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Microsoft: Xbox Live users are "growing up", digital won't kill off physical games

"We're seeing more families involved - core gamers are having kids."

The increasing popularity of digital games won't dramatically affect sales of boxed releases, Xbox Live product manager Pav Bhardwaj has told OXM - some customers will continue to prefer buying on disc, particularly when it comes to those eye-catching special editions.

"I don't genuinely believe that there will be more digital and less physical product," Bhardwaj told us in an interview. "I actually think the entire market will grow. I think there's room for both - there's a certain type of customer who really wants a physical product, because who doesn't want those steelbook limited editions? I think everybody wants those. And there's a certain kind of customer who will also want the digital.

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"So I think there's room for both, and it's our job to grow with the entire industry going forward, and offer people who want a certain product a certain way, that particular product in that way, and for people who want a physical product, to carry on buying that."

Xbox Live's audience is ageing, Bhardwaj added - buyer tastes are being shaped as much by this as by technological change. "I can't really talk numbers or actual detail, but we actually are seeing the entire breadth of the Xbox customer base growing. It kind of ranges from that young customer all the way up - we're seeing more families involved, core gamers are growing up and having kids, who are now enjoying the Xbox 360.

"So it's really moving on with the customers we had originally, they're carrying on - I think they're also going to buy the Xbox One, and keep the Xbox 360 maybe in a bedroom somewhere. We're just seeing it expand."

It would be nice to think that age corresponds to better behaviour, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the "adult" among us are just as liable to misbehave as the young 'uns. Microsoft is working to police Xbox Live's community more effectively via a new Reputation system, which stealthily pairs troublemakers with one another during multiplayer, rather than with respectable users. The manufacturer has also expanded and refined its Achievements system in time for the launch of Xbox One.

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As reported by Gamespot, Xbox Live's audience currently encompasses some 48 million users, of which 40 per cent are women. This last figure apparently represents a "giant change" from when the service was introduced, in the words of Microsoft's chief financial officer Kevin Turner. Can you think of any other "giant changes" we might have skipped over?

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