Ben Smith, Director of Program Management for XBox Live, discussed how the XBox 360 team learned about the importance of virtual goods and Avatar.
Ben took us back to 2006 and talked about a console game, Oblivion, which is one of the best rated games in the XBox 360 library. The first downloadable content available for the game was armor for the horse, and Ben pointed out how users really rejected this idea in theory, asking why anyone would want useless horse armor?
However, it sold 6 figures the first year and continued growing even to today, and people will buy digital goods even if it doesn’t have intrinsic value to the game. People buy stuff because it’s fun to buy. It was interesting to see this coming around from the traditional XBox side, as everyone arrived at this lesson.
He theorized that people are “still developing their digital-value instincts”. He then explained that a big area of development and learning for XBox was the $1 Billion in sales for Rock Band and Guitar Hero, each. In 2008-2009, downloads of songs for Rock Band topped the rest of the top 10 combined.
Next lesson was the map pack lesson. 25% of players purchased the Halo 3 map pack a year after the launch of Halo 3. When Modern Warfare 2 released their first map pack Over a billion points were spent on map packs, and it was the biggest day of online digital content sales of all time for XBox. The release of the pack was one of the biggest console launches of the year, and it was all digital.
Ben next discussed how Microsoft introduced their Avatars and were very curious about the idea of taking the Avatars outside of the game into the system structure itself. When Ben first discussed this, a number of developers that came up to him and said “You just killed 360.” However, Ben and team progressed, and while hardcore players were leery but eventually wanted to use it to personalize their online selves. It was a big lesson for Microsoft.