Those they couldn't buy, they wooed. The team has courted hundreds of game developers and publishers intensely, soliciting their opinions on what would make the best box.
"J [is] always the point man. When there was a big question, it was always him in the firing line," says Tim Sweeney, lead programmer at Epic MegaGames and a member of the Xbox advisory board. "I was just surprised they were open to criticism and took our feedback at all."
But winning this high-tech war comes at a price. Sixteen-hour days at the Xbox office are normal. So is working weekends and holidays.
And this is just the first step, "to get the product out at the end of this year with high-quality games, establish the partnerships and build that business machine," Allard says. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done, maybe the hardest thing I will ever do professionally."
At home at the end of another long day, Allard sets aside his public mask of confidence to voice his concerns. It's 11:30 p.m. He's just eating dinner. Rebecca has been traveling on business, and the couple haven't seen each other for several days.
"God, this could blow up," he says, nursing an empty coffee cup. "If this doesn't work . . . " He stops talking, and rubs his eyes. "Don't think that." They have to win. they have to beat Sony.
Slowly, Allard returns to his car and heads back to work. As he walks into his office, a photograph on the door reminds him of his mission: An Xbox machine sits perched atop a giant stone Sony corporate sign.