Microsoft Once Contemplated Giving Away Free Xbox Consoles
They also tried to buy Nintendo.
Today, Xbox is one of Microsoft’s most valuable and visible brands, but all of this has also come at a great cost, as the console line has bled Microsoft a lot of money. however, if Microsoft had had their way in the early days of development of the original Xbox console, then it might have possibly lost them even more cash- there was once a plan to give Xbox consoles away for free, with the caveat of forcing Windows upgrades upon anybody who bought the system.
“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,” Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley told GamesIndustry.biz.
However, that plan was soon put to a stop once Microsoft began to share it with developers in the games industry- remember, this is the time when Windows had a monopoly, but everyone also hated to use it, because it was buggy, unstable, and generally an unpleasant experience, unlike Windows XP and onwards that would soon follow.
“You got the brand that everyone resents having to buy, how’s that going to work in the entertainment industry? See, we don’t need your OS in the entertainment industry. We don’t need shit from you in the entertainment industry. In fact, if anything you do runs like fucking Windows, we don’t want anything to do with it, right? That was a very common perception,” Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, who had been involved intimately in the early days of the Xbox, said. “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’.”
This is all very interesting, of course, and it also makes you wonder how the gaming industry might have been different had Microsoft really persisted with this path- would Xbox have gotten a complete stranglehold on the market? Or would they instead have fizzled and died out prematurely instead?
However, perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Microsoft tried very hard to buy Nintendo. Much like Sony right before their entry into the gaming market with the original PlayStation, Microsoft, too, was spurned by Nintendo before it decided to jump in itself.
However, ultimately, none of these ideas thankfully panned out, and we are left with the Xbox of today, which is a much more positive force in the industry than it would have been in any of those circumstances, it sounds like.