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Xbox Co-Creator Ed Fries (IGN Unfiltered Interview)

SOR5

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Interview hosted by Ryan McCaffrey here

Some highlights (paraphrased), Ed Fries is a cool guy and also did Halo 2600 and Figureprints if you didnt know

On meeting Japanese developers:
I mean I literally just taken the job because I was a little frazzled and people are telling me im making a huge mistake in my career, and im there and im walking down the streets in Tokyo and you know we went and visited all the great japanese game developers I go in and I see Capcom and theyre showing this game theyre working on called "Biohazard" and im looking at them like "This is Alone in the Dark!" and theyre like "Yes yes! Alone in the Dark!", I can remember moving through Tokyo that night thinking I made the right choice
On a potential Westwood Acquisition:
I did what any gamer would do with all the resources I had and worked with every developer I could like "Oh I love this game!" we tried to hire Westwood, almost got Westwood actually, but EA outbid us the last minute. But I went around and talked to everybody I respected in the industry like Bungie.
On Microsofts initial plans for Xbox:
So they had an idea that essentially was a console but it was a PC, it'll look like a console and it'll install it quietly in the background, but it will really be a PC CD, but it'll play like a console. Its so true how full circle it is.
On Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and the divisions with Microsoft:
So basically there were two internal teams with the Valentines Day Massacre, I teamed up with one, the other was the continuation of the Sega Dreamcast line and their console was very much a pure console. Ours had a hard disk and was a PC in disguise, so we had all these executives on our side and we had guys on our side and Bill Gates chooses us because were on-strategy, were running Windows and all this stuff. Then we spend a year going over what its actually going to take, the Dreamcast team shuts down and joins us, and we become more like them, but at some point we drop Windows. We want this closed thing that runs games really well. So all of that culminates into this big meeting on Valentines Day, so we go into the meeting and four o clock valentines day, Bill walks in he's holding a Powerpoint deck and yells "This is the blanking insult to everything ive done at this company" and that was the start, so we all looked at J Allard because we knew Bill's mad about the no Windows thing, because we forgot to "pre-disaster" him, so J is in shock for a minute and Bill yells at me and shuts me down and Robbie steps up and Bill shuts him down anyway, and then Ballmer goes through and says we're gonna lose alot of money and he's beating us up about that, hours go by its five o clock, its six o clock, its Valentines Day! Most of us have something going on! So we spent years working on this and looking at each other and convincing them this is the best plan, so finally one of the observers at the meeting just raises his hand and says "What about Sony?" and he says "Sony is slowly invading the living room with a processor here software there, they could be a threat to Microsoft" so Bill and Steve stop and look at each other and go "Yeah...what about Sony?" and so Bill turns and says "Im going to give you guys everything you want" and Ballmer repeats the same thing. and I turn to Robbie and say...that was the weirdest meeting I've ever been in.
On Halo's doubts:
Anytime I talk to the press they were like "Whats your Mario" and I said well i got this Master Chief thing, At E3 2001 they tried to show this multiplayer demo, it didnt impress people, I thought the singleplayer demo was cool but people in the press were like "hmm, I dont know we'll see" so we had things like Project Gotham Racing, Munchs Odyssee, there was only one real big shooter on console at that point which was Goldeneye. Sometimes I show a Penny Arcade cartoon and they were at Xbox launch and the last frame is a toilet seat and 'Halo is shit' hahaha and then it took off and now everyones like "Oh yeah of course, we all knew it would do well!"
On Gypsum and Halo's massiveness:
I have the opposite problem now, now Halo was too important, and now things revolve around Halo, and the next Halo and theres too much pressure to get the next Halo out, but the way I want to make Xbox is better is make more cool shit like Halo, not just focus exclusively on Halo and we saw it with other franchises before. After Halo 1 shipped, Jason went off with Gypsum but what happened was, look Jason is the heart of soul of Bungie, but he is the glue that holds that group together, when he was off, when that team was off, even though the team was super talented, they always used to go to him and then we reviewed the project and it was really off the rails, so Jason said he was going to fix it, but it would take years to fix it, but this is a problem for the people who thought Halo should be the center of the entire universe, and this leads up to why i left.
On teaming up with Nintendo and Sony:
When we first started thinking about doing Xbox, we met with Nintendo and we sat down with Iwata and others and we said this is what we want to do, can we be partners? And they said no, and I was like we can do the software, the networking stuff, you can do the hardware. They said no, then Bill met with Sony, they said no. If anybody thought about buying Nintendo, I havent heard that one. Ask Bill or Robbie that question.
On Rare:
So I was a big fan of Diddy Kong Racing and Conkers Bad Fur Day theres only so many teams that do super top special work, for me it was always, it wasnt like lets acquire all these people, it was like how can we work with each different team? Sometimes it was like Bungie saying they were out of business, we were like okay, we'll rescue you. Nintendo had an option to buy the other half of Rare, they call me up, they explain this arrangement, it doesnt look like Nintendos going to exercise their option. So my entire career is battling, so heres an opportunity that is like two birds with one stone, and its going to be expensive and we can take it away from our competitors one bird, and theyre making games for us, two birds. Activision almost did buy them. We put in a bid, Activision outbid us, it looked like we were going to lose. At the very last minute Robbie increased our bid and we won. Who knows what could have happened with Rare, if I was there i'd try to make sure that the Stamper brothers would still be there.
On Halo 2's development and why he left:
So the reasons I left are complicated, im turning 40, I have alot of money, I have kids, so these are things on one side, but on the other I found myself when I was working on games, with an immense amount of freedom, because "no-one cared" remember that quote? By the time we got Xbox out it was proven to be a success, everyone cared, it felt like working on Office again, it felt like it was people who didnt know the game business and it was frustrating for me, an example is the Bungie story, we needed an extra year to do the next portion, So Robbie said "lets have a vote" with J Allard and other people and said 'should we force Bungie to ship on the original schedule or give them more time', every person voted to force them except for me, I said "I will quit now if we dont give them this extra year" and these are not dumb guys, but they didnt see the whole picture, and it was a sad day, and it was much more committee run and not a direction I agreed with. But that was just one of a million things, you can only threaten to quit a certain amount of times..
On the 360 and whoever took the job of MGS Studios boss:
My Xbox 360 wouldnt have been that different, Robbies strategy to launch earlier worked very well, I had a great team of people running these projects, but whoever stepped in my shoes had to step into this political morass and fight and do the right thing and it's hard.
On favourite Xbox moments:
My favourite moment is launch of the Xbox in NYC, and Xbox is on all the screens and its one of those moments and you know you're at the central point. Psychonauts got cancelled before so I worked with Tim Schafer, Seamus too and wanted to find that game a home. So thats one of my favourites, yes I did back Psychonauts 2 recently as well
On Xbox One:
They stumbled at the Xbox One launch, and they didnt do all the things Robbie did with the 360, they didnt launch first, they launched it at too high a price, and theres a bunch of other things we can talk about. But its still fundamentally a good product. But whats also interesting what Sony did, they basically made a 360 so the two products are very similar and theyre both PC's, theyre both back to that original vision. I have both, theyre great and I play them both like any hardcore gamer
On Phil Spencer:
One important thing I want to talk about is Phil Spencer, Phil Spencer is someone I recruited into the group long ago When I decided to quit Microsoft in 2004, I had 1200 people working for me, one person walked into my office and said—“Should I quit too?—and that was Phil Spencer. And I said, “No Phil, you don’t have to quit, you should stay and make this better” He's a great guy, a ton of loyalty obviously, and I was really happy to see him go into that role, and I think he’s done a great job of fixing things. A great example is his things recently opening Xbox Live for cross-platform play, im a big fan of Shuhei Yoshida as well, hes a great guy, so its great to see more co-operation and respect between those two groups, so im very optimistic for the future of both companies.
 

RedAssedApe

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By the time we got Xbox out it was proven to be a success, everyone cared, it felt like working on Office again, it felt like it was people who didnt know the game business and it was frustrating for me, an example is the Bungie story, we needed an extra year to do the next portion, So Robbie said "lets have a vote" like J Allard and other people and said should we force Bungie to ship on the original schedule or give them more time, every person voted to force them except for me, I said "I will quit now if we dont give them this extra year" and these are not dumb guys, but they didnt see the whole picture, and it was a sad day, and it was much more committee run and not a direction I agreed with. But that was just one of a million things, you can only threaten to quit a certain amount of times..
is this referring to halo 2? dat ending.
 

Karak

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Gonna be honest I swear Ryan should break off on his own or is going to. I would love to see him completely on his own doing his stuff and overall just covering games without anyone else connected
 
One important thing I want to talk about is Phil Spencer, Phil Spencer is someone I recruited into the group long ago When I decided to quit Microsoft in 2004, I had 1200 people working for me, one person walked into my office and said—“Should I quit too?—and that was Phil Spencer. And I said, “No Phil, you don’t have to quit, you should stay and make this better” He's great guy, a ton of loyalty obviously, and I was really happy to see him go into that role, and I think he’s done a great job of fixing things. A great example is his things recently opening Xbox Live for cross-platform play, im a big fan of Shuhei Yoshida as well, hes a great guy, so its great to see more co-operation and respect between those two groups, so im very optimistic for the future of both companies.
Thats's amazing.
 

theWB27

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Glad he told Phil not to quit. I also wonder what the landscape would be like of ninty said yes and the partnership works out.
 

T.O.P

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One important thing I want to talk about is Phil Spencer, Phil Spencer is someone I recruited into the group long ago When I decided to quit Microsoft in 2004, I had 1200 people working for me, one person walked into my office and said—“Should I quit too?—and that was Phil Spencer. And I said, “No Phil, you don’t have to quit, you should stay and make this better” He's a great guy, a ton of loyalty obviously, and I was really happy to see him go into that role, and I think he’s done a great job of fixing things. A great example is his things recently opening Xbox Live for cross-platform play, im a big fan of Shuhei Yoshida as well, hes a great guy, so its great to see more co-operation and respect between those two groups, so im very optimistic for the future of both companies.
He's the hero Xbox needed
 

SOR5

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By the way you have the final confirmation that Microsoft wanted Xbox to be the Dreamcast 2

 
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Interview hosted by Ryan McCaffrey here



On Microsofts initial plans for Xbox:


On Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and the divisions with Microsoft:
So basically there were two internal teams with the Valentines Day Massacre, I teamed up with one, the other was the continuation of the Sega Dreamcast line and their console was very much a pure console. Ours had a hard disk and was a PC in disguise, so we had all these executives on our side and we had guys on our side and Bill Gates chooses us because were on-strategy, were running Windows and all this stuff. So all of that culminates into this big meeting on Valentines Day, so we go into the meeting and four o clock valentines day, Bill walks in he's holding a Powerpoint deck and yells "This is the blanking insult to everything ive done at this company" and that was the start, so we all looked at J Allard because we knew he's mad about the Windows thing, because we forgot to "pre-disaster" him, so J is in shock for a minute and he yells at me and shuts me down and Robbie steps up and shuts him down anyway, and then Ballmer goes through and says we're gonna lose alot of money and he's beating us up about that, hours go by its five o clock, its six o clock, its Valentines Day! Most of us have something going on! So we spent years looking at each other and convincing them this is the best plan, so finally one of the observers at the meeting just raises his hand and says "What about Sony?" and he says "Sony is slowly invading the living room with a processor here software there, they could be a threat to Microsoft" so Bill and Steve stop and look at each other and go "Yeah...what about Sony?" and so Bill turns and says "Im going to give you guys everything you want" and Ballmer repeats the same thing. and I turn to Robbie and say...that was the weirdest meeting I've ever been in.
I dont get this. What's the back story here? Valentine's Day Massacre? What's Bill Gates referring to in his rant.?
 

naitosan

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One important thing I want to talk about is Phil Spencer, Phil Spencer is someone I recruited into the group long ago When I decided to quit Microsoft in 2004, I had 1200 people working for me, one person walked into my office and said—“Should I quit too?—and that was Phil Spencer. And I said, “No Phil, you don’t have to quit, you should stay and make this better” He's a great guy, a ton of loyalty obviously, and I was really happy to see him go into that role, and I think he’s done a great job of fixing things. A great example is his things recently opening Xbox Live for cross-platform play, im a big fan of Shuhei Yoshida as well, hes a great guy, so its great to see more co-operation and respect between those two groups, so im very optimistic for the future of both companies.
That's amazing. He's doing what Ed Fries advised him 12 years ago. Kudos to Phil for doing great things with Xbox brand.
 

SOR5

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I dont get this. What's the back story here? Valentine's Day Massacre? What's Bill Gates referring to in his rant.?
So basically the Valentines Day Massacre was a pivotal moment in the development of Xbox when Xbox and Bill Gates business model (a strict focus on building Windows and the PC, whilst minimizing any costs) clashed together and a fierce internal board meeting happened
https://cie.acm.org/articles/xbox-disrupts-valentines-day/

Read more there if youd like
 

Peltz

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Oh man. This interview is amazing. We almost never get THIS level of insight.

That quote about Spencer shows that sometimes great people really do rise to the top.
 

Fuchsdh

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Ed Fries probably has more to do with Halo being Halo than Bungie, honestly (at least from its broader franchise standpoint.)
 

JaggedSac

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Damn, that is quite the loyal to offer to quit with someone else. Not sure if I would do that, lol.
 

Montresor

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Apparently Phil Spencer has been working at Microsoft since 1988 (!!!). The guy has paid his dues at MS, and now he's in charge of one of the most difficult jobs in the industry: turning the disaster of Xbox One's initial reveal into something positive. I think slowly but surely we're getting there.
 

Ryan_IGN

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I appreciate the kind words, folks! I'm having a lot of fun doing these, and I've been fortunate to have had great guests so far. :)
 

Karak

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Apparently Phil Spencer has been working at Microsoft since 1988 (!!!). The guy has paid his dues at MS, and now he's in charge of one of the most difficult jobs in the industry: turning the disaster of Xbox One's initial reveal into something positive. I think slowly but surely we're getting there.
Despite any of the fanboy stuff the fact i Phil is considered by many to be far more games savvy than any other lead in almost all the other companies. Much of that is experience and a desire to play good games anywhere on anything. I was laughing at someone at Pax last year trying to beat him at various questions on a couple games for other systems and the dude was nailing them because people didn't think he played lol
 

Jumeira

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God damn, every prominent and respected Xbox leader have nothing but great things to say about Phil. Fries, Moore, Seamus, Allard, they love him and trust his leadership.

Thank god for Fries motivating him, Scorpio and Xbox S is all his, and its hitting the right notes like 360, couldn't have asked for a better man to helm the ship.
 

SOR5

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I appreciate the kind words, folks! I'm having a lot of fun doing these, and I've been fortunate to have had great guests so far. :)


Oh no I dropped this JPG on the floor, I hope you dont go and interview them about Brute Force II or anything
 

Bsigg12

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Apparently Phil Spencer has been working at Microsoft since 1988 (!!!). The guy has paid his dues at MS, and now he's in charge of one of the most difficult jobs in the industry: turning the disaster of Xbox One's initial reveal into something positive. I think slowly but surely we're getting there.
He started on the Encarta team when he came out of college I believe. He actually talked about it in his interview with Ryan last year(?) and his movement through Microsoft to finally end up as the Head of Xbox.
 

TheSeks

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I would LOVE to know who raised their hand.
This. It's also absolutely crazy to me that Bill Gates would be that angry. I thought he was generally a forward thinking person. I could understand why the anger on dropping Windows, but they could've pointed at "we're still a PC. We're just closing the environment (lol how did that work out for them again?) to match what other consoles are doing" and brought in something like the PS2 or whatever and probably calmed Gates down better if they did this before the meeting.

Also I still feel like after him and J. Allard left, a lot of the X-box's focus went from games to the entertainment center idea that Bill (and Ballmer) both wanted initially.
 

Karak

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I appreciate the kind words, folks! I'm having a lot of fun doing these, and I've been fortunate to have had great guests so far. :)
I tweeted you man. Its time for Ryan 2.0. You on your own doing this stuff your own channel and chasing down peeps to talk with.
This. It's also absolutely crazy to me that Bill Gates would be that angry. I thought he was generally a forward thinking person. I could understand why the anger on dropping Windows, but they could've pointed at "we're still a PC. We're just closing the environment (lol how did that work out for them again?) to match what other consoles are doing" and brought in something like the PS2 or whatever and probably calmed Gates down better if they did this before the meeting.

Also I still feel like after him and J. Allard left, a lot of the X-box's focus went from games to the entertainment center idea that Bill (and Ballmer) both wanted initially.
Dude needs to make a shit "What about Sony?"
 

_Ryo_

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Wait! So according to this Sega developed an entire console for Microsoft and they turned it down? Why?


I want to know what that console would have been like.
 

SOR5

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Wait! So according to this Sega developed an entire console for Microsoft and they turned it down? Why?


I want to know what that console would have been like.
No no no, it was a team within MS who wanted to be LIKE Sega, not Sega.
I'll assume that team was people like Seamus Blackley due to his recent tweets of the prototype Xbox controllers that reeked of Sega influence
 

Bsigg12

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This. It's also absolutely crazy to me that Bill Gates would be that angry. I thought he was generally a forward thinking person. I could understand why the anger on dropping Windows, but they could've pointed at "we're still a PC. We're just closing the environment (lol how did that work out for them again?) to match what other consoles are doing" and brought in something like the PS2 or whatever and probably calmed Gates down better if they did this before the meeting.

Also I still feel like after him and J. Allard left, a lot of the X-box's focus went from games to the entertainment center idea that Bill (and Ballmer) both wanted initially.
I wonder if that's why they brought Mattrick in? He seemed to gel well with what Ballmer wanted in an entertainment box rather than gaming platform and his focus on the more casual side as seen in the waning years of the 360's life and obviously the launch of the Xbox One.
 

SOR5

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I wonder if that's why they brought Mattrick in? He seemed to gel well with what Ballmer wanted in an entertainment box rather than gaming platform and his focus on the more casual side as seen in the waning years of the 360's life and obviously the launch of the Xbox One.
Moore going to EA and Mattrick going to MS was like Triple H going to Raw and Hornswoggle going to Smackdown
 

Karak

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I wonder if that's why they brought Mattrick in? He seemed to gel well with what Ballmer wanted in an entertainment box rather than gaming platform and his focus on the more casual side as seen in the waning years of the 360's life and obviously the launch of the Xbox One.
Well also despite the later disaster his history is actually pretty damn cool itself. It turned out terrible but a good deal of people were really excited gamewise for Mattrick and at first I think much of that paid off.
Its pretty obvious though that MS works best, at least in this sense, with a core leader and less group think and it seems like they understand that.
 
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I wonder if that's why they brought Mattrick in? He seemed to gel well with what Ballmer wanted in an entertainment box rather than gaming platform and his focus on the more casual side as seen in the waning years of the 360's life and obviously the launch of the Xbox One.
which is crazy because Mattrick seems to be like a total gaming dude based on his wiki page.

I really really really wish we could get a tell all book or interview or something for everything that happened at microsoft between Mattrick joining in 2007, to becoming the head, leading up to the xbox one unveiling and that E3 just prior to all the U-turns.

Like, if you are an xbox fan who is not blinded by fanboyism, I don't how you cannot see the dramatic change in Microsoft from when the dude joined up to him leaving to the present.
 

Omnistalgic

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Hmmm...nice tidbits. Good look into the overall vision of the company. Still not a fan of why they even entered the market. Seems to support a vision of not wanting other companies to dominate something versus they had some crazy innovation they wanted to bring to the market. Which is ridiculous because MS monopolized the workplace.
 

SOR5

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Hmmm...nice tidbits. Good look into the overall vision of the company. Still not a fan of why they even entered the market. Seems to support a vision of not wanting other companies to dominate something versus they had some crazy innovation they wanted to bring to the market. Which is ridiculous because MS monopolized the workplace.
Some adored gaming, some only wanted to expand Microsofts control and inject Windows in there somehow, both fused together and for a while there was a political dichotomy until about 2009 when it just became Microsofts general brand for entertainment services. So they were given more liberty but it was wasted on a lot of inane shit that wasnt gaming.

Its weird because, now we're here again, we've got a division all focused on gaming, and a company hell bent on getting Windows 10 everywhere, but both motives have found a way to rendezvous nicely this time
 

Shpeshal Ed

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which is crazy because Mattrick seems to be like a total gaming dude based on his wiki page.

I really really really wish we could get a tell all book or interview or something for everything that happened at microsoft between Mattrick joining in 2007, to becoming the head, leading up to the xbox one unveiling and that E3 just prior to all the U-turns.

Like, if you are an xbox fan who is not blinded by fanboyism, I don't how you cannot see the dramatic change in Microsoft from when the dude joined up to him leaving to the present.
The funny thing is, the 360 didn't really take off in a major way until Mattrick took over. I just think they lost focus and didn't have the experience In the industry to realise how different the market is at launch compared to the end of a cycle.

They saw the number of people buying up 360s just to watch Netflix while playing the occasional game and decided that's how they should launch the next platform, but TO THE MAX! Their next launch will be their 4th. They will have survived the 3rd console curse (barely) and will be better for the experience.

I think the market has changed though and they may have picked the wrong generation to fuck up in. Time will tell.
 

Karak

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The funny thing is, the 360 didn't really take off in a major way until Mattrick took over. I just think they lost focus and didn't have the experience In the industry to realise how different the market is at launch compared to the end of a cycle.

They saw the number of people buying up 360s just to watch Netflix while playing the occasional game and decided that's how they should launch the next platform, but TO THE MAX! Their next launch will be their 4th. They will have survived the 3rd console curse (barely) and will be better for the experience.

I think the market has changed though and they may have picked the wrong generation to fuck up in. Time will tell.
Also a leader is important and in no way shape or form is this an excuse but things may have not come together in the same way and he may not have had the interpersonal skills of Phil to deal with other leadership and lets behonest MANY people thought the idea of a digital only system was feasible and the kinect seemed like a winner.. Because ya as we discussed earlier his past successes speak for themselves but man the entire XBOX one thing just failed.
I agree a book would be amazing.
 
Nov 4, 2011
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The funny thing is, the 360 didn't really take off in a major way until Mattrick took over. I just think they lost focus and didn't have the experience In the industry to realise how different the market is at launch compared to the end of a cycle.

They saw the number of people buying up 360s just to watch Netflix while playing the occasional game and decided that's how they should launch the next platform, but TO THE MAX! Their next launch will be their 4th. They will have survived the 3rd console curse (barely) and will be better for the experience.

I think the market has changed though and they may have picked the wrong generation to fuck up in. Time will tell.
Yep! Wasn't even just the Netflix, but the whole motion control thing to. They had great success with Kinect 1.0, but the thing was launched at the tail end of the motion control trend. Surprised they didn't catch it and went all in on 2.0.
 

Omnistalgic

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Some adored gaming, some only wanted to expand Microsofts control and inject Windows in there somehow, both fused together and for a while there was a political dichotomy until about 2009 when it just became Microsofts general brand for entertainment services. So they were given more liberty but it was wasted on a lot of inane shit that wasnt gaming.

Its weird because, now we're here again, we've got a division all focused on gaming, and a company hell bent on getting Windows 10 everywhere, but both motives have found a way to rendezvous nicely this time
True true...it definitely is some true gamers in the mix, and they recently have made very interesting moves. 2017 will be a big year when all 3 players are fresh on the scene again.