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Mark Rein: Unreality bites

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There's been talk of the PS3 not playing second-hand games and we know that's one of your particular bugbears - but are we going to move beyond a disk age?

Mark Rein: Well, if you ship games on disk and all you have to do is pop the disk into the console to play a game, I don't know how you prevent people from playing games. So I don't really think that will happen. You can take your disk from one machine to another and that's one of the basic tenets of console gaming, that's one of the advantages consoles have. They're going to try and erase that advantage with Windows Vista which is a good thing, we like fast loading, but as long as that's the way it works.

In future generations of consoles we'll probably see them without optical disks and you probably will download your games, you'll stream them down, maybe you'll buy them on a memory format or maybe you'll still have the disk but it will be a transport medium. I think Xbox Live Arcade is showing that there's an appetite for downloading games and putting them on your hard drive. It'll be a similar situation to iTunes where you authorise it on a couple of machines and you'll always be connected and tethered to the mothership through online.

We're already seeing it on PC gaming services like GameTab and things like that. They're quite successful and no-one seems to mind and it'll help combat piracy. Hopefully, we'll also see the price of games coming down, because we're eliminating a lot of the additional costs of delivering that game in your hands.

What do you make of the platform holders' intentions to help broaden the overall gaming market and bring in more casual players?

Mark Rein: Well, you have to have the hardcore, because you have to have someone who buys the console when it first comes out or else you never get the price down. So I don't really see that changing. Hardcore gamers are a sturdy bunch and we're constantly breeding more of them so I'm not too worried about that.

But anything that gets people interested in touching and playing with the machine... I think Microsoft touched on this last year in their E3 conference and anything that gets eyes on screens is a good thing for the games business. How you go about getting those people interested? Casual games are only one way. Using the console device to deliver different forms of entertainment would be another - using the console for things outside the realm of gaming, like video conferencing, or voice chat, those kind of things.

Those help people get comfortable with the machine and then it's a Trojan horse scenario: "Why don't you try a game? You've got the controller in your hand." Perhaps a little chess game in your video chat app you could play together? I saw an impressive demo of Microsoft's camera for Xbox 360 and there was a game playing with two players, and even while this guy was driving he could see a video of his buddy he was playing against superimposed on the screen. These are the ways we'll get more people interested in gaming.

What do you think are the main challenges and opportunities the industry faces over the next few years?

Mark Rein: For us the biggest thing and something hopefully - cross our fingers - we can contribute to is trying to alleviate the huge bottleneck of constructing the content. Next, trying to keep control in the hands of the most creative people - not just necessarily the people just building and constructing the code, but the architects and the designers and the people who have a vision and making sure we're making more entertaining products year to year, not just more products. I like to think we have a small little role in that in terms of what we're doing with our technology and I think the challenge is to just keep making fun games - new and exciting things that users haven't tried before or new executions on tried and true ideas we've had before. Those are always good ways to move forward.

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