From the earliest moments of its conception, Xbox has been an American console. It was invented in America, designed in America, and continues to enjoy its greatest successes in America. Its signature game, Halo, is about as Yankee-doodle as they come. But it's always had a strong UK showing thanks to Rare and Lionhead - internal studios that have flourished even while others like Ensemble, FASA and Aces were closed. Now, with ex-Sony man Phil Harrison in charge and a new console to support, more have joined the strength, and they've been charged with changing the way we play games.
To paraphrase a line about Chuck Norris, Phil Harrison's role is so important that it cannot even be described. "I have no idea what my job title is, actually," he muses while sitting in Microsoft's Xbox-equipped London showhome. "I have a privileged position to stand up and talk about other people's great work. That will be my simple answer."
The man with the plan
There's a lot to talk about. As the man behind Microsoft Studios in Europe, he's overseeing everything from the tarted-up Fable Anniversary to the unspecified, untested, and entirely unproven entertainment projects at Lift London. As well as having a hand in the debut of Xbox One, of course, which he's typically bullish about after a long, fraught launch process.
"The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is the games. I think that, not just at launch, but into the foreseeable future Xbox One has some pretty amazing titles coming up for it. Whether you are the most die-hard Xbox fan or new to the platform and new to the brand you should be excited about it. You should be excited for Ryse, you should be excited about Forza Motorsport 5, you should be excited about Kinect Sports Rivals. You should be very excited about Titanfall."
The best, of course, is still yet to come. Impressive though the Xbox One's launch lineup is, it won't be until developers get used to the now-final hardware that it'll really start to impress - something that Harrison, who was part of the launch team for every PlayStation until the latest one, knows all too well.
"When you've been around a long time, you know what platforms are like. The games you celebrate and are proud of in the first year, when you look back at them from the perspective of ten years from now; you'd be amazed at the difference. It's a combination of the tools getting better, developers beginning to understand the unique architecture to work with.
"But also crucially this time around - which as developers we've never had before - there's the power of the cloud and what that means for game design. That can grow and scale indefinitely - of course there is a practical limit, but in effect you're uncapped. And I think, from a player's perspective, that's the most exciting part; that's it's not just about the chips in the box under your television or wherever you position your console of choice, but it's about what the platform will provide you over time. We've not had that in a console generation before. I think that is probably going to be the defining factor of this generation."
Microsoft's internal studios have always had a brief to use the platform's features as interestingly as possible, which has spawned everything from Halo 3's theatre mode to Fable 2's pub games and Forza Motorsport 5's Drivatars. That drive remains, says Harrison, and the cloud and SmartGlass features of the launch lineup are only the tip of the iceberg.