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Xbox's Aaron Greenberg talks 'best-ever November in Xbox 360 history'

After two months of trailing the PS3 in monthly NPD sales – thanks in no small part to the success of the PS3 Slim – the Xbox 360 has taken the lead once again. And Microsoft was quick to offer spokesman Aaron Greenberg for a chat, to explain why they're calling this November the "best-ever November in Xbox 360 history."

"In the month of November, consumers spent more money at retail on Xbox 360 than they did on the Wii or the PS3," Greenberg tells Joystiq. "If you look at total consumer spend across hardware, software, and accessories, it was $838 million. And if you look at software games, specifically third-party software games, we sold more games than the PS3 and the Wii combined." This emphasis on the entire "ecosystem" – including console sales, and software and accessories – is behind Microsoft's "best-ever" claim. In fact, though the Xbox 360 did sell over 100K more units than the PlayStation 3, console sales were down 2% year-over-year.

"We're essentially flat, year over year. It's down 2%, technically, if you just look at hardware sales," Greenberg admits. Whether the Wii was on top or whether Microsoft's November sales are the best in the console's history, all comes down to a question of focus. "What scoreboard are you using?" Greenberg asks.

And that's why he argues that the metrics to determine success need to account for everything. "We have to step back and look at the total ecosystem," Greenberg explains. "I don't think it's just about console sales month in and month out because, frankly, if someone buys a piece of hardware and doesn't buy any games and doesn't go online then the experience becomes very limited. It also doesn't provide a benefit for our third-party publishers."

When asked how the Xbox managed to come back from behind – increasing sales 228% from last month, versus Sony's (comparitively light) 121% increase – Greenberg explains, "What we've seen this month and the last couple months were very much expected. If you look at some of the guidance we gave, we did expect Sony to see a temporary bump as a result of their prices and the introduction of new hardware, that's typical. I think what we're seeing this month is that market shares are stabilizing again."

With market share stabilizing and multi-platform console titles like Assassin's Creed 2 and Modern Warfare 2 performing better on Xbox 360, we asked how Greenberg saw console exclusives fit into the Xbox strategy. There's Microsoft Game Studio's own Halo: Reach which, Greenberg tells us, they "expect will be, hands-down, the biggest game of the year." But, discussing Nintendo, Greenberg explains that "If you dominate with first-party, you're going to shut out your third party" so a large part of Microsoft's exclusives strategy includes third-party content. "Our goal is to have as much exclusive content as you can," he says. "In some cases it's exclusive downloadable content ... in other cases, it's things like Left 4 Dead 2."

Greenberg admits that "many people were surprised by how well we performed" and that "how well Call of Duty: Modern Warfare [2] did" was a big part of the platform's success in November. With 4.2 million copies sold on the Xbox 360 versus 1.9 million on the PlayStation 3 ("And that doesn't even include all the units we sold with the limited edition console bundle," Greenberg adds) the fact that the Modern Warfare phenomenon favors the Xbox 360 isn't lost on Greenberg. "The more mainstream consumer is following the lead of their friends and word of mouth plays a big role here so if your friends have an Xbox and your friends are playing on Xbox Live, then that's where they're going to go."

What's next for Xbox 360? Greenberg says that the recent social networking additions have "performed extremely well ... performing at levels of our blockbuster games" illustraing his point with the following pieces of data: "In the first week alone two million people went on Facebook on their Xbox 360" and "more than a million people [created] accounts." With Project Natal widely expected to be released next year (Greenberg deftly dodged our attempt to extract a date) the team at Microsoft seems intent on proving to the world that a platform's success isn't just in console sales, but rather the entire ecosystem, presumably including any fancy motion-sensing cameras they may sell. "We're looking at the total ecosystem and that's how we're defining success for us and our partners."

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