Digital Distribution Is Microsoft’s Fastest-Growing Game Business

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Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s director of product management for the Xbox 360, says that digital content is the fastest-growing part of the company’s game business, a trend it will continue to push throughout the coming year.

In an interview with Eurogamer, Greenberg said consumers are beginning to embrace digital distribution on a wide scale, and that Microsoft is focusing on increasing the content and services it offers via Xbox Live in 2009. The New Xbox Experience (NXE), released in November, spurred a huge increase in Xbox Live Arcade sales and attracted large numbers of new users to the service. “We’re seeing record revenues, particularly in the U.K., of consumers spending money on digital content,” Greenberg said. “It’s quickly become the fastest-growing portion of our business. I think that will continue to accelerate at a rapid pace.”

“I wouldn’t even isolate it to games,” he continued. “I would also remind you that we have a massive team focused on innovation. The same team that built the New Xbox Experience is bringing in all types of new experiences to consumers in 2009. I can safely say that if you’re an Xbox 360 owner today, you will end 2009 with a whole slew of new features, new content, new partners, new games that today you don’t know about.”

One of those features will be Primetime, a “virtual game show” that will allow gamers to compete online for real prizes. Primetime was originally slated to launch with the NXE, but was pushed back into 2009. Greenberg said the addition of Primetime will be a “significant update” but didn’t offer a specific release date, saying only that it’s expected in the spring. “The great benefit of the design is that we’re able to add new features, new channels and things like that pretty quickly,” he said. “So yeah, you’ll see us do more regular updates throughout the year.”

If the growth of digital distribution in 2009 matches Greenberg’s enthusiasm it will be a strong endorsement of Microsoft’s commitment to downloaded content as the wave of the future. In March 2008, Microsoft’s Chris Lewis said that despite the triumph of Blu-ray over HD-DVD, the company had no immediate plans to release a Blu-ray device for the Xbox 360. “My own view is very clear and I know it’s shared by other people in Microsoft is that the future’s digital downloads now,” he said at the time. “The broadband proliferation is amazing – people’s appetite to download movies through Video Marketplace is a testament to that. The future is about people taking their digital content on an online rather than physical media.”

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