Q: There aren't that many rivals to EA's sports titles. You're still there.
JM: We're still there as the underdogs and we're hanging in. But the point is, our answer is to become the best-playing football game. That way we have a point of difference. As it used to be, if it's really important that you play every license in every game and pretend to be this player, your obvious choice is FIFA. But if you want a more serious football game that will last you for a whole year and you will play with your mates in a way that you don't play any other game, then it should be PES. That's what we're aiming to return to.
Q: There was a time when I imported a new Winning 11 because it was slightly better than our version. We didn't care it was Japanese, we just got it for the gameplay.
JM: You're not alone in doing that.
Q: EA invested in a new start for FIFA on this generation, but it felt like PES was an iteration on what had come out on PS2. This year is the first time it feels like it's the real next-gen PES that people wanted. Going forward are you going to try and stay ahead?
Q: The situation where EA got a headstart, that's not going to happen again?
JM: I think that's fair to say. I don't like to keep talking about what they've done, but you have to put it into context. What they've done is to earlier than us really rip apart certain aspects of their game and rebuild it. That's what we're doing now, so you're only seeing the start of the process for us.
Q: So you're building for the future as well?
JM: Absolutely. Although this is the biggest change between two versions of PES, perhaps even a bigger change than you see between a couple of versions. Although you see that, I think there are bigger things that we'll see in the next two to three years where we won't stop developing and we will end up with a product that is quite extraordinary.
Q: So this game is like a statement of your intent going forward?
JM: I think it's more than a statement, because at the heart of it it's great to play. This version is great to play. It's like rediscovering Pro Evo like you want to. It's like having shackles taken off, so you can play the game that you want, but with the heart of it being PES. You really feel like you have achieved something when you score a goal. You come up against people that play in a different way. The Master League Online will add a new dimension, too.
Within this product we've got a great, great PES. I think the best PES that we've had full stop, in my own personal opinion. Other people will look back to the PS2 for the purest game, but in terms of the total package I think this is the best version yet. It's more than just a statement that we're coming back.
It's also true to say that we are now finding our feet. You can see the team is finding their feet. You can see that they are now happy with the game on the platforms they are developing for, and they are getting ideas about how they want to push the boundaries that you will see pushing on.
Q: I agree that the game is shaping up to be something a lot better than what we've had for years. Realistically, can the game, even if it comes out with a 90 average, can you get near to FIFA this year or is it going to be a longer process?
JM: Depends what you are talking about. In Italy and Spain, PES beat FIFA and they always have. Germany is increasing year-on-year, even through the rough years. The key target areas have been UK and France. UK PES has never beaten FIFA. France PES used to beat FIFA, but had their position overtaken. So it's a complex system around Europe.
If you are talking about the UK, then no. We are not going to beat FIFA with this version and while the situation continues with the way that certain tactics are used to get licenses in the UK, I'm not sure that we can beat them in the UK. There's certain things that happen in the UK which makes it very difficult for us to break into the market. Then there's money of course. And money is spent hand over fist in the UK. In terms of the other territories I would hope that Spain goes on and opens up a bigger gap against EA. I would hope the same happens in Italy. I hope Germany will get closer to FIFA. And I would hope that - I'm not sure that they can do it in this version, but they can certainly start - France starts to reassert its dominance in that market too.
If you want my overall opinion then this is not the title that we are going to beat FIFA on. This is the title where we are going to convince our fans, a lot of them, to come back to us. Come back to us and start playing it seriously and when they do that they will then, if they believe what we're saying, then hopefully they will persuade their other friends to come back. We want to start that ground swell of fans returning to a quality product.