How many Xboxes do you think Halo is going to sell?
PM: I don't know. I know it's going to sell a lot of green ones. I think it's going to sell a lot of hardware, there's no doubt about that. There's primarily two things. We've got a lot of PS2 fence-sitters: guys who aren't seeing anything yet on the PS3 and are saying, "I'm going to spend $500 on this console and spend money on these games," but they're not seeing [worthwhile PS3 content].
For another thing, we've got a lot of guys who still play Halo 2 on the Xbox, and this is the big motivator for them. They'll move up and buy a 360 for Halo, no doubt about that. You've got a holiday coming up, and after they look at Halo, they'll look at the entire lineup we've got and say, "Halo's great, [but there's also] exclusive content, Madden, Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, PGR 4, Blue Dragon, and Bioshock." You add all that together and you say, "I'm getting one."
How important do you think exclusives are in that equation?
PM: I think they're obviously very important, because it's been proven over and over again. If you look at the last generation -- whether Sony admits it or not -- I think having Grand Theft Auto as an exclusive was one of the key reasons they did so well on that generation. There's no doubt in my mind that, prior to that, having Final Fantasy for the PlayStation [created the same effect]. You also look at an exclusive level for your first party. Boy, without Zelda and Metroid, where would Nintendo be? Those things don't show up on any other box, and I think they're critically important.
Microsoft doesn't have quite as large of a stable of people who can make those as Nintendo and Sony right now.
PM: Well, we have 1,100 people working at Microsoft Game Studios, and importantly, we have tremendous relationships with Epic, Bizarre Creations, BioWare, Irrational Games, and other people who are doing this stuff for us. Ubisoft Montreal is also part of the family. You look around the world, and there's 1,100 people who say, "I work for Microsoft, and I have my blue badge." Then you have three to four thousand people who are almost working exclusively on our titles who are not Microsoft employees, but are very important to the Microsoft Game Studio family.
People have been saying behind the backs of their hands that the 360 is easier to develop for than the PS3. Do you feel like that's a factor, in talking to these companies?
PM: I don't think they say it behind the backs of their hands. I think the development community is pretty open about that.
Well, they're the ones who want to be cross-platform.
PM: It's no secret. It's a development architecture that has its roots way back on the PC. It's derivative, and not totally different from the Xbox itself. People are just comfortable with it, and they also know that they just need to place a phone call with us and we support them on-site with our technical teams.
It seems like Microsoft has really been ramping up its development support. I've been getting that impression. Obviously the libraries are more mature because they're similar, and you've got your cross-platform thing going with Games for Windows.
PM: The libraries continue to evolve, and when you've got thousands of people working on the platform, the development community is very good at sharing. As we get closer to a game shipping, there's always things we put in there to fix graphical issues and network issues. We always solve the problems.
You mentioned Final Fantasy. I've been wondering, now that Square Enix has licensed Unreal Engine 3 for some of its projects, if they're ever going to go cross-platform for that series.
PM: We talk to Square Enix all the time. They're a great partner, and we do some distribution for them now with Project Sylpheed. We're always talking, but it's their intellectual property, and they know what's best for them and their shareholders. One would assume that if we continue to do our job with our install base that Final Fantasy could show up on our box. We did have XI, as you know, and while XIII still seems like it's a ways away, we would hope to have that progress.
Back to your Sega days, did you ever feel like you gave up on the Dreamcast too soon?
PM: I never gave up on the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast was and still is many peoples' favorite console of all time, and we had this tough situation with Sega and couldn't sustain the investment in the platform that was necessary to compete with the PlayStation 2, which was a pretty powerful platform. It was a sad day for all of us: January 31st, 2001. It was tough for all Sega fans. I've never had anyone come up to me and say, "You know, I bought a Dreamcast and it wasn't worth the money." I've never had anybody come up to me and say that. We all loved the Dreamcast. There just weren't enough of us. That was the problem.
This is a bit of a sensitive question - you've no doubt seen the photoshops of yourself with devil horns…I have to ask you – are you in fact the Prince of Darkness?
PM: Damn, my cover's blown! Let me just tuck the tail in back there!
I knew it!