Xbox Co-Founder: Skeptical About VR, Original Xbox Team Were Gamers & Tried To Keep It All About Games

Ed Fries also comments on current gen consoles and games development.

xbox-one_ps4

Ed Fries is an industry legend and is the main behind the original Xbox. He is one of those who made the Xbox a household name and cemented Microsoft’s place as a genuine competitor in the gaming industry. Ed now holds a number of elite positions at several companies. In a recent AMA [at Yabbly], Ed revealed some interesting information about the original Xbox team, his views on current games consoles and virtual reality headset.

When asked about his views on whether Microsoft and Sony have launched the new consoles too early, he stated that, “It’s been a long wait for this new generation of consoles, the longest in history, so no, I don’t think they shipped too early. I think the problem is that making console games on these super powerful machines has become really time consuming and expensive. The teams are often in the hundreds and budgets are tens to hundreds of millions of dollars. Given how fickle the audience can be, that’s a big bet for any game publisher. Fortunately the new machines are opening up more than in the past to smaller independent developers and I hope they are able to fill the void with less expensive and more original content.”

He also believes that the market might have possibly reached its peak last generation. “Each generation of consoles has grown the market quite a bit, at least until now. So far this generation is off to a slower start. While this may not mean the end for consoles it is possible that the market reached its peak in the last generation.”

Sony announced their own VR solution last week at GDC. When asked whether Microsoft Research’s Fortaleaza and Illumiroom will compete, Ed stated that he was not sure what his ex-company is up to these days, however he heard a few rumors about some cool things.

“I’m not sure what Microsoft is up to these days. I hear rumors about all kinds of cool stuff but will it make it to market? After watching 3D TV fail so spectacularly the last few years, I’m a bit of a skeptic about VR, at least for the broad consumer market, but for hardcore gamers, who knows? Maybe it will work and bring some amazing new experiences.”

Consoles have come a long way. They not only play video games but act as a all in one multimedia device. Obviously not all of those extra features are appreciated by gamers and one such individual asked whether it was something that Microsoft considered for the original Xbox.

“It was, but we really tried to keep it all about the games. Most of the senior Xbox people at that time were gamers and we knew what was important to people like us.”

You can read the entire AMA here. I suggest going through it as it’s a fantastic read.

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  • Dion Abbott

    THis gen off to a slower start? Stopped reading their, PS4 is shattering records and is outpacing any console ever released. Even the retarded xboix one is somehow beating the 360 in sales easily. Did this guy do his research?

    • d0x360

      Simple. Hardware sales are not anywhere near as important as software sales. There aren’t enough games yet especially for the ps4.

    • CervantesPR

      Neither for the xbox one, there still isnt a game worthwhile on xbox one. Both of these consoles are babies.

    • d0x360

      There are a lot of exclusive games on the Xbox one so far. Good or not is an opinion. Based on sales…people think they are good.

    • Axe99

      There are significantly more games available for the PS4 than XB1 (they’ve got the same number of high-profile exclusives, but the PS4 has its F2P and greater indie selection as well), so I’ve got no idea where you get your “especially for the PS4″ from. Both consoles are still in their first year though, so libraries are expected to be a bit thin on the ground.

    • d0x360

      Count the exclusives. The Xbox has more. Nothing to argue about. Why are you getting bent out of shape? Who cares which has more at this point.

    • Axe99

      I’m not bent out of shape, I’m just arguing the facts, as you’ve got ‘em wrong. Note, I’m not counting exclusives – your statement was just talking games, and there are substantially more games available on PS4. Exclusives is another angle altogether, although remember that Titanfall is only as exclusive for XB1 as War Thunder, Warframe, Blacklight, DC Universe Online, Flower, Sound Shapes, Flow and a bunch of other indies are for PS4, and Project Spark is also available on PC ;).

    • Jessika S.

      I agree with you and Titanfall is also available for the PC and in about a week it will also be available on Xbox 360 so it’s not that exclusive.

    • Xtreme Derp

      Mostly supply related. Neither console will keep up their early adopter surge. You’re being shortsighted.

      In terms of overall market size if you include the missing Wii audience, yes the market has definitely shrunk.

    • Axe99

      Except the Wii audience weren’t actually part of the console market (evidenced by their game purchasing habits being significantly different), so including them would mean we’re not talking about the same market in any case.

    • Xtreme Derp

      Yeah, those people buying a video game console to play video games on totally weren’t part of the video game market.

    • Axe99

      You know the Wii’s demographic did not have the game playing habits of the core gamer market. The vast majority of the Wii’s user base used it more like a totem tennis kit than a video game console.

    • Psionicinversion

      its also bin 8 years since the last one, people want new stuff thats why its selling well

  • d0x360

    The Xbox was truly one of the greatest gaming machines ever created. Simple to develop for and powerful hardware. The Xbox one and ps4 are both based off its design. Forward thinking.

    • Axe99

      The Xbox was great from a gaming and development perspective, but its design was inelegant and expensive (they never turned a profit on it). It really was a “PC in a box” more than any other console (including the two just launched), but with that came the extra costs and inefficiencies of just being a re-badged PC. There was a reason that Microsoft didn’t just do the Xbox again with more powerful hardware for the X360.

    • d0x360

      The Xbox was a PC in a box. That’s what was good about it. The reason they didn’t do it again was because they couldn’t.

      On the original all they had to do was out spec the ps2 which was simple because it launched so much later.

      On the 360 they took the Xbox design and went further with a custom GPU and embedded memory in the die but it was still the same basic design idea.
      The Xbox one and ps4 are evolutions of that same design except instead of on die memory Sony went balls out and used gddr5 which was a great idea.
      The original Xbox was expensive for a single reason. They used an off the shelf nvidia part and nvidia refused to come down in price. The reason Sony and ms designed custom gpu’s with the help of AMD was so they were in control of driving down costs and they would no longer be relying on a vendor who just wants to make as much money as possible. Its that simple.

    • Axe99

      So you’re essentially agreeing, without admitting you’re agreeing, then ;).

  • Axe99

    “So far this generation is off to a slower start. While this may not mean the end for consoles it is possible that the market reached its peak in the last generation”

    I’m not sure what Ed’s smoking here, but this just isn’t true, even if you take the Wii into account (and that, in itself, would be pretty questionable analysis). At this stage, the current launch period is the strongest ever, by some margin. For Ed to take this as evidence the market may have peaked is just crazy. That’s not to say that it might not have peaked, but we don’t know yet, and the available evidence is to the contrary.

    • Xtreme Derp

      If you think PS4 and Xbox aren’t going to slump below the Wii and PS2’s upward trajectory, and end up somewhere around PS3/360, you’re delusional.

    • Jecht_Sin

      I usually agree with you but it is too early to tell about the PS4. There are still two factors to consider:

      – Shortage of supply (still going on in UK and Australia for example)
      – Lack of Japanese games for the Japanese market.

      Still the PS4 is at 6.6 millions now. Selling 220K pieces the week of Infamous, when it has been restocked.

    • Xtreme Derp

      Wii and PS2 had massive sales legs years into their launch. The same won’t happen for either next-gen console.

      PS4 will sell above PS3 and Xbox One will sell below it, but adding PS4+Xbox One will probably equal less than PS3+360. Result? The market is likely shrinking overall even excluding the Wii.

    • bettergetdave

      I hear what you are saying but I don’t see you explaining why the market is shrinking! You just can’t look at higher sales…say it is all demand related and then say the market is likely shrinking. What makes you think it is shrinking? Nothing has slowed down to indicate that.

      If anything I think it is growing just b/c of gaming demographics. When the 30-40 yr olds today played games in the 80’s our parents didn’t play with us. Today we are having kids and buying consoles for ourselves and our children. My brother in law is 50+ and he plays COD a lot! He has 3 xones and 1 ps4 in his house alone. My neighbors are the same too!

      And please don’t drop the Pachter mobile market theory either. No one exist our there that says I had a console last gen but really my phone and pad games are enough now and I don’t need a new gen console. If anything the opposite is true with that….mobile games are opening people up that never played at all to possibly pick up more hard core games on a console.

    • Axe99

      As per Jecht, we just don’t know yet. It’s impossible to tell the future, plain and simple. VR might take off like no tomorrow and Morpheus might be the way the masses use it and the PS4 could sell 200 million, or maybe the core of gamers has dropped off a tonne and they only sell 20. We just don’t know. However, what we do know is that the data we have so far has the fastest growth of a new console generation in history – a pretty flimsy base case for the argument that the market is shrinking.

    • Xtreme Derp

      You’re in denial. I guarantee you no home console will sell as well as PS2 did, let alone Wii. PS4 and Xbox started out strong because of larger supply and a hardcore fanbase, but after that sales will naturally drop off, because there isn’t as much sustained demand.

    • Axe99

      If you look at a history of human predictions (and I am assuming you’re human here, but you’re reasoning is fairly standard for our species) then you’ll see it’s something we’re generally pretty bad at. There are upside outcomes for current-gen selling more than the PS2, and while they’re probably less likely than the downside outcomes, it’s all probability – there _is_ a chance, and pretending there’s not is unscientific.

    • Xtreme Derp

      I’m pretty sure about it. Both PS4 and Xbox have already moved under the Wii’s trajectory in that chart by now.

    • Axe99

      Given the PS4 is still supply-constrained, and the Wii was supply constrained for many months early on (I’m not sure how long it lasted, but it was definitely until early in 2007), those gradients at this point may simply be manufacturing limits. However, the average gradient for the PS4 over a like-for-like period is still stronger (by some margin). Something else to keep in mind is that the Wii really only sold well for 4-5 years, then slowed down suddenly, wheras a more traditional console tends to have its strongest sales 3-5 years into its life, rather than be tapering off then.

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