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Microsoft's Don Mattrick

On why he thinks 360's going to beat PS3.

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Little did we know when we spoke to Peter Moore at E3 last year that he would be gone from his job as head of the Xbox business weeks later. His replacement, former EA executive Don Mattrick, has kept a low profile since then, sending his deputy John Schappert to face the press, us included, at GDC earlier this year. But he came out with a bang at E3 earlier this month when he said: "I'm willing to declare here today that Xbox 360 will sell more consoles worldwide this generation than PS3." Not even his charismatic, tattoo-loving predecessor ever went that far.

Meeting Mattrick for a one-on-one afterwards in a restaurant called La Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles, we expected a bit more evasion - and inevitably there were a few things he was coy about, like the rumoured motion controller and the successor to Xbox 360 - but he wasn't done with bold claims: Xbox 360 software is going to outperform PS3 software for the next three years and beyond, he told us; he's "elated" with the console's performance in Japan; and whereas his team got "more than 12 months of productivity" between E3s 2007 and 2008, "it kind of feels like the competition took an extended holiday".

Is he right about all this? He says time will tell. We expect you'll have a few things to say about it too. Read on for our complete E3 2008 Don Mattrick interview, which also includes the full section containing yesterday's startling claim that Bungie happily accepted the decision not to show Halo, as well as Mattrick's views on digital distribution and Blu-ray.

The new 60GB Xbox 360 Premium is an example of how Microsoft plans to keep providing value to consumers, says Mattrick.
EurogamerIn your E3 conference you declared that Xbox 360 will beat PS3 worldwide. You definitely meant worldwide?
Don Mattrick

Yes, absolutely. It gets boring getting asked the same question from different people all the time and there's been a lot of misinformation, so I used the E3 opportunity. We're the first box in this generation to pass 10 million units, we've passed so many thresholds in terms of quality titles. You look at aggregated reviews from around the world - you go onto Metacritic - and count the number of 90-rated titles on our platform, compare that to Wii, compare that to PlayStation 3: there is no comparison.

We know that our third-party partners have a tremendous well of content coming to our platform so there's support. We know that we're driving the majority of their revenue and profit growth. We know that in prior generations, whoever creates that ecosystem where people can scale, can be profitable, can grow, that they tend to win.

The other thing we know is Sony's given guidance and said their goal is to create ten million units this coming year. Needless to say, our aspiration is to do more. We also know we have a volume lead both in Europe and North America, and with that volume lead in the aggregate, when you add in Japan, is larger than Sony's.

All those things - I basically just do the math: know what growth we've got, know all the new things, all the capabilities to add value, utility; we've got an amazing product and we just have to keep evangelising to get more people to try it, because when they do, they love it.

EurogamerYou mentioned the precedent that if you hit ten million in the US, you go onto win, based on previous generations. Sony says it has its own precedents, that the products that drove them to record numbers were in years 3, 4 and 5, or even later. Do you not think that's going to happen with PS3, or do you just expect your software to outperform it when it does happen?
Don MattrickI think we're going to outperform them.
EurogamerYou're saying that your next three or four years of software will outperform theirs and they won't be able to catch you?
Don Mattrick

That's what I said.

EurogamerProbably the biggest and best-kept secret at your conference was Final Fantasy XIII coming to 360. It's still PS3-exclusive in Japan though. Is Japan a losing battle for you guys?
Final Fantasy XIII on 360 was Microsoft's big E3 reveal, and Mattrick says the decision not to show a new Halo was the correct one.
Don Mattrick

Not at all. You kidding? I'm elated with what we've achieved in Japan. Our partners are elated, we're getting more and more support, and again you need to start, you need to participate.

Building relationships with Japanese companies and consumers is not something you can do in a short period of time, and I have nothing but positive feedback to show from all of the key leaders of the Japanese companies. They think we're doing great work, they're cheering for us, they're concerned about growth rates in Japan and they see dramatic growth occurring in North America and Europe and know that they need their partner that they can work with and participate and think we're the best partner.

So I think we're doing great work, making great progress. I'm really pleased with what we've achieved.

EurogamerOn another front, Harold Ryan from Bungie posted a message on their website basically saying that you guys pulled a new Halo game from the conference.
Don Mattrick

Absolutely, and let me tell you why. The first cut of our show we had lined up all the things that were ready to go and ready to speak to people about and it was a two-and-a-half-hour show at the same pace that we did. So in prior experience sitting in the office, I kind of had a general rule of thumb which I shared with the team that I didn't think we should go over 90 minutes.

We need to be respectful of the audience that if we were delivering and showing things - and by delivering and showing things here's what I mean: showing real software and talking about ship-dates, a pretty novel concept right? People playing and us telling them when it's going to ship, centring it on things that are coming in 2008, another novel concept. When we put all those things together and showed all the things that we did, we did our first run, we had over two and a half hours of stuff, so then the question is: do you hold everyone captive for two and a half hours and run through it, or do you park some things?

One of the things that we decided, when you have the number one game in the world as we have in Halo, it's a safe prediction that if we do a separate event for Halo, that it'll be well-attended, well covered and allow people to get hands-on experience of using the products, and that we can generate a tremendous amount of press with that, so we didn't feel we needed to show Halo to have a great show, to pay homage to our core audience, to have a lot of news, so it was an embarrassment of riches and we couldn't fit it in. How great is that? I think that's awesome.