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Microsoft's Greenberg Promises ' Halo: Reach  Will Be The Biggest Game Of 2010'
Microsoft's Greenberg Promises 'Halo: Reach Will Be The Biggest Game Of 2010'
December 10, 2009 | By Christian Nutt

December 10, 2009 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC

Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft's product management director, is practically ebullient regarding the company's performance in his interview with Gamasutra immediately following November 2009's NPD U.S. retail sales results.

In those results, the Xbox 360 lead the PS3 in hardware sales, though Microsoft's console did drop slightly year on year. Of course, the month's big story was the huge debut of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which boasted the biggest opening month of sales ever on Xbox 360 at 4.2 million copies -- besting the PlayStation 3 version by more than two to one in units. (Or, as Greenberg put it, "Holy crap!")

It's worth noting that this does not include copies bundled with Microsoft's limited edition console, a product Sony did not replicate. In comparison, the massively hyped Halo 3 sold 3.3 million copies on its September 2007 debut.

The Power of the (Multi)Platform

Despite the weak economy, says Greenberg, "we had consumers spend more money on the Xbox 360 than the Wii or the PS3: $838 million in hardware, software, and accessories." Though Sony has seen a big bump in hardware sales recently thanks to its PS3 price drop and redesign, Greenberg sees it as temporary.

Multiplatform games still tend to sell significantly better on the Xbox 360; in Greenberg's view, the situation is resolving in Microsoft's favor. "What we're finding is that a couple of things help us here," he says. "While we do see Sony got a bump from their price drop and their introduction of new hardware, we're now seeing stabilization back to more typical marketshare levels. And I think that's really driven by the fact that we have a $199 SKU."

Beyond that, he claims, given the "experiences and value you get for the money," consumers choose (and stick with) the Xbox 360, as "we're going to have the most games and the most exclusives. It leads more customers to choose our console relative to the competition."

Asked about the specific benefits of strong performance of a multiplatform third-party game like Modern Warfare 2, Greenberg replied, "We love to see games sell well, and we love to see third party titles do better on our platform -- it helps us for a variety of reasons. It helps third parties bet on us in a lot of ways. Having the 'most favored nation' status we have with third parties across the board is a reason a lot of consumers choose to buy our platform." And it also helps with things like downloadable content and timed exclusives, he adds.

Modern Warfare 2 in particular, says Greenberg, was a big part of Microsoft's strategy and success for the month. The game "drove a lot of people to buy hardware, and that's why we think we did so well this month. And in fact that's why we did the Limited Edition [Xbox 360 hardware] bundle -- and the results definitely reflect that."

Audience and Platform Continue to Evolve

Though Microsoft atypically refrained from issuing a statement on its tie ratio (that is, the number of games sold per units of hardware, lifetime) this month, the figure is traditionally high for the company, particularly compared to the Wii. Says Greenberg, "What we see is that the consumers that really buy games month in and month out are Xbox 360 owners. Our publishers know that and retailers know that."

There's another benefit: Consumers are steered toward the console their friends have, says Greenberg. "We're getting later in the lifecycle," he observes. "People buy the consoles their friends have, so I think that tie ratios are a big benefit."

Greenberg notes that Xbox 360's out-of-the-box console experience in 2009 is drastically different than it was during the system's 2005 launch. When it comes to services like this, says Greenberg, "I think we invest a lot of money to continue to innovate online. You're going to get a whole slew of experiences a year from now that will really add to your entertainment and we will continue to invest in."

Software Decisions and Declarations, Toward 2010

Commenting on Take-Two chairman Strauss Zelnick's recent comment that "the safest place to be is in triple-A," Greenberg says, "I think that everybody has to run their business themselves and make their own strategy decisions. I think we've made an ecosystem that allows partners to benefit. It allows them to sell a lot of games and enhance them with online revenues and experiences."

Once the topic turned to exclusives, Greenberg couldn't resist talking about the Bungie-developed, Xbox 360 exclusive Halo: Reach, which he is sure will be the biggest game of 2010. When asked if perhaps Sony's Gran Turismo 5, which is set to launch in Japan in March and is likely to launch in the West in 2010 as well, might give it a run for its money, Greenberg was dismissive.

"Is it launching next year?" he mused. "I've seen years and years of minigames, but I haven't seen that the game is done. They just released the PSP version -- maybe that's what they've been working on. I feel confident that there's nothing that will compare in size. Halo: Reach will be the biggest game of 2010."

Of course, that's not the only exclusive that Sony has up its sleeve -- with titles like God of War III and MAG coming early in the year, does that affect Microsoft's strategy? Not so much, says Greenberg. In 2010, he says, "we will do three things well. One, we will continue to offer a better value on hardware pricing. We will continue to remain $100 cheaper than PS3. Two, we will have more games, more blockbuster exclusives, no matter the genre."

"Three, you add all of the entertainment and social network," he concluded. "That's our focus, to keep adding more and more value. Consumers vote with their dollars, and so far it's been paying off, and we feel confident about next year as well."

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Wolf Wozniak
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I don't know.... after the lameness that was Halo 3's campaign, ODST's campaign, and 'Wars' in general...

I just don't know, Mr. Greenberg.

Timothy Tripp
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He has a very good point about people buying what their friends have, I know several people who have bought 360s so they can play on Live with their friends. Personally I have both PS3 and 360 and for online games go with the 360 every time both because I have many more friends on Live than PSN (about 10x as many) and the latency of Live is much better than what I typically get on PSN. A few PS3 games (Resistance 2 in particular) have phenomenal online but almost across the board on multi-platform games the 360 results in a better experience. Some of the EA servers might be a bit snappier on PSN but not very often; it's very inconsistent, and I think that plays a part too. Maybe if Sony ever gets their act together with Home and starts making it more of a match-making arena than it is today things will improve. XBox Live's party mode certainly blows away anything Sony currently offers.

Yannick Boucher
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Poor guy. Having to BS _that_ hard.... ;)

Karl Brehme
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No one speaking yet about 3D sterescophic on PS3 and not in Xbox 360.. I want to see what this will impact Xbox market withou 3D stereo. I have an Xbox 360, and Iīm happy with it without the part that I canīt BUY and download games withou USA IP. But 3D stereo ganmes was dreamed for all my life...

Tyler Peters
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A key issue with the Halo franchise is that it has failed in the last two iterations to be a system seller for MSFT. Then again, H2 was the last time they actually had a good marketing campaign.

Russell Carroll
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H3 was a system seller though? At least for a month. September 2007 was the last time the X360 outsold the Wii. I'd call it a successful month hardware wise.

I really do wish Microsoft would try more stuff though. Shooters are a little tired and I'd love to see more variety as the focal point of the Xbox library. For a quick run-down, here are the games Microsoft has put the most advertising dollars behind since the release of the Xbox 360.

2005 - Perfect Dark Zero

2006 - Gears of War

2007 - Halo 3

2008 - Gears of War 2

2009 - Halo: ODST

2010 - Halo: Reach ??

It's a good list, but I've got serious fatigue of the yearly variations on a theme.

Then again seeing the CODMW2 sales numbers, diversity in gaming doesn't seem to be at the forefront of thought of most other gamers gamers. So...another 4 years of FPS and 3PS then? ...sigh...

I'd love to see MS invest that kind of money and effort into something new and different. (new or different would even work for me)

Joseph Vasquez II
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I think the article was missing half of a sentence here:

"We will continue to remain $100 cheaper than PS3 [, by removing half our console from the box and making people buy it separately.]"

Arno Buruma
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Actually it won't be the biggest game. The Halo franchise has had it's time in the spotlight. If the leaked pictures are real - then Halo:Reach will just be another Halo 3 with a few enhancements and new maps. If perhaps they're smart this time, get rid of matchmaking and allow for dedicated servers with a browser - then we may see a jump in popularity. That won't happen. After the dismal reality of ODST set in - many players were left were disappointed. This is also a company that tells the players how they will play the game - not the other way around. What the players want for features are never granted.

Most franchises last only so long, before the developer simply begins repeating itself in production. Greenberg's promise is also typical of how large companies and developers are never fully in touch with their fans/customers. To be under the assumption that the reception of Reach will be like that of Halo 3 - usually comes from the misconception that by making a new product that is on par with a previous product will bring the same success. That may work for other companies developing other products. It does not work that well for games. Despite the demographics, gamers as a whole are still much more dynamic.

Perhaps, I may be wrong. Many Halo fans - upset by ODST may look at Reach to fill the void. Of course the majority of Halo fans may definitely acquire Reach in their collection. If it is nothing special however, don't be suprised that many copies will be rented instead of purchased.

Ben Hopper
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I can't stand this guy.

raul tomas
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As much fun as hating on MS is, he is right. Halo Reach will most likely outsell anything on 2010 unless the next GTA is released next year. Halo 3 has sold over 10 million units so far and ODST is well over 3 million copies sold so far. The 360 is a big software seller.

luke ward
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This is kinda a no brainer. If you've followed Halo 3 at all you know there are millions who still play everyday. Every-time I hop online there are 200k-300k playing consistently.

All those denying this game wont rock 2010 will see when the time comes.

Terry Matthes
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Its his job to be positive. It's not like he's going to make any modest statements to the public.

Despite the weak economy, says Greenberg, "we had consumers spend more money on the Xbox 360 than the Wii or the PS3: $838 million in hardware, software, and accessories."

I wonder how much of that $838 million came from gouging consumers for their live service?

Chris Jorgensen
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I don't understand how the MS bashing and doom-predicting continues. By any account, they've build a successful brand and business with the 360.

Eric Adams
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I don't mind making public, boastful predictions. However, if you are wrong, you need to man/woman up and eat crow. :-)

Kevin Kyyro
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No matter what side you're on, you gotta admit that his claim about having "more blockbuster exclusives, no matter the genre" is pretty unsubstantiated at this point. I mean he has to reassure the customers and all, but blowing smoke isn't going to convert any potential customers; it's just going to frustrate people.