or TV show, and queue up content by pinning it and saving it for later. Xbox SmartGlass also lets you manage your TV set-top box and Blu-ray, and search the OneGuide without interrupting your current activity.
What type of development support and innovation do you believe having the Kinect in every box will have on Xbox One games?
We believe in Kinect and its ability to revolutionize the way people interact with their games and entertainment. Putting Kinect in every box allows all Xbox One users to experience its power. It also becomes a fundamental part of every system sold. When game developers, content creators and entertainment partners can count on Kinect as a part of every Xbox One, an entire world of new experiences becomes possible.
Xbox was discontinued after Xbox 360 launched. What are your plans for Xbox 360 after Xbox One launches?
We launched an updated design for Xbox 360 to more closely resemble the design of Xbox One and we will continue to sell and support Xbox 360 after Xbox One launches. We look forward to a bright future for Xbox 360, as our best-selling console only gets better. The world’s brightest creators are continuing to bring imaginative new titles to Xbox 360 including exclusives like World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, as well as blockbuster games like Call of Duty: Ghosts, Grand Theft Auto V, Battlefield 4 and Madden NFL 25.
What did you learn from Xbox 360 gamers that you’ve applied to Xbox One when it comes to the entertainment functionality?
We know that gamers don’t want to choose between their games and entertainment. So we wanted to fuse our new gaming OS with an entertainment OS so you get the best of both worlds in one device. For example, with Snap on Xbox One you don’t have to choose between watching your favorite TV show and playing your favorite game — you can do both at the same time or choose from a wide selection of entertainment experiences while you wait for your game to fill.