Friday, 22 May 2015

Interview with Graeme Boyd


Welcome it's you boi Kingwhybrow, we have been noticed by Acey Bongos, Phil Spencer and Major Nelson. We have had a great couple of months at G2G and I happy to share with you this great interview with Graeme Boyd AKA Acey Bongos.

KingWhybrow:
I'm going to start this off with, how did you get into the gaming industry and was there anyone or anything that pushed you into this carer path?

Graeme Boyd:
Hello! I always loved videogames growing up and they were a massive part of my life, but I never considered actually working in them – that seemed like something that maybe 6 people in the world did. So I went off to uni and did a degree in English and Film Studies. That didn’t help me figure out what I fancied doing, so I did a postgrad in Journalism to try and learn an actual skill. It was during that degree that I realised that I loved writing but didn’t fancy being on a newspaper, and I was playing a lot of PlayStation 2 (Gran Turismo 3 and GTA3 were a big deal to me then) so I figured what I might as well try and right about games. I applied for a few jobs on games mags like EDGE and OXM, then got an interview at CVG magazine (yes, it was a long time ago!). I went down to London and had a really enjoyable interview where we basically just got excited about games, and I was lucky enough to be offered the job.
Working on CVG was amazing – games everywhere, game events all the time, an amazing and fun team to work with, and a work routine which was 2 weeks of fun followed by 2 weeks of stress as deadline approached. Once the magazine closed down a year later (not my fault, honest!) I moved to CVG.com (also now sadly departed, #NeverForget) as news editor and learned how to churn out news stories and scoops quickly. Then I moved to OXM just before Xbox 360 launched to run their new website. That was when things got really exciting because I’d always felt drawn to Xbox so it was great to be around the UK launch of 360 and spend all day writing about it. Not long after that I got talking to the Xbox Europe team, and ended up moving across as a community manager. I’ve been on the Xbox Europe team for 9 years now and every day has been different. I’ve done a lot of weird, wonderful, stressful, mad, interesting stuff, and it just keeps coming – plus I absolutely love our consoles and our community, so I’m pretty happy.

Kingwhybrow:
What was your favourite console and games as you were growing up and any classic you loved? 

Graeme Boyd:
I actually looked down on consoles for a long time – I grew up in the 80s and my family had an Acorn Electron to start with, then an Atari ST. In my eyes, the ST was far superior to the NES and Master System – I guess it was the first form of ‘home computer master race’ thinking! But I got a GameBoy around 1990, which acted as a gateway to SNES when it came out, and for a while I was a confirmed Nintendo fanboy. I even wrote and printed a Nintendo fanzine and sold it at school for 50p an issue! My mum still has a stack of them in her house… Street Fighter II and Mario Kart are the games that really stand out for me from that time – me and my mate would nip home from school at lunchtime and play against each other every day. Happy times. And Shadowrun on SNES! What a game. I remember that it didn’t release in the UK so I had to buy it while on holiday in Florida, and it was like coming home with some mystical treasure. An absolute gem.
From there we got our first PC, and I moved into playing a lot of strategy games like Sim City 2000 (still a massive favourite) and Theme Park. Basically anything where you could build stuff – I wish we had more games like that on Xbox! I also remember the original GTA on PC being a game that totally captured my imagination. I just absolutely loved the city, the ability to go anywhere and do anything, the chance to steal cars, the satirical tone, and even the thought and care that had gone into the music. The fact it was made in Scotland helped too!
And in fact, it was GTA3’s launch that made me return to console gaming. I bought a PS2 just to play GTA3, which actually blew my mind. Gran Turismo 3 was a massive favourite too – I shelled out loads of money for the Logitech wheel and pedals and played that for months on end.
The thing I miss most about all this is having the time to properly play games. These days, with work, kids, wife, and real life stuff, I barely get a chance! It hurts my soul. I really miss being able to shut off for a whole weekend and just play…

Kingwhybrow:
So how did you get into working for Xbox and it's social media team?

Graeme Boyd:
As I said above, I came across from OXM to start working as a community manager in 2006. Since then it’s been fascinating to watch social media and community management change, and it’s really shaped how my role and career has changed. I remember doing our first uploads to YouTube, our first posts on Facebook, trying to figure out what we could use Twitter for, and my agency trying to persuade me in 2008 that gaming YouTubers would be a big deal. Along the way I’ve had the chance to present videos, host live events, run digital campaigns, and even dress up like an 80s hair metal rock star (spandex and wig included…) to play Rock Band and Guitar Hero in front of hundreds of people. Not every day is that weird, but still…
I work in the European team and we have an amazing partnership with the local market Xbox teams. We rely on our colleagues in each country to do cool stuff locally, and it’s fun to work with so many different people, cultures, languages and points of view. I have two people on my team (Jay and Clare, they are ace) and I also work really with the Xbox.com team, the PR team, the CRM team, the Dash team, and lots of other folks, as well as closely with our Global team over in Seattle. It’s a huge family at Xbox!

Kingwhybrow:
So tell us, what has been your best and biggest game launch?

Graeme Boyd:
I think the Halo 4 launch stand out in my mind the most, simply because we did so many mad and huge things for it! We invaded the country of Liechtenstein and transformed it into a real-life Halo-themed adventure complete with Jen Taylor (the voice of Cortana) playing Dr Elizabeth Halsey. Having breakfast with Jen the next morning was an experience I’ll never forget! Then when we got back to London we flew the Didact’s glyph down the Thames – it looked like some kind of UFO but was actually dangling from a massive Norwegian cargo helicopter! Then we headed straight to a GAME store to do the midnight launch with a real-life warthog and hundreds of Xbox fans. Quite a few days!
But I think the biggest rollercoaster and the best overall experience was launching Xbox One. You’ll remember that things didn’t go too smoothly at first, so we had to learn quickly, listen hard to our fans, and make a lot of changes. I’m really proud of how we did that as a company, and how we properly listened to what Xbox fans wanted along the way. At the same time we were launching a stack of Xbox One games on the same day, so it was super busy and complicated! Personally I learned a lot and although it was hard work it made launch day all the more satisfying. And looking back now, I think we’ve come such a long way since then. I’m really proud to work on this team and with these amazing consoles and games.

Kingwhybrow:
So let's talk about E3, is there anything you can tell us or share?

Graeme Boyd:
Nice try, but I can’t tell you anything! Why ruin the surprise? But what I will tell you is that we have the best line-up of Xbox games ever to show, and we’re 100% focussed on things that matter to gamers. It’s going to be a great year…

Kingwhybrow:
Have you seen alot of people making the move from the Xbox 360 to the XboxOne, has the XboxOne online user base grown more since the launch, or do you find it will catch up with more sales under its belt?.

Graeme Boyd:
The simple answer is yes – we’ve been delighted that Xbox fans have made the jump to Xbox One from 360. Xbox One sold faster than Xbox 360 at launch, and we continue to see people moving across. I think the fact that some people are keen to hold onto their 360 for a little longer is testament to how good that console is, but we’re definitely getting to the point now where the time is really right to upgrade to Xbox One. With games like The Witcher 3, Halo 5, Forza 6, and the big third-party titles only coming to Xbox One and all the improvements we’ve made to Xbox One since launch, you’re getting a great deal. In fact, those improvements and monthly updates are one of the things I love most about Xbox One, especially since a huge number of them have been driven by real Xbox gamer feedback. I love how we are truly listening to our community, acting on the feedback, and making real improvements to the console. No-one else is doing as much of that as Xbox, or as fast.
Kingwhybrow:
Halo 5 is only round the corner, this could be the game that pushes the sales for the XboxOne, Halo is the best game in history in my opinion. Great story and mutiplayer. This game might just have took a new dark turn.
Is this one of your games that your looking forward to?

Graeme Boyd:
Absolutely. As you can imagine, Halo is a huge deal for us at Xbox and I can’t wait to see where Master Chief’s story is going in Halo 5. If you’ve been following the #HuntTheTruth stuff there’s some really interesting stuff going down, and I think we’ll really need to question our understanding of Chief as a character and the relationship we’ve all had with him over the last 15 years. And I LOVED the multiplayer beta we ran over Christmas time – I think the new direction 343 are taking there feels fresh and new and exciting but still distinctly Halo, so I’m really excited to see and play more of that.
But the most exciting thing for me is that Halo 5 is just one exclusive Xbox One title still to come. We’ve also got Forza 6 on the horizon, Fable Legends, Quantum Break, and lots more to come – and don’t forget that Xbox One is the only place you can play the new Tomb Raider this year. That – plus all the big third-party titles – means it’s a brilliant time to be an Xbox gamer.

SolaceConquest:
ID@Xbox has been really sucessful, so far we've seen some real potential come from the programe. Project Spark, Roundabout and Gear Gauntlet to name a few. But where do you see the project going in the next couple of years?

Graeme Boyd:
I’m well chuffed to see so many great games coming out of ID@Xbox. I think it’s really helping to make Xbox One a diverse, interesting and innovative place to play – and I love the fact that ID games range from little novelties and curios from tiny start up studios up to big, flashy titles from established developers like Zombie Army Trilogy. I think it will keep going from strength to strength, especially as more devs see how well other titles are doing and how the Xbox community is getting behind them. It’s exciting to think that at any time a revolutionary game could pop out of ID@ Xbox.

SolaceConquest:
Do you see any of these ID@Xbox games eventually getting a AAA title in the future? Is this the key idea behind the project?

Graeme Boyd:
I think the key idea behind the project is to provide an opportunity for independent developers to publish their games on Xbox One – and the support to make it happen. That’s huge for indies as it lets them access a massive audience of Xbox gamers, and huge for Xbox gamers as they get the chance to play interesting and unique titles. I wouldn’t see an ID game making the transition to AAA as success – I think success is having these games get to see the light of day and find an audience on our console. But it’d be great if it happened!

Kingwhybrow:
Just want to say an big thankyou, to Graeme Boyd for doing this, been a great pleasure having you on our blog. The community will love reading this.
This interview give us a insight to your life and the Xbox brand itself and I hope I'll see you at some point, Maybe even Games Con or the next E3.

Graeme Boyd:
Totally my pleasure. Thanks so much to you and your readers for all the support and feedback, it really does mean the world to us. We’ve got so much cool stuff coming this year and beyond, I know you’ll love it, and yes hopefully we’ll meet up in person soon!

Big thankyou

Kingwhybrow

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview... Graeme's a great guy, and it's fascinating to hear how he got where he is.
    I love discovering new stories that add to the variety of pathways by which so many developers and others in the games industry found their points of entry, and how they navigated their respective routes to all that, then, followed.


    (...Friendly criticism: more careful proofreading/editing would benefit the writing greatly.)

    ReplyDelete