Director of Gaming Accessibility
Strategic Partnerships, Designed for Xbox
LARRY HRYB: Games in this podcast range from E to M.
[SERIES X STARTUP SOUND]
Hi, it's Larry Hryb, Xbox's Major Nelson. Welcome to the official Xbox Podcast. I'm your host. And joining me in just a minute is, here they are, bring them in. There's Jeff over there, and there's Rebecca over there. And what is this? What is this?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I don't know, just bring it in, bring it in.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Bring it in, yeah.
LARRY HRYB: Bring it in for your close-up. Anyway, good to see--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Pull up a-- pull up a knee. We're going to rap at you.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Pop a squat. OK, we should stop.
LARRY HRYB: I don't know what's going on here. I've lost control in the first 15 seconds.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You've never had control. Anyway, welcome, welcome Jeff. Welcome Rebecca. Rebecca, how are things out there in New York? Do you want to do the weather check, or are we OK with that?
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, today's forecast is high of 74 degrees, and good chance of bagels, indeed.
LARRY HRYB: That's right.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You're just bragging.
LARRY HRYB: I like that--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: And I'm over it.
LARRY HRYB: I like that forecast. Anyway, we're going to jump in. We got a bunch of news. We've got some great interviews this week like we do every week. We're going to talk about what we're playing. And I don't know about you all, but my play has unfortunately quite suffered recently. I mean, I'm still chewing away in Halo. Rebecca is-- the internet has been yelling at Jeff and I because we haven't invited you into our Halo games.
To be fair, I think Jeff, you and I, I don't think we played Halo this week, did we?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: We did not, we did not, maybe this weekend. It's been busy.
LARRY HRYB: Well, what are you pla-- I mean, I see what you've got in the back there. I recognize that, Jeff. Can we go full screen on Jeff and take a look at that?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: OK. Yeah, Oh, I'm very close, I'm very close to finishing my battle pass. I think I'm on page 9. I've been very-- yeah, OK, I got page 8 done. And then we begin-- yeah, page 9, very close. You got to do a lot of stuff there. And then I will get my Doctor Strange, and then I can rest. And I will sleep. So maybe tonight.
LARRY HRYB: That is, of course, Fortnite over your shoulder behind you.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes, yes, thank you.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, it looks pretty good.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: So I've been running duos. And they get me. They get me with the skins, absolutely, every time. And still loving zero build. It's really great. We're getting about, I would say, a win in the evening, which is nice, a royale if you will. And they got me back in, good for them.
And then last week we also had a guess for Eiyuden Chronicle-- Rising. And I've played a ton of that. I think I'll probably beat that in the next day or two. And then I got to figure out what's next? What will I play next?
LARRY HRYB: What will you play next? I don't have any. Rebecca, I don't know if you have any. But we can talk about what you're playing right now.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, yeah, OK. So I've still been playing Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. It's adorable. It's really fun. It's really easy to jump into. I also just really like the design of it, just the dialogue with the characters, the options you have. I also, I debated-- there's a-- I can't remember the name of it. But there is a pig boss that you have to defeat.
And after I defeated it, it turned into all these little pieces of bacon. And then the bacon ran away. So it's just really-- it has a lot of cute details. So I really like-- I'm really enjoying the game. So I'm going to keep playing that. Maybe I'll beat it by the next show, probably not.
We announced the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase coming up here in a few weeks. And so I think the three of us have all been pretty busy getting ready for that, lots of good news coming. And the playtime tends to suffer as a result of having to work more. But I have been watching also, I watched some streams recently for Halo Infinite with the all-new season coming out.
I was actually feeling pretty good. Because one of the streams I saw, I'm not going to name drop, because the guy who was playing was not super impressive. I saw him do a bunch of moves, like he grapple hooked, and then he was like pulling himself closer to an enemy.
And I was like, oh, he's doing good. And then he just totally botched it. And the other guy ended up killing him. And so--
LARRY HRYB: But you're not going to call him out publicly, are you.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You're not going to call out that you were watching Larry's stream.
REBECCA GORDIUS: [LAUGHS]
LARRY HRYB: That was not my stream. I can hold my own with a grapple, mister.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, I believe that. I don't know, Larry, have you been playing Halo Infinite?
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, Oh, yeah, yeah. I've been playing it. I got a regular crew. Jeff rotates in. Jeff joins us sometimes when he's not playing Fortnite. And we've been playing quite a bit. The Last Spartan Standing is, I'm chewing through that those challenges and taking care of that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: What's your high watermark on that right now? Second, that's good.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's really good.
LARRY HRYB: But it was a cheap second. It's one of those where you kind of turtling and hanging out in the back of the map as things close. And you're just looking around. And all of a sudden you get back smacked, and you're dead at number two. So I'll take it. It was not it was not a gracious nor a classy number two. It was kind of--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It's a dishonorable number two, but--
LARRY HRYB: I wouldn't say dishonorable. But it just doesn't-- it feels cheap. It feels cheap.
REBECCA GORDIUS: It's OK. You'll take it, though.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, so I have not gotten number one yet. I need to work on that. But we've just been in some of the new big team maps, and some of the checking out the new maps and having fun with it. That's what it is. It's like 20, 30 minutes in the evening and then, OK, out we go, on to the next game. So that's what I'm doing, that's what I'm playing.
So, but yeah, to your point, Rebecca, it is the Xbox Bethesda Game Showcase is coming up next month. And, as I said last week and I announced earlier, I'll be headed to Melbourne for our FanFest there. We've got FanFest in Toronto, in Spain, and you all. Will you guys be in LA? Yeah, you guys will be in Los Angeles.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I confirmed this week that I'll be in LA. And the Canada team invited me. And I would love to be in Canada. I would love to be in two places at once. But I've got a lot to do to help execute the LA event. So I'll be there for that. And I'll be sending my regards to everyone attending in Toronto.
LARRY HRYB: Anyway, so we've got that, the Bethesda Games Showcase coming up. And we're all working very hard on that, and making sure we're ready to bring you, dear gamers, dear listeners, dear viewers, a great show with great games and announcements. So all we can really say about that, we will be dark. Meaning we won't have any shows two weeks prior, because we just don't want to sit here and stare at each other and go, so how are you guys doing? We're going to let it go and--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I feel like we already got there.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah.
LARRY HRYB: So, anyway, what else we got there before we got some interviews here? We've got a few things we're going to go over. Jeff, you have got some news I believe.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, yeah, Rebecca and I both do. So if you recall towards the end of last week's show, actually we ended up cutting a little promo that the Fall Guys team ended up running about us talking about a live stream that was going to be happening this week, which it did. And that announcement was, drum roll-- and I didn't really think about that. I don't have drums, but--
LARRY HRYB: I don't have it either. [IMITATING DRUMS]
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I've got like a keyboard dampening thing. It really is not conducive for percussion. Anyway, Fall Guys, it's going to be launching on Xbox on June 21. It's the longest day of the year. Stay up late, enjoy the sun, and play a bunch of Fall Guys. It's also going free to play.
LARRY HRYB: That's just launching free to play. That's it. That's one of the headlines.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Larry, I got the full story. I'm sitting here looking at it. And now if you're-- you say, well, I'm an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate member. Surely there's something extra for me. Yes, yes, yes there is. So there will be exclusive content costume rewards via perks for Fall Guys with some of the best skins that they've had during the time that that game has previously been available. And we'll get to--
--all right, well, the horn honkers like that.
LARRY HRYB: Move on please. The horn has spoken.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Next topic.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Next topic, all right Fall Guys. So coming soon, we announced, as we do every couple of weeks, more titles coming to Xbox Game Pass. So available as we speak, Her Story is available on PC. This is a live action, a crime fiction. It's non-linear. You watch these videos and figure out what's going on. It's a cool genre.
And this team has done a couple of those. But Her Story was, I want to say, the first. Telling Lies was another game that they did, and so very interesting there. Jurassic World Evolution 2 is also available on Xbox Game Pass for Cloud Console and PC right now. This is where you build the park.
LARRY HRYB: I played the first one. You get to train raptors. You get to build your park, put up the gift shop. And where do you want the bathrooms, and all that stuff. So if you think you ever wanted to design a dino theme park, here you go.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Do things ever like go sideways, and dinosaurs run through.
LARRY HRYB: Oh, they sure do.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Perfectly smooth. The T-rexes stay in their pen. They eat the sheep, or whatever. It's pretty much, it's a chill game, nothing bad happens.
LARRY HRYB: Things-- yes, no.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Just like in the movies.
LARRY HRYB: Things can go sideways. And like I said, nature will find a way. So it's a --
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Oh, you're quoting your Jeff Goldblum, who you got to meet when we did-- for the junket for the first game. And that was a great interview. So we should probably find a clip of that-- well worth watching if we can put the link in the-- into the shot.
LARRY HRYB: We had matching glasses, and it was quite funny, so Jeff--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You two really hit it off. And there is a chaos theory mode in this, so bringing it up back to a--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Oh, fun.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --I think Ian Malcolm. All right, another game available day one with Xbox Game Pass, meaning now. Little Witch in The Woods, which is a game preview from an idea at Xbox on console and PC. Skate is available via cloud. Of course, this is for those of you who have access to EA Play for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and for PC members.
And then Umurangi Generation Special Edition available on Cloud Console and PC. That is a day-one game, coming soon. Actually, in a couple of cases, it will be now, depending on when you're listening to this. Farming Simulator 22, to the latest in the long-running series for Cloud Console and PC.
Vampire Survivors, that is a PC title. And then next week, Floppy Knights, Hardspace Shipbreaker, and Sniper Elite Five, which is a pretty big title available on day one with Xbox Game Pass for console and PC. And then for you cricket fans, maybe Larry, you should probably play this before you head out to Australia. Cricket 22 is coming out on May 27 on PC.
And then finally also on May 27-- yeah, big Shaun of the Dead fan, maybe-- Pac-Man Museum Plus will be available on day one with Xbox Game Pass, features 14 of the different Pac-Man games. I don't know if you've ever played the version that came out. There was a four player version that came out maybe 10 years ago, really fun.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Dang, that's a lot coming to Xbox Game Pass this week.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: There's a ton. But also a lot-- there's always news in the Minecraft world, including some very irritated avians coming to Minecraft. Can you tell us about that? I'm trying to thesaurus this.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, for those of you who don't speak code, that means Angry Birds. So this week we announced the Minecraft Angry Birds DLC, which is really cool. I'm sure that many of you played the game on your phones, gosh, I don't even know how long ago that was, like 20 years.
But it's really because--
LARRY HRYB: I think it was 10.
REBECCA GORDIUS: --10, gosh, was it really only 10?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: We didn't have smartphones 20 years ago, Rebecca.
LARRY HRYB: 20 years ago, come on.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Right.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It just feels like 20 years ago. It's been a long time.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Did even have a phone 20 years ago? Anyway, OK, Angry Birds DLC. The really cool thing about it is that we actually put catapult mechanics into the game. And so you can actually play a functional game of Angry Birds where you put the bird into the catapult. And you're trying to-- I'm trying to remember. Is that you're trying to hit the pigs, or are you trying to break down the fortresses that the pigs build.
LARRY: You're trying kill pigs but using--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, you're trying to get the pigs.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --the physics to break down because you make them fall off of the structure.
LARRY HRYB: And things fall on their heads.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It looks really cool looking at the trailer.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Sorry, it's been 20 years, I forget.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: 30, 30 years now.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It's really cool seeing it in 3D though, because that was always a 2D game where you would shoot from left to right or whatever. So interesting to see them kind of translate--
REBECCA GORDIUS: The birds were very circular. Yeah, they were very round. And so I love seeing things that are historically round being brought into Minecraft and being cubified. Let's see, and then the other piece of Minecraft news I wanted to mention, next week Minecraft Dungeons is going to hit its two-year anniversary, which is wild.
This was the, I think we launched this game just around the start of the pandemic. I'd never done a game launch. It was just, it was chaos May 2020 working from home. And then figuring everything out. And figuring out, how do we do remote previews, and everything. Yeah, and so two years later, here we are. Minecraft Dungeons has a ton of DLC, moved to a seasonal model.
And then season two actually just released as well. And so for those of you who know Minecraft, Minecraft loves cake and sweets-related things around the birthday or anniversary. So for the anniversary, we have an anniversary cape and then a bunch of different cake looking--
LARRY HRYB: That's cape, not cake.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I mean, both. I think the cake--
LARRY HRYB: OK.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, well, no, but-- I mean, there's a cake hat and with a sparkling candle. And then there's a cape. But so there's a bunch of different items. But one of the cutest though is there is a baby moobloom pet, kind of cow-looking mob. But it's mini. And it's a pet. And so it goes into battle with you and it follows you around.
But, yeah, lots of cool stuff taking place in the anniversary event. So that's going on from May 25 until June 15. It's free to jump in and join. So I highly recommend everyone check it out.
LARRY HRYB: Yep, and if you want any more news about that, just always head over to news.xbox.com and just scroll on down. And you'll find many of what we're talking about here-- yes, Jeffrey.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: A couple of quick hits, just want to announce that, speaking of seasonal models, Minecraft-- Microsoft Flight Simulator-- Minecraft Flight Simulator would be something.
REBECCA GORDIUS: It's like, more Minecraft.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: But Microsoft Flight Simulator-- yes, has released its ninth update. It is free. And it really fleshes out beautiful areas in Italy and Malta. Malta is a small island chain South of Sicily. And I have a friend there right now just randomly. And on Instagram, it looks amazing, looks like a place you would definitely want to visit.
Arma, Arma Reforger is available now on Xbox. In game preview, Arma was a huge PC game, or really still is. But what's it like on console? And, lastly, this weekend, if you want to watch something interesting, there is the INDIE Live Expo 2022 that will be taking place on Saturday and Sunday. It's based out of Japan, so expect to see a lot of Japanese indie games.
There'll be some let's plays. There'll be some premieres. There's information over on Xbox Wire. The timing, look at the timing. It's going to be kind of late at night, looks like it's like 6:30 PM. Japan time, I want to say that's like 2:30 in the morning Pacific, 5:30 in the morning East. But some people stay up late or wake up early. And I'm sure there'll be vods. But, anyway, more details over on Xbox Wire.
LARRY HRYB: Never go to sleep.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, I mean, when you're in Australia, Larry, you'll be like, I wish I had something to stay up late and watch. And there's this. Someone from Australia right now will be grateful.
LARRY HRYB: It was funny, I was thinking of Microsoft Flight Simulator, about the Italy and Malta thing. I know if you were talking about that, but apparently there's four handcrafted airports and nine new activities, and Jeff, unlimited breadsticks.
REBECCA GORDIUS: [LAUGHS]
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Very good, Larry, very good.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I love it.
LARRY HRYB: Thank you, thank you. I tried a little bit of something there. Anyway, thanks for rounding up. There's a lot. I mean, even though as we said earlier, we're going into the Bethesda Game Showcase. And we'll hear some more news when that happens. But there's a lot of stuff that's coming up as we get out of the way here. In fact, we've got some interviews coming up here. Jeff, do you mind bringing us into those interviews so we can share people?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes, we do. Well, first of all, you're going to hear Rebecca had a chance to catch up with Anita Mortaloni, Director of Gaming Accessibility. And then, Larry, you met up with Cassey Bates. And he's got some really cool designed for Xbox monitors. Larry, you love your tech. So let's see what he's got.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Thursday May 19 was Global Accessibility Awareness Day. So we thought that it would be a good bring on Anita Moloney who is the Director of Gaming Accessibility at Xbox. So welcome to the show.
ANITA MORTALONI: Thank you, thanks for having me.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, so for those who might not be familiar, how would you explain accessibility as a field?
ANITA MORTALONI: What a great starting question. Accessibility really is about making it so everybody that wants to be able to play or interact with the world can. We want to make sure that somebody with a disability can interact with the world, because in most cases it's a mismatch between the person and the environment. And so we want to be able to remove all of those barriers.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Oh, that's interesting. I think I've heard that description before, like it's a mismatch between a person and the environment. And so it's making it better for them to interact with the environment. So I guess with gaming specifically, what does gaming accessibility look like?
ANITA MORTALONI: Gaming accessibility, it covers so many things. A lot of times when people think of gaming accessibility, the first thing that comes to mind is the Xbox adaptive controller, absolutely. But it also covers everything from platform, to console, to games, to how we do inclusive marketing to make sure that when we share information about a game or a new feature, that everybody is able to access that and learn about it on day one.
And so stuff like the all ASL Twitch channel that now mirrors the Xbox content is available. I think they have over 25 hours of content a week that has ASL interpreters on it so that everybody can really enjoy that content.
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's awesome. Yeah, I think for me, one of the first things that comes to mind is closed captioning, or adjusting for color blindness. I think that some of the Forza games in the past have had different ways to make the colors more vivid or better for people who have disabilities that related to vision. But I guess, yeah, there are just so many different disabilities around the world. So like how would you say that Xbox is tackling all of those different challenges? I mean, just, it seems so wide.
ANITA MORTALONI: And I think that's one of the things that I really love about the accessibility space is there's not one answer. There's not one magic switch that's going to make everything accessible to everyone. Like take for example, you mentioned color blindness. There's multiple variations of color blindness.
And even within a single one, let's say protanopia, different people experience that differently. And so when we talk about making our products and experiences accessible, it's really about going and talking with people, listening to the feedback and hearing their lived experience, and then taking all of that into account and feeding that into the product to make it better for everybody.
And so we do that be it with color blindness or across all the different disabilities. But it really comes down to putting the player at the center and understanding, how do you play? What are the barriers that you're facing? Which one of those barriers did we put in unintentionally, and how can we remove those so that you can enjoy the power of play, and connect with the people that you want in an environment that you feel safe, and welcomed in, and represented, and you can see yourself in that game?
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's awesome. And I love these moments like Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Because accessibility is something that we're working on year round, but it's nice to have a moment in time where we can say, hey, let's talk about this. So do you have any other thoughts around, what is Xbox doing to celebrate or observe this moment in time?
ANITA MORTALONI: A great point on Global Accessibility Awareness Day being a day. And it's our chance to really celebrate the community and everything, everybody behind what we do, why we do, and raise those voices up. One of the things that we like to emphasize is that accessibility doesn't just happen for one day.
It's something that we want to continually invest in, talk about, get feedback on throughout the entire year and improve on, and not save a whole bunch of features and announcements for a single day, because we want to get those out and get the feedback from the community as soon as possible.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, so as the director of gaming accessibility at Xbox-- it's awesome role-- I guess what does a day in the life look like for you? Are there any specific projects that you're working on that you can share with us? Or, yeah, what's the day to day like?
ANITA MORTALONI: Oh my goodness, that's the question that everybody always asks. And every day is a little bit different. We get to work-- one of the great things about our role is we get to work across all the different teams at Xbox and all the different roles, be it at hardware, software, studios, engineers, designers, producers, and figure out how we can support all of the different teams, make it easier for everyone in Xbox to include accessibility and connect them with the community. One of our main focuses is bringing in the voices of the community and making sure that all the teams are partnering with the community to develop those great experiences.
REBECCA GORDIUS: And what kind of work were you doing? I mean, I assume that you haven't always been doing gaming accessibility specifically. But what other kind of work have you done to bring you to your current role?
ANITA: So newer to Xbox land. Prior to this, I was over in Office, Windows and Office in Microsoft for about 14 some years driving accessibility there, and previously was doing release management, ship rooms, and some telemetry work there as well.
And came over here to Xbox because it was the middle of a pandemic, and it was that moment where working from home, sharing an office with my kiddo, that's always know great, fun experience-- remote learning and work happening in the same house office, and really thought it was an opportunity to focus on play, the power of connection.
Because I saw that come through when we were all kind of stuck at home. Like those organic playdates and after school activities didn't happen anymore, and really saw how transformation happened through my kid being able to play with his friends, and that why it was so incredibly important to be able to do that at a time where the world was just topsy turvy, and be able to provide that fun.
And so when the opportunity came up to do that here in Xbox, absolutely. It seemed kind of a dream job to be able to come here and focus on play and connection, and make it so even more people can enjoy the power of play and creation. Because we really do want to bring in people with disabilities into the creator phase as well.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I love that. I think you're totally right. In the pandemic we saw so many kids and just people using games as a way to connect with their friends. A lot of my friends who didn't play games previously started playing different mobile games or even some console games. And that was how we connected.
And like you said, it's about making sure that people have the ability to do that, regardless of what their physical limitations might be. So I think that's awesome. I love that that's why you started working at Xbox. OK, so then what do you think is next for accessibility? I mean, I feel like it's a field that's probably been changing so much and so rapidly as technology advances. So what do you think is next?
ANITA MORTALONI: We hear this a lot, but accessibility is a journey. It is one of those things that we are making great strides in, but we still have a really long way to go. Recently we released-- we have the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines. I don't know if you're familiar with those, but it's a set of best practices that are for designers and developers to really take their game to the next level and understand where they can bring accessibility in, or a checklist for how developers can validate the accessibility of their game.
And we just recently added the. First mental health guideline so I think that is a space, some of it provoked through COVID, and the pandemic, and everybody being thrown by that, to bring that into the game. And how do we represent that in a way that's authentic, and real, and is taking into account how people play the game? So I think mental health is a big area.
And the other area is around creating, and making sure that we enable creators, designers, developers, producers, to bring accessibility in from the beginning and make it really easy to bring in and partner with the community, to bring in those lived experiences and get representation.
There's no way that Xbox can create experiences that replicate the global community if our teams themselves don't represent the global community. So it really is critical that we bring in people with disabilities and diversity across the board into our team so we can build products that represent us, that really represent the world.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Awesome, yeah, I love that. And I know you mentioned the Accessibility Guidelines. But do you have any other resources, or anywhere else that you would point to anyone who's interested in learning about accessibility or wants to work in this field?
ANITA: Yeah. Back in November-- we've been getting that question a lot. And because accessibility, as you mentioned earlier, is such a big field, it's sometimes hard to know where to start. And sometimes it can be really intimidating to just ask or know where to start.
And so we created The Gaming Accessibility Fundamentals course, it's free, intentionally free, up on Microsoft Learn. And it's about a four hour course that goes into the basics of, what is gaming accessibility, how do you connect with the community, and then best practices and knowledge around hardware, software, assistive technologies, and games to really provide that 100 level information.
Here's what it is. Here's how I get involved, and here's how I can get started. And at the end you get a trophy that you can go put on --
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, that's the best.
ANITA MORTALONI: Like you can go share your knowledge and say, hey, I know a little bit more. You should too.
REBECCA GORDIUS: I love that. I mean, it wouldn't be gaming if there wasn't some kind of fun reward at the end, right.
ANITA MORTALONI: Yeah. Yes, exactly.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Well, that's awesome. I mean, honestly, the work you're doing in this space is really inspiring. And I just love that you're helping reduce some of the barriers for people around the world who want to play games and be in the gaming community. So thank you again for everything that you do and thanks for joining us.
ANITA MORTALONI: Yeah, thanks for having me and asking all these questions. I think one of the biggest obstacles we have in the space outside of removing barriers is just the knowledge of the accessibility features out there. There's a lot of features like captions or night mode that fall under accessibility features that really benefit the larger population, the whole idea of solve for one, extend to many.
And so there's accessibility features out there that people don't know about. So I would encourage you to go check them out, dig a little bit, and see which ones that could maybe customize your play and apply to you as well.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Awesome, yeah. And if folks want to learn more, head over to Xbox Wire. We have our Xbox Wire post celebrating and having a lot of these resources. Yeah, so thank you again, Anita.
ANITA MORTALONI: Thank you so much. Have a great day.
LARRY HRYB: Casey Bates, welcome to the show. You are responsible for Xbox hardware. Specifically in this case we're talking about monitors. Welcome to the show.
CASEY BATES: Thanks, Larry. Thanks for having me.
LARRY HRYB: I mean, I was looking at some of the monitors that we've worked with that your team specifically has worked on with some of the manufacturers. And it's quite an interesting offering. Tell us about the program, because this is actually really interesting work you're doing.
CASEY BATES: Yeah, we decided prior to launching the Xbox Series X and S that we wanted to go out and partner with some monitor manufacturers to create optimal experiences for the Series X and the Series S. At that time the only place you could find 4K 120 hertz was going to be in flagship TVs.
And it didn't really exist in the monitor space. And so we decided to say, hey, can we partner with some of these manufacturers and maybe create some of the first 4K at 120 hertz monitors. And so we set a baseline that these products needed to meet the series X'S high-end flagship features. And that's going to be 4K at 120 hertz, variable refresh rate, and HDR.
And we talked to some of the monitor manufacturers that we work with and landed with Acer, Philips, MSI, and Asus ROG as our launch partners in this category. And all those products hit those flagship features in a variety of sizes and price points. And so we've got monitor sizes down from 27 inches all the way up to a, not really monitor size, of 55 inches.
LARRY HRYB: I know, I've had a chance to play with the 55 inch, at least the Philips. And it's quite an amazing piece. And I've got the MSI here that I'm going to drop into my studio. So you talked about the baseline features, but certainly each of the manufacturers adds their own secret sauce, or their own features to it as well, right?
CASEY BATES: Absolutely. So there is a lot of engineering work, some big, some small that we've done with each of these partners to make it a special experience with Xbox. Some of those show as a dedicated Xbox picture mode in the monitor itself. And that might be turning on some features that make it work better with Xbox, that maybe makes the picture quality setting something that is more console-like over a PC.
LARRY HRYB: When you look at this, I mean, what was the reason we went after monitors? Certainly we work with a lot of television manufacturers and things like that. But monitors is interesting because I've got my Series S sitting on my desktop here. So it's nice to be able to plug it in and have, again, have everything just kind of automatically configure in some regards. But tell us about the strategy there.
CASEY BATES: Yeah, part of the impetus for going into this monitor space was, when it came to TVs at the time, there was a lot of difficulty in setup. And it was you take your new Xbox and plug it into your new TV. And you'd find yourself digging through menus, and manually turning on features, and trying to get those magical green check marks in the 4K TV details page of your Xbox.
So things have thankfully improved, in large part to my team, on the TV side. But at the time, we were like, well let's go out and work with these monitor partners to create an experience that makes it magical. When you buy this new monitor and this new Xbox and you plug them in together, everything just works. It's all green check marks down the board. And you're going to get the absolute best possible performance.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, I mean, the other option is, when you get your TV your monitor home, is going down the very, very, very deep rabbit hole of AVS forums looking for-- [LAUGHS]
CASEY BATES: Yes, yes.
LARRY HRYB: --and looking for that thread about your specific model and somebody who's spent the time doing all the testing. Which is it's an amazing resource, but it's like sometimes you don't want to go in there. Because you're like, oh, mine is broken. Or this pixel-- things kind of get a little crazy sideways. So it's nice to be able to have that automatic configuring. It's also great that your team has worked across some of these major manufacturers to have something for everybody, right?
CASEY BATES: Yeah, absolutely. And I actually want to touch on something you just mentioned there around the AVS forums. And that's a big part of the quality-- or sorry, the testing that we do with these products. We have a world class testing lab here at Design for Xbox.
And prior to this program, it was kind of the Wild West as to whether or not a monitor would properly work with your Xbox. Back when we launched, finding a 4K 120 hertz display, like I mentioned, was really relegated to the flagship TV space. And so that meant that there was still this 1080p, 1440p at 120 hertz you could find in the monitor space, because that has existed for years.
And, unfortunately, a lot of those didn't work correctly. These monitors were developed long before the Xbox was developed. And they use more PC resolutions or refresh rates that were not compatible with what we the standard HDMI, like 1440p 120 hertz or 1080p 120 hertz.
And so that was another reason we went into this is to just make it easier on the customer, and not have to dig through those forums, not have to consult your nerdy uncle on what is actually going to work here. And so when you see that Designed for Xbox badge, you know it's just going to work.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, it's interesting you say that, because I remember a few years ago looking for monitors, like, OK, I want to find one with HDR. This has HDR, but it doesn't have that, doesn't have-- you could always find two of the three things you wanted. You never really found them all.
And with your program, and you mention the lab-- and I've been into the lab many times. No, I can't show you a video of the lab. I know people want to see it. It's pretty amazing. It's like it's a wonderland in there. You go in and there's-- the things are-- it's the future.
CASEY BATES: I don't even have access anymore.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, I have to knock on the door, and sometimes I get in, and sometimes I don't. But it's great that you're doing all that testing. And this testing isn't like-- you're not just throwing it up on the testing bench and saying, OK, yeah, it does this. You're actually-- there's some rigorous-- there's some rigor involved.
CASEY BATES: Absolutely. Through this process we've encountered issues, some small, some big. And it might be something as simple as, hey, when you turn the Xbox on every 30 times you might have some sort of glitch in the matrix. And we uncover those problems.
And we will go back to the monitor partners and we'll say, hey, here's what we found. Here's how we reproduce the problem. And we will get that resolved prior to this product ever shipping. And that's the type of integration and collaboration we have with these partners that you just don't find in a non-Designed for Xbox monitor.
LARRY HRYB: And that's what's really great is that people can go out, they can look. We have-- there's a logo on the box.
CASEY BATES: Yes.
LARRY HRYB: And we'll show that. There's a logo on the box. And that means that it's gone through the testing. We've done the work directly with the monitors. It's not like we took the monitor and said, OK, this works and stamped it on. No, we're actually working and talking to the-- and they're making changes on their hardware and their software based on our feedback. right?
CASEY BATES: Absolutely, absolutely. And even beyond that, on the monitor packaging itself, there is going to be a chart on the side of the box that's going to tell you exactly what features that are relevant to Xbox are included. Like you mentioned before with, it's got HDR, does it have this, or does it have that?
You'll actually see that on the side of the box. This has 4K 120 hertz. This has variable refresh rate. This has HDR. And in some monitors at some point, we may-- I'd like to see this program find some monitors that more align with the Series S. And so you might not-- it might not be 4K 120 hertz. Maybe it's 1080p. And you'll see that indicated on the box. So you'll know, hey, this is going to work. These are the features that are important to me for my Xbox. And it'll be right there for you to see.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, so if you're looking at-- if you have PC gaming or console gaming, I don't know if it looks like you kind of do the same situation I do. You maybe game on that big screen over your left shoulder. I do the same thing. But sometimes I'm sitting at my desk in between meetings.
Sometimes I'm sitting at my desk, and it's great to have a similar experience to this, obviously in terms of all of the features, and to your point, all the green checkboxes. That's also an amazing feature that we have. Because I know that you never really know, is it working? I think it's working. I turned it on gone.
Gone are the days, to a certain degree, of-- I remember when we launched the Xbox One X is, some of the inputs didn't have the right variable refresh rate or the right-- they didn't have HDR. Remember that-- it was at the beginning of that era. And we're kind of past that, aren't we?
ANITA: To some extent.
LARRY HRYB: [LAUGHS]
CASEY BATES: I would like to say that we're past that. But 4K 120 hertz brought a whole new wrinkle into the entire industry. It requires all new hardware from our side and from the display side. And with that a, lot of those first generation products, one HDMI port would have that capability, and another might not.
And so you get that confusing, am I plugging into the right port to give me all the features, kind of a thing? And, again, that's one of the things with this program. If a product were to come through a monitor, and one HDMI port would have all the features and one wouldn't, that would be clearly indicated on the monitor itself. That's a requirement of the program. It's all about ease of use, set up, out-of-box experience. It's that, I want it to all just work and work well, and just have that peace of mind that I'm getting the absolute best from my Xbox.
LARRY HRYB: Can you talk a little bit about, there's a new feature that's on our insiders program with volume. You and I talked about that before we were recording. Let's talk about-- that's a great example of the hardware and the software working together.
CASEY BATES: Absolutely, so working with Philips-- and now all these products have been in development for years. And so prior to the Xbox Series X ever even launched, and we have a roadmap of features that we're working on with the Xbox. And one of those is the ability to send a volume command to your TV, your display via CEC.
Now, CEC is not really a, what I would call a common feature in the monitor space. It started with TVs, and it's found in just about every TV today.
LARRY HRYB: What is it called? Is it consumer electronic control or something? I dont' know.
CASEY BATES: Don't put me on the spot.
LARRY HRYB: I can't remember what that is.
CASEY BATES: I actually should know that.
LARRY HRYB: It's actually, just so people know, just a level set is-- you kind of alluded to it-- it's the ability for the console or other electronic devices to turn your TV on, and then turn to the right input.
CASEY BATES: Yes.
LARRY HRYB: It's a baseline.
CASEY BATES: And send volume commands. You can sense some basic transport, play, pause, fast forward, rewind, kind of commands. And on the monitor space, not super common. But when we were developing these products with Philips, they were like, hey, we're thinking of adding CEC into it.
And we're like, well, OK. Well, that's interesting, because we're bringing CEC to the Xbox Series S and X for the first time. We hadn't supported CEC prior to these new consoles. And here's our roadmap of features that we'd like to implement. And so actually it's not even-- I believe you have to find it right now in the Xbox insider program.
But if you were to sign up for that today, you'd get access to volume commands via the Xbox dashboard. So you can hit the Xbox button on your controller, you get the slide over menu. And if you move over to the audio commands, you can actually--
LARRY HRYB: Settings or audio, I think is what it is, yeah.
CASEY BATES: It's a quick, kind of a quick action. If you're sitting on your couch, you can send volume up, down, or mute. Now, it works great for TVs. But monitors, like I said, it's fairly new. So we let Philips know, hey, this is coming. You've got this big 55-inch monitor that we are assuming is probably going to end up in a lot of people's living rooms. How cool would it be if you could send volume up and down commands from your Xbox controller, not have to look for the remote or walk up to the monitor itself and use that control? So you can just do it from right there. And so really cool example--
LARRY HRYB: With your controller. [LAUGHS]
CASEY BATES: Yeah, yeah. It's a really cool example of the type of little things, but they're nice. It adds to the overall experience of the magic that we can create with these partners.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, and that's, again, that's really what it's all about, is they get brought into the program. And they get to see up the development pipeline of features that we're working on. And they get some ideas, oh, if we do this and take this, then something some magic can happen somewhere for customers.
And that's what's exciting is that people-- and make it easier. I mean, we're all busy. We don't have time to be futzing around in a menu and holding up a blue lens to make sure that the HDRs all match. I mean, that's all great if you want to do that, but some people just want to play games. [LAUGHS]
CASEY BATES: I have a 6 months old, so I've been looking for simplicity. I don't have time-- I'm with you on that one.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, so that's a lot of fun. Anyway, Casey, really appreciate you coming on. And I want to thank you on behalf of all the gamers out there that are able to use these features, and all the great work that you're doing, and your team is doing, and really is going to be doing over the coming years to really make the experience better, easier, faster. So I want to thank you for that. Any final words before I let you go?
CASEY BATES: No, it's exciting what we're doing. I'm very proud of the team and proud of these partners that we worked with. It's an amazing experience, truly.
LARRY HRYB: Awesome, Casey Bates from the Xbox Hardware Team. Thanks so much. And we'll get you on again sometime in the future to talk more monitors and more stuff. How's that sound?
CASEY BATES: Absolutely, thanks Larry.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Thanks Anita, and Casey, and I guess Rebecca and Larry, great job, great job. Always good to learn more about what's going on, both with inside the company with Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and also cool monitors, like everything looks better.
LARRY HRYB: Lots of them. It's funny, I was talking--
REBECCA GORDIUS: You're welcome. So sassy today.
LARRY HRYB: I was talking with Casey. By the way, great interview, great job on that interview, Rebecca. I got a couple of things to talk about for the monitors is, Casey told me after we finished recording that, the 4K 120 hertz thing doesn't really exist in the sub 40-inch television section.
So if you're looking to get a-- you want a TV, you want something that's a little bit smaller, then this is a great opportunity to look at the design for Xbox program. Also, he also wanted to let me know, they all have glare matte screens. So if you've got a real shiny room, I know some folks have a lot of windows around them. You know, I have one behind me and one--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --maybe even in the shot.
LARRY HRYB: Maybe even in the shot.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Exactly.
LARRY HRYB: It's louvered. They also have, beyond just HDMI, they've got DisplayPort that does 4K 144. USB-C, if you've got a fancy laptop that has a USB-C connection, do the one cable thing. And then the MSI which I have here-- I haven't had a chance to hook it up yet-- it has a built in KVM switch. Do you remember those? Anybody, KVM switches, anybody? No, no? OK.
REBECCA GORDIUS: What is that?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Kevin versus-- OK, I was wrong.
LARRY HRYB: Keyboard, video, mouse. So basically it allows you to have--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Not having it today.
LARRY HRYB: --one keyboard and one mouse. And you can switch back and forth-- I hear you-- switch back and forth between your inputs. And it will automatically-- so great example, I'm on my computer. I hit the whatever the specials keystroke is to switch to my Xbox.
Now the Xbox will recognize the keyboard and mouse that's connected through the monitor.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Oh, OK. Well, that's really cool. Yeah, you don't see a lot of that.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah, that is really cool.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, so that's--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I'm constantly every time, even the show, moving USB cables in and out of this thing to that thing. I'm going to have to get me one of these.
LARRY HRYB: So those are kind of cool. But, anyway, so yeah, really excited about that. We'll put a link in the show. I wanted to show you this Jeff and Rebecca and everybody. I don't know if you've seen this. I posted this on Instagram. And this was--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Oh, yeah. He's going into a live tasting.
LARRY HRYB: Well, no, I'm not going to do that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Oh, yeah, you should do it. Yes. I want your honest opinion, Larry.
LARRY HRYB: It's not cold yet. I just got it in, and I haven't had it in the refrigerator. For those of you looking at this, this is--
REBECCA GORDIUS: He wants to keep it in pristine condition.
LARRY HRYB: This is the-- yes. This is the Byte limited edition--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Sorry, Larry.
LARRY HRYB: --zero-sugar pixel-flavored. So I will report next week what a pixel tastes like. What do you think a pixel taste like, Rebecca?
REBECCA GORDIUS: Probably like Coca-Cola, I'm guessing.
LARRY HRYB: I think it's going to taste a Cherry Coke thing. What about you, Jeff? What do you think? What does your pixel taste like?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Silicon, right, like microchips.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Artificial.
LARRY HRYB: I'm hoping it's like lemon. It's bright. It's going to have a nice bright taste. But we'll see.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Oh, yeah, I guess, yeah. Maybe it won't--
LARRY HRYB: Maybe it won't just--
REBECCA GORDIUS: Wait, can we see the can again?
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, absolutely. It was went to me by our good friends at Coca-Cola, which is a brand that you may or may not have heard of.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Is this something that can be boxed, like--
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, this apparently, they're going to start selling it very soon. And so it's Limited Edition.
REBECCA GORDIUS: So is it byte flavored, or is it like package, like a special packaging, but it's still Coke.
LARRY HRYB: My understanding is if you look at the top, it says Byte Limited Edition. And then down here it says pixel flavored. So I think Byte is the family of whatever they're going to have under this thing. And then this is pixel flavored. Maybe we're going to have, I don't know, atmos flavored or brightness flavored.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Voxels are where it's at. You should--
LARRY HRYB: Maybe HDR 10 flavored.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: --just make sure you update the firmware on that before you drink it.
LARRY HRYB: Yeah, I'll have to-- I will absolutely do that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You don't want to drink out-of-date soda.
LARRY HRYB: But, anyway, so that's-- I just thought that would be interesting to show you all what they're doing there. It's just fun, fun stuff. So I don't drink that many soft drinks. I know you don't drink that many either, Jeff.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: You do like a good Coke Lite.
LARRY HRYB: I do. I do like a good Coke Lite.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Are you kidding me? I have an Xbox fridge full of stuff right here, so.
LARRY HRYB: You do? What do you--
LARRY HRYB: Could we--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Just pull something random.
LARRY HRYB: Let's see what it is. This is not--
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: All right, right now, this is unsponsored. All right, so I've got a Spindrift, Spindrift pineapple flavor, quite good, quite good.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Good flavor.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: And then also as always, a Topo Chico. This is Twist of Lime. Which I can't be sitting here chopping up limes down here on my desk and ruining my keyboard with corrosive citrus, no. The good folks at Topo Chico have taken care of that for me. I'm going to crack that. I have a nice Elgato bottle opener. Larry, you asked. We're going all in on this.
LARRY HRYB: I absolutely did. In fact, I've got a bunch of Topo Chico stuff sitting over there. Jeff, do you have that hat that they sent over for you?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I do, I do. You sent me--
LARRY HRYB: We don't have to get into that.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Thank you. Yes, you gave me a Topo Chico dad hat. And I wore it out last weekend. And I got a compliment. And I was like--
LARRY HRYB: You did not.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Aw.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I felt like the cock of the walk.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Cool dad.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Yes, exactly. The bee's knees.
LARRY HRYB: OK, keep going.
REBECCA GORDIUS: All righty.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I was in the catbird seat.
LARRY HRYB: OK, then. All right, I feel like --
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: I'm running out of turn-of-the-century lines.
LARRY HRYB: A little bit of swing music to take you out. Ahoy-hoy.
LARRY HRYB: All right, well, we're going to wrap it up.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: This is where we find out the show has ended 10 minutes ago. We've just been sitting here talking.
REBECCA GORDIUS: Yeah.
LARRY HRYB: So I have-- I'm really excited. I can't-- I'm not going to show the cover of this, but I have-- I'm going to interview an author next week. And I'm very excited about it. So stay tuned, that's all I'm going to say.
REBECCA GORDIUS: What a tease.
LARRY HRYB: That's all I'm going to say.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: It could be anyone.
LARRY HRYB: I'm just going to-- it could be anyone.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Anyone who's written a book.
LARRY HRYB: We're excited about-- hopefully, hopefully they will show up, he, or she, or them, or the group. Maybe it was a group thing. But so we've got a bunch of interviews for next week. And, as I said earlier, a couple of weeks before the Xbox Bethesda Showcase, we will be dark.
Which means we won't have any shows. So you guys, the internet can kind of go on its rampage and try to figure out what's going on, and wish things into existence, right gang?
REBECCA GORDIUS: That's how it works.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: That's a trap. That's bait. Don't take it.
LARRY HRYB: That's bait. That's good that you passed the test. You both passed the test. All right, we'll see you guys. We'll see you guys next week. We got some fun stuff. We'll see you online. If we can bring up the lower thirds, this is how you find us on social media, Major Nelson. You can see that right here. And I follow both of these folks, Rebecca and Jeff. So thanks again for joining us this week, folks.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: Thank you for the follow.
REBECCA GORDIUS: So honored.
LARRY HRYB: Thank you for the follow. And, again, if you're following us on-- if you're subscribing on YouTube, we appreciate that over there. Like and subscribe and the whole bell thing. Spotify, you can find us on Spotify. Google Podcasts-- why are you laughing at me?
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: No, it's the whole bell thing. Like this-- you're barely tolerating the mechanics of how people actually--
LARRY HRYB: It's not the mechanics. It's just like everybody leans into it. I'm like, look, we're just here to-- we're not-- we don't-- this is not sponsored. We don't make any money. We're just here to provide a public service of news and information for Xbox gamers. So we're here.
REBECCA GORDIUS: We don't get paid extra for this.
LARRY HRYB: Trust me, we love talking to you every single week. Apparently Jeff does. He hasn't said anything, so.
JEFF RUBENSTEIN: No, I was waiting for you to lapse in, if you ever going to be rebroadcasting or retransmissioning this podcast, you'd need express written consent of Phil. Will Phil be suffice for that? Yes, so.
LARRY HRYB: All right, well we'll let you go. We'll talk to you later. We'll see you next week. Bye bye, everybody.
[XBOX ONE STARTUP SOUND]