While he was strutting around town for PAX Aus, we had the absolute honour of catching up with Larry Hryb aka Xbox’s Major Nelson.
For those who aren’t aware, Larry Hryb – better known as Major Nelson – is the face of Xbox, Director of Programming at the company, and all-around swell guy.
We threw a few questions his way about what it’s like working for one of the biggest gaming companies on the planet, Project Scorpio, and what the future holds for the brand.
First of all, for people that might not know you, can you explain your job?
Larry Hryb: I’m a nerd at heart. I also consider myself fairly creative, so I sit in this weird space where I’m an okay nerd and an okay creative, but I’m not really good at either one. But, I can recognise that talent in certain people. When I work with some real technical people, it gets me going. I’d walk back to the Xbox team, when I joined the team early on, a lot of them were – they’re all very smart, they were focusing on building great products and I said, “Let me help tell your story to the world.” That’s really what it was about. That’s what I do. It’s a lovely industry to be in. The entertainment industry, video game industry is bigger than I’ve ever seen it. I used to be in radio and television, and I switched. I realised gaming was going to be huge. I was looking for the next big thing. That’s what you have to look for, find the next big thing.
What’s it like to be the ‘face’ of Xbox?
When you say it, it makes me nervous. I don’t realise it. You don’t realise it. It rings true once in a while when I’m walking through an airport in Sydney and somebody recognises you. Or I’m in a back alley in Germany and someone recognises you. I love it because it’s what we want. We want everyone to enjoy games with whatever they do. All gamers are so nice when I meet them. They all have a great idea of their own. They all want to tell me the story about their first Xbox, the first achievement they unlocked. So I love these stories. It’s so humbling that I get to work in a team with this creative product that has touched millions of lives.
How do you go about dealing with feedback from the community – collecting it all and acting on it?
We launched the feedback section of Xbox.com in late 2013/2014 to exactly solve this problem. Let’s crowdsource the feedback. Let’s have people vote things and tell us what they want. That helps our software development to prioritise features. And say, ‘okay, we can do this, let’s do this. This is a good one. This is what they want.’ So it’s a combination of a lot of different things. That’s why we built that site and take the feedback seriously. More seriously than almost any other console manufacturer.
Why do you think Kinect had the varied response from consumers that it did?
It was a variety of reasons. Some people love the voice response of it, being the voice commands, that’s very natural. The other part of it is the gesturing people liked. There was a couple of really good uses of it, but not enough good uses of it, and that’s one of the areas – it’s disappointing, but a lot of the technology and the learnings we took, and we rolled it into another product called Hololens. Everything has a path, everything has a reason.
You touched a bit on Hololens – we haven’t really heard anything about it since it was revealed at E3, any more crumbs of wisdom you can let on?
Unfortunately, we haven’t really talked about that. I was at the event we had in New York City last week, we talked a little bit about Hololens, but we haven’t shared anymore details on it right now. We’re seeing some tremendous creativity with this. The augmented reality feature’s very bright.
Speaking of Augmented Reality, there’s also Virtual Reality that’s entered into a heavily-accessible space for consumers. It has a bunch of different applications where it fits in, but where do you see it going in the gaming scene?
You’re absolutely right. There’s certain scenarios that it makes perfect sense for. There’s other’s that… I haven’t seen that ‘killer app’ yet. Phil Spencer talked about this. A lot of them feel like demos with no long term killer application.
What impact do you think the introduction of Scorpio will have on console life-cycles?
We made a very clear effort to telegraph exactly what our plans were with Scorpio, and we hope that people understand that. They already understand today when you buy a new mobile phone, your apps work from previous mobile phones assuming you have an iPhone or Android. So it’s been very successful in that area and we’re hoping we can do the same thing on our side. It’s a paradigm that consumers already understand. We’re excited to see what’s going to happen.
Finally, do you have any plans for mobile gaming in the near future?
We’ve already got games on ios and android, which are two wonderful platforms out there. I think it’s a little too early to talk about aspirations around that. Right now tonnes of people are gaming on their phones and tablets as it is, so I think we’ll continue to embrace those in any way that we can.
For an added does of Major Nelson, check out our Facebook Live chat with the legend.