Will 2010 be the year everything changes in this console cycle? With PS3 sales on the up, two new motion control systems on the way and Nintendo yet to reveal what the Vitality Sensor's for, who knows?
Phil Spencer reckons he does. The Microsoft Game Studios boss is confident his team has what it takes to win the war, particularly with regard to shiny new secret weapon Project Natal.
We had a chat with Spencer about why he's feeling so chipper, what we can expect from Natal and why it's not a motion control system, actually. Read on to find out what he had to say.
Eurogamer: What are your goals for 2010? Where does Xbox need to go this year?
Phil Spencer: Well, it's amazing, sitting here at the beginning of 2010 and looking at the line-up. You know, it's almost cliched at this point and it's typical kind of PR speak, but I think we have the best line-up ever.
Eurogamer: No one's ever said to me, 'I think our line-up's a bit mediocre this year, I'm not sure how well it's going to go..."
Phil Spencer: Sometimes when I've had to do [interviews], you want to boost the individual names. And we should go through that, right? We've got Alan Wake, which has been a long time coming, but I've been playing it a lot lately and it's really come to a point which is very special. Then there's Crackdown, Halo: Reach... I think Halo: Reach will be the biggest game to come out this year. I also think, from playing it, that it's one of the best, if not the best, Halo releases yet.
I can do the roll-call, but frankly if I just sit back and look at the collection of games that are coming out on the 360, the next generation of great franchises and brand new IP coming to market... That's not even talking about Natal, which for a lot of people will really change the face of what 360 is. It will introduce this platform, the hardware as well as the Live service, to a whole new set of customers.
So when I say biggest year ever, however you want to make fun of me as a studio head, what I am focused on is just the breadth of what we're doing this year. It's a challenging year because we want to get all that stuff done and make it great, but also an exciting year because it's just a great collection of games and entertainment coming to market.
Eurogamer: There have been criticisms that Microsoft tends to take less risks than Sony when it comes to first-party development. How do you respond?
Phil Spencer: I don't agree at all. This picks up the discussion about Natal very well, because if there isn't risk in Natal then I don't know what's keeping me up at night. We're trying something completely new where there's no device in your hand. We're trying to build a set of new games, new experiences that will have the same quality metrics of our past games, but really entice both existing 360 customers and new people. It's a huge challenge, a huge investment and it's fraught with risk.
At the same time, when I look at Live and I think about the innovations in the XBLA space and the games that we've pushed forward, I actually would have agreed that a couple of years ago I thought some of the things we were doing online were not differentiated enough. But when I look at the last year and the set of games that has come out from us in the Live space - we brought that XBLA focus into the first-party studios about a year ago, and I think the change in the quality of games that have come out is remarkable.