It must be a daunting task to enter the console market, but no scarier than a time where Sony was kicking ass and taking names, even managing to sideline the prestigious Nintendo in many regards. Microsoft, however, took up the task with their very first Xbox – a console that aimed to radically change the console market with online and local-multiplayer gaming. Before that though, it was nothing more than a way to push Windows.
A recent interview with Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley has revealed some of the insane ideas that were flying around the Microsoft offices when they decided to enter the console market. At a time, Microsoft couldn’t even commit to a full-fledged gaming device. Instead, the Xbox nearly became another household box to push Windows onto consumers – at a time where there was very little good to say about the brand.
Better yet, the plan was to give away the Xbox for absolutely nothing.
“In the early days of Xbox, especially before we had figured out how to get greenlit for the project as a pure game console, everybody and their brother who saw the new project starting tried to come in and say it should be free, say it should be forced to run Windows after some period of time,”
The brain behind Oddworld, Lorne Lanning, expressed his excitement to jump on-board at the time. In his view, a console that was going to be given away was going to win, and every single developer wanted to be on the winning console.
“So now you’re like, ‘look, if you’re going to give the box away, you’re going to win. If you’re going to win, we want to be on board’.”
But with the suspected focus aiming at Windows invasion over actual gaming, the desire shifted. At the time, Microsoft wasn’t the kindest word rolling off people’s tongues, and having to defend them rather than promoting your actual game wasn’t the most enticing idea around.
“There was a lot of resistance; it was, ‘Microsoft Game Studios? Fuck Microsoft!’ And we went around the world defending them. We said, ‘Look, this is about building better environments for developers so that you can get better games at cheaper prices and developers can stay in business longer’.”
In the end ideas like this – which joined others that included purchasing Nintendo at one point – made way for the rather fantastic debut console from the Silicon Valley giants. The Xbox, along with Xbox Live, revolutionised online console gaming, and cemented Microsoft as the yang to Sony’s yin. A rivalry that stands strong to this day, although one could argue that Sony is taking better steps forward.
Last Updated: April 1, 2015