Stephen Baker

The Boost
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X-box Live: Where does it fit into "friends" series?

April 25, 2009Tribes

Talked the other day with Marc Whitten, general manager of Microsoft's Xbox division. This was for my BusinessWeek reporting on Friendship. Xbox seemed relevant, because 20 million people play on the live version, most of them searching, meeting, and playing with friends of one type or another.

There are two approaches to friend-finding on Xbox. One is to find people all over the world to compete with. That was the initial focus, Whitten says. But his team has learned that a larger and richer market features people who just want to hang out with friends they already have. They may be down the block or across an ocean from each other.

In these meetings,  the players often have unequal skills. This has led to a growth in non-competitve games. People play on the same team. Whitten does this with his brother in Oklahoma. Otherwise, he says, he'd blow him away. After all, the guy lives Xbox.

I was hoping to learn that Microsoft was crunching all the Xbox Live conversation and friending data to find out about hierarchies and networks of friends. That's not the focus, though. They're less interested in learning about people than simply helping them find and play with their friends.

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