Late last year we asked you for questions and we thought we'd never get answers - but now, out of the blue, Microsoft finally got back to us. I know, I know! I was as surprised as you were. Check out the answers below.
QUESTION What is Microsoft’s opinions on the hacking of the Kinect sensors? and what do they think is the best things coming out of these hacks? (that is of course, if they approve of the hacks) -Grandmaster B-Funk
ANSWER The enthusiasm we are seeing in the scientific community, specifically researcher and academic communities, around the potential applications of Kinect for Xbox 360 is exciting to see.
Recently, there has been several articles implying that Kinect for Xbox 360 has somehow been hacked, which is completely untrue. Kinect for Xbox 360 has not been hacked in any way. To put it simply, the software and hardware that forms part of Kinect for Xbox 360 have not been modified. What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to display the raw data that is output from Kinect for Xbox 360. We are perfectly comfortable with hobbyists taking advantage of that raw data to explore the exciting possibilities of Kinect for Xbox 360 for themselves. We do note, however, that any of these uses of the Kinect for Xbox 360 are not licensed or authorized by Microsoft, and any modification of the Kinect would void the warranty.
ANSWER At the time, of the disc based formats we believed HD DVD to be the superior format for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately things don't always work out as well as you'd like and obviously the content partners had the casting votes, ultimately deciding the successful technology. The HD DVD player was never included in the console because we know that primarily people buy games consoles to play games, so we always want to deliver that console at the lowest price to get you into the Xbox world. We then offer customers a range of accessories from which they can then customize their experiences to suit individual tastes. Since then Microsoft has pioneered the delivery of multi-bit rate streaming technology via our Zune Video Marketplace service. This enables 1080p high definition instant start movies straight to your console without the requirement of expensive hardware or discs to truly enable a 'future proof' delivery of that content.
QUESTION How well has Kinect been received by the 'hardcore' gamer market, and what measures are in place to ensure that high-quality (AAA) titles are made that utilise Kinect as something other than a gimmick? Furthermore, what measures are in place to ensure that the Kinect games lineup isn't flooded with 'shovelware'? -The Cracks
ANSWER The Kinect sensor is the fastest selling Xbox accessory in Xbox history - that tells us that it's been very well received by anyone and everyone that has a love of playing games, regardless of how they may classify their tastes.
There is a strong line-up of new Kinect games scheduled for release in the next 12 months and we will ensure new genres are introduced to the Kinect platform that will appeal to a variety of consumers, including our core gaming community. Kinect also offers added functionality for Xbox owners with Zune Video Marketplace. As well as a gaming experience, Xbox becomes a complete entertainment offering which people will be able to control with the wave of a hand.
QUESTION I'm interested in the 'black boxes' we keep getting to plug into our TV screens. Microsoft is only responsible for one of them, unless you count Windows-based media PCs. There seem to be so many being introduced (from TiVo through to FetchTV, GoogleTV, and our game consoles) that it would seem like people could have 10 or 15 of them alongside a TV all doing a very slightly different, but similar thing. Does MS see any future where we could have one, oh I don't know, let's call it a 'computer' next to the TV that can do all this stuff? -Adam Ruch
ANSWER We agree that consumers ideally only want the one box under their TV and not 10-15 all doing slightly different things. Our aim is to provide interactive social entertainment to the television with compelling games, movies, TV and social entertainment content. Secondly, we want to continue to increase the non-gaming functionality of our console so that it does everything that you may want a device connected to your television to deliver.
Microsoft continues to bring entertainment to the Xbox through Zune and Windows Media Centre, social networking including Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger, Video Kinect and most recently FOXTEL on Xbox 360 - delivering television and movies through the one device. We will continue to expand on this offering to integrate entertainment in the household through the Xbox and Xbox LIVE service.
QUESTION What is Microsoft doing in 2011 and onwards to improve their Games for Windows brand and what sort of commitment, if any, will we see in the development of PC games in the near future? -Serge
ANSWER Microsoft continues to invest in Games for Windows as a platform. Hopefully you have seen the recent changes to Games For Windows Live as a step in the right direction? We however have no additional announcements at this stage, but more to come into the future.
QUESTION Why do you (Microsoft) allow unrated games to be sold by indie developers to Australians on the Windows Phone marketplace, yet deny the same developers access to sell them to Australians on the XBox? The same requirement to get games rates applies to phone and XBox. -Cameron
ANSWER Without getting into a long legal discussion, let me say that Microsoft sees the Indie game market as an incredibly important one and want nothing more than to enable that for Australian consumers and developers. Mobile games and console video game classifications are actually covered under two different government acts - one by the Telecommunications Act & the other by the Classification Act. This is why you see inconsistency in content such as this today.
As it stands, our Indie Games channel works on a peer review classification system which is not consistent with the local laws and regulations. We continue to actively engage on this to find a solution in the future.
QUESTION Are there any plans to bring a play TV style device to Xbox? -James Mac
ANSWER Currently Windows Media Centre allows you to view and record live TV streamed your console. Xbox also offers live & on demand Pay TV through FOXTEL on Xbox 360
QUESTION As of this writing one Australian dollar will buy me at least 95 US Cents. One US Dollar currently buys 80 MSP so therefore it follows that One Australian Dollar should be able to buy 76 MSP, instead One Aus Dollar only buys 63 MSP.
When will Microsoft be re-evaulating the cost of Microsoft Points to Australian Consumers? -Jason Oliver
ANSWER Pricing is determined based on a variety of market factors, including but not limited to exchange rates over a period of time and local market conditions. We do re-evaluate our prices from time to time and take into account market factors when doing so.
QUESTION When is Microsoft going to allow Xbox accounts to transfer from country to country? As my account was originally setup when I was in New Zealand, but now as an immigrant to Australia I don't have the ability to set it as an Australian account. -Saruj
ANSWER We have nothing to announce at this time regarding country to country account transfers.
QUESTION We have a lot of talented people here who have little support, funding and all-round opportunity: does Microsoft have any plans to better encourage or invest in the local game/software development community? If so, are we likely to see anything substantial in the next couple of years?
Is there an underlying reason the functionality of Xbox Live account management differs from region to region? If not, is there a chance we can see a more simple and unified system? For example, automatic renewal cancellation is only available over the phone, while some regions can simply click a couple of buttons online. -AmbroseIV
ANSWER Microsoft does actively support local Australian game developers, educational institutions and government initiatives to better enable individuals to acquire the skills or resources to make their mark in the interactive entertainment field. Whether it's supplying free development kits to up and coming developers; setting up XNA game labs in universities and high schools; to free software for students; creation of easy to use tools such as KODU; development competitions such as the Imagine Cup, or working with established studios such as Krome who have developed a number of titles for Microsoft Game Studios, we like to support all elements of the ecosystem when we can.
Whilst it's not something that we discuss a lot in the press, it's something that we feel is really important - the ability to learn and create through the power of software is at the heart of what Microsoft does.
With regards to Xbox Live, each region has a unique experiences and unique demands and therefore the Australian experience is customized to our market. We will continue to develop this and welcome feedback from the community.
So that's that - it's only taken us three months, but finally we've gotten our answers. Let us know what you think in the comments below.