Xbox 360 in for a Rocky Start
Allard admits that early adopters - and would-be early adopters - are in for tough times.
Microsoft has taken much pride in its plan to launch the Xbox 360 nearly simultaneously in Europe, North American and Japan, but is being overly ambitious?
In a candid interview with GameSpot, Microsoft's J Allard admits that early games showing up on the Xbox 360 won't be representative of the power of the console and hints at supply problems later in the year.
While there are several games that scream next-gen, some of the titles in the Xbox 360's launch line-up look like mildly better Xbox games. Microsoft's rush to market is the major problem here, something Allard freely admits:
"[Developers] are cutting corners. I mean, basically, what happens is when you get final hardware late, you're sloppy."
This sloppiness will also be the reason why the second round of games on Xbox 360 will likely be better than the first, or at the very least come closer to showing off the true potential of the hardware.
"[Developers will] be able to get a lot more out of the system next year," Allard says. "That's why games look better year over year. It's primarily because hardware comes in hot and developers use the deficiency of the schedule not just to learn about hardware, but also to cut a couple of corners."
Allard insists, however, that Microsoft will not be rushing its three major in-house games: Project Gotham Racing 3, Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero.
"We're hoping all three of the first-party games make day one. We're on a good trajectory with all three of those. Can I guarantee day one? No. What we learned with Halo  is you don't ship a game before it's ready."
"[The developments teams are] all incredibly motivated and they're working very, very hard. They know there's a chance that they don't all make day one. They'll all make this holiday though."
Another big concern right now, especially in Europe, is that there simply aren't going to be enough Xbox 360s to go around.
Again, the near-simultaneous launch strategy is the problem, but, according to Allard, it's better to have frustrated customers everywhere than to take care of some people while ignoring others (as Sony has recently done with the PSP).
Though Allard is loathe to discuss hard numbers, he says things are coming along, but he suggests that there are going to be would-be Xbox 360 owners sitting empty-handed this Christmas.
"Manufacturing is going really well and, honestly, we decided, as a management team, that we'd rather take the heat on all territories saying, 'We wish we had more,' and we had to say, 'Sold out,' in too many places."
"We'd rather take that heat than take the heat from Europe saying, 'Why do I have to wait for a year?' We designed a worldwide product with worldwide partners and worldwide ambition and the world deserves to see it all at the same time and we're not going to have enough."
Senior people at publishers in Europe recently told trade magazine MCV that Europe as a whole will only see 600,000 Xbox 360s this year, with about 200,000 of those coming to the UK.
As a benchmark, consider the PSP, which sold 185,000 units in the UK in just its first week on sale.
UK Xbox boss Neil Thompson told MCV that meeting demand for Xbox 360 is going to be almost impossible.
"Demand is exceptionally high, so we're not going to meet all of that on day one. But this is part of the decision to have Europe at the forefront of the launch window. We could have decided to launch six months later."
Allard, too, admits that bringing this ship in is no easy task, but he's confident that with the global launch, Microsoft has picked the right strategy.
"We've got boat containers. We've got planes. We're going to have machines leaving on both."
"[The launch] is a logistical nightmare. It really is. It's going to be a whole new thing. It won't go perfect. It just won't."
Editor, Kikizo Games