What do you think when you hear the phrase Chief of Staff? A man with a steely gaze and sharp suit stalking through the corridors of the White House? Or a man in a crumpled check shirt talking about why his magic camera is better than a light-up ping pong ball?
If it's the latter you're probably thinking about Aaron Greenberg, Chief of Staff for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, Don't You Know. He's more informally known as Microsoft's mouthpiece, always on-hand to provide a smart and occasionally controversial soundbite.
With the launch of magic camera Kinect just a few weeks away, Eurogamer sat down with Greenberg for a chat. Read on to find out how excited he is about the launch, what he thinks about PlayStation Move and whether he'd bet us a tenner that Call of Duty will outsell Halo: Reach.
Eurogamer: We're coming up to the launch of Kinect. How important are the review scores those initial titles get?
Aaron Greenberg: I don't know. For us, these are different types of titles and experiences than maybe some of the games traditionally that are targeted to the core market. So the correlation between a review score for Halo: Reach and sales is very high, but Kinect Sports is more about just having fun.
I don't know how reviewers will grade those games because they're so unique and so different to what the reviewers have played with controllers. We'd love to see great reviews but I don't think you'll see the same type of correlation between reviews and actual sales of the game, would be my guess.
Eurogamer: You sound like you're a bit nervous about what the specialist media will think of the games, but confident Kinect will still sell well...
Aaron Greenberg: I'm not nervous. I know what the media thinks; we know they love Dance Central, we've heard they think it's the killer app. They're excited about Child of Eden. We've even had a lot of good feedback for Kinectimals from the core.
We also know that they're going to be spending a lot of money on Halo: Reach, Fable III and Call of Duty this holiday. That's a lot of great product for them to choose from.
Eurogamer: Don Mattress has been quoted as saying Kinect will sell three million this Christmas. What do you think it will sell this financial year?
Aaron Greenberg: We haven't given any projections beyond this holiday, but this will be the largest launch we've ever had as a business. We'll definitely sell more sensors than the Wii sold when it launched or the Xbox 360 sold when it launched.
We feel safe we'll do three million this holiday, which puts us in pretty high territory for even a consumer electronics product.
Eurogamer: Microsoft took centre stage for this year's Tokyo Game Show keynote... How was it for you?
Aaron Greenberg: It was an honour. I think it speaks to how much content we're now getting from Japanese creators, both first- and third-party. We don't get to do the keynote every year, but this year felt like the right year to do it.
Eurogamer: So you think this is it? This is the year you might finally sell more than 12 Xboxes in Japan?
Aaron Greenberg: We've actually sold almost 1.5 million. How 'bout that?
Eurogamer: That is more than 12.
Aaron Greenberg: That is a little more, give or take...
Eurogamer: The Kinect games unveiled at TGS seemed to be more hardcore in tone. Are we likely to see any similarly hardcore Kinect titles from Western developers?
Aaron Greenberg: All of the leading developers around the world have sensors and have dev kits. We really leave it in the hands of the devs.
What's great about Japan is there are developers who have a great history of making really core games. Think about Inafune-san and Suda51 - these guys have come to us and said, 'Hey, I want to make a Kinect title, I really think I can do something innovative.' And they absolutely are going to make games we think gamers will love. We expect to see more support from developers of all types globally.
Eurogamer: One of the games unveiled was a Kinect version of Steel Battalion. One of our readers has asked, how is that going to work? That controller was so complicated, how on earth is it going to work with Kinect?
Aaron Greenberg: Yeah.
Eurogamer: [Pause] How on earth is it going to work with Kinect?
Aaron Greenberg: That's a great question for Inafune-san...
What's great with Kinect is, you don't need to make the $200 investment in a controller for one game, right? Once you own the sensor there's nothing else to buy. The original Steel Battalion thing had about 40 buttons, which is very cool, but it didn't sell to as large of an audience as you would have wished because it was such a big investment.
Eurogamer: I don't think my mum was ever going to buy a Steel Battalion controller. Even if it was a pound.
Aaron Greenberg: That's probably true. But I'm confident this title will sell more than its predecessor and Kinect is a big part of that. It'll be unique, it'll be different. How Inafune-san does it remains to be seen. I'll leave that to the creator to speak to that.
Eurogamer: Also launching rather soon is Call of Duty: Black Ops. Do you think it's going to outsell Halo: Reach?
Aaron Greenberg: What I can tell you is that I think Call of Duty is a fantastic title and I think Halo: Reach is a fantastic title. It's not apples to apples...
Eurogamer: It sort of is though, because they are both shooters. Like, Call of Duty is a Cox's Pippin and Halo: Reach is a Golden Delicious.
Aaron Greenberg: Yeah. But COD is multi-platform, and I think a more interesting comparison would be how they do on Xbox 360. I think it'll be very close.
We're really pleased Halo: Reach did $200 million on the first day - that's bigger than any entertainment launch this year, bigger than any movie. COD will do a big number like that, absolutely.
Eurogamer: Would you bet me a tenner that Halo: Reach will do better than COD on Xbox 360?
Aaron Greenberg: No. I don't, you know, I don't like to... Yeah. No.
Eurogamer: Michael Pachter has predicted you're going to charge publishers to make their games playable online...
Aaron Greenberg: Pach. Pach! I love Pach! The Pach Attack!
Eurogamer: Sitting there with his tea leaves and his headscarf, predicting the future...
Aaron Greenberg: Michael Pachter is obviously a great analyst and he's a fun and entertaining guy to listen to. I can't comment on his speculation about things like that. Just pure speculation, not grounded in any reality.
Eurogamer: What about Sony's rival technology, PlayStation Move? Can you describe what you think of it, without using the phrases "different offering", "we don't see it as direct competition" or "room in the marketplace for both"?
Aaron Greenberg: Well, it's really a very different offering which we don't see as direct competition, but there's room in the marketplace for both.
Eurogamer: That was a terrible effort. Achievement LOCKED.
Aaron Greenberg: Haha! Um... I think Move... Um... Is...
Eurogamer: See, it's hard isn't it?
Aaron Greenberg: No no, I'm not thinking about your words, I'm thinking about how to describe it. Here's what I think: Move is just a different approach to the market. We're thinking about Kinect as a key component to the platform, and what they've done with Move...
First off, it's a great product and the reviews seem to be pretty favourable. But they've targeted it purely to existing owners. They've said you can decide whether you want to play existing titles on the platform, like SOCOM, with the controller or with Move.
Our approach has been different. We're not going to take Halo, a game you love playing with the controller, and offer you the option to play it with a different interface which may or may not have been designed for that game. We want to build completely unique experiences from the ground up which are designed for Kinect. It's just a different approach.
I'm confident the commitment we're making to Kinect is on a par with the commitment we've made to Xbox Live. We have a significantly larger team and resources we're dedicating to Kinect. This is a big bet and it's a game changer. It's unique and different.
That said, for gamers who have a PS3 and like playing those games, it offers a different way to play - and some people will get pleasure out of that, absolutely.
Eurogamer: You did you use the word "different" several times there, but I'll let you off the hook for not using "competition" or "marketplace". When's the next Xbox coming out?
Aaron Greenberg: We think of Kinect as really the launch of the new platform and a new generation, in many ways. We have the sensor, we have a line-up of 15 new titles, we're investing in it as if it's a new launch.
What we're looking at now is how we can creatively bring variety and new ways to play. Kinect allows us to do that without having to launch an entirely new platform. So I think we're five years in and we safely feel like there's at least another five years left in this generation.
Aaron Greenberg is Chief of Staff for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business. Kinect launches in the UK on 10th November.