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Xbox Co-Creator Ed Fries (IGN Unfiltered Interview)

Prologue

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Sep 4, 2010
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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..
Not sure I agree. The story was botched and it was important but xbox live needed to explode. MS needed to take put a fire under everyone's asses and Halo 2 was that fire. It absolutely changed the industry and provided the very foundation of online play today. Who knows what would have happened in a year. A year later? Less of an install base that carried into 360, less popularity, less online presence.
 
Aug 8, 2013
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Fries' integrity has me a bit teary-eyed. Willing to put your job on the line for a development team? That is class, and MGS is lesser after him leaving.

I'm not enamored with PS like some of you guys but he does seems like a chosen one type, based on this interview. Imagine if he had quit? Crazy.
 

SOR5

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Nov 3, 2015
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I'm not enamored with PS like some of you guys but he does seems like a chosen one type, based on this interview. Imagine if he had quit? Crazy.
Peter Moore literally saying cometh the hour cometh the man lol

Not sure I agree. The story was botched and it was important but xbox live needed to explode. MS needed to take put a fire under everyone's asses and Halo 2 was that fire. It absolutely changed the industry and provided the very foundation of online play today. Who knows what would have happened in a year. A year later? Less of an install base that carried into 360, less popularity, less online presence.
Also agree, you had a crap cliffhanger but overall a game that set online console gaming on fire, but I respect Ed for wanting the game to cook for longer
 
Feb 18, 2013
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I think his comments regarding Halo not being milked and wanting to create other "killer" franchises are very telling. When I look at the studios they do own, the majority of the AAA games are of the same IP. It's my one big complaint of MS and the Xbox strategy over the years, it's grown tedious but that is just down to my personal taste I suppose, I would like them to back a new, fresh IP with the kind of funding the give the Halo's or Gears, at least think about it.
 
Nov 4, 2011
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I think his comments regarding Halo not being milked and wanting to create other "killer" franchises are very telling. When I look at the studios they do own, the majority of the AAA games are of the same IP. It's my one big complaint of MS and the Xbox strategy over the years, it's grown tedious but that is just down to my personal taste I suppose, I would like them to back a new, fresh IP with the kind of funding the give the Halo's or Gears, at least think about it.
It's their biggest weakness right now IMO.

They have 5 game studios and 4 of them are tied to a single franchise.
 

LukasTaves

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Dec 14, 2011
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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.
They were definitely misguided on how they presented the console (and the proof you need is the perception that they revealed the console with no games). But I think having a gaming/media/app/tv box powered by kinect, non controller motion controls and non headset voice commands wasn't a bad thing per se, and eventually when they are able to reorganize that under win10 I can see it being a big success for them.

Even for gamers, those features would be an huge plus if they were not responsible for them making a weak box, and a more expensive one at that. Their error was not eating that cost up and delivering a just as strong if not stronger box than ps4 with all that.

But other than the design of the box, and the atrocious reveal, they had from the beginning a great focus on gaming. They practically announced the console with DR3, Killer Instinct, a new game from Remedy, new games from legends from Japan. I don't know how anyone that got excited by 360's early lineup could look in disdain for what they showed on E3 2013, it was practically 360 2.0

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.
I bought one at launch (How could I not, it had DR3, The new Remedy game, and a Panzer Dragoon spiritual sucessor by the same creator!), but I think he quickly turned the xbone into a desirable console for the gamers. The only thing left is literally the only thing he can't change that is the box itself, but even that they will retract from with Scorpio (and to a lesser degree the S)
 

mrklaw

MrArseFace
Jun 10, 2004
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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.
its weird though, because Xbox only exists because it originally had a windows focus, and then dropped it. If the focus was 'sony is a threat in the living room' from the off, then we might have had a Dreamcast 2 instead.
 

SOR5

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Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer sound like a pair of bully dummies with no clue.
I would argue Bill was angry but definitely knew how to get shit done and was ahead of his time in alot of ways but Ballmer was a bit everywhere, especially when he was chasing after Apple, he was at the helm of too many bad decisions, but also quite a few good ones
 

Salty Hippo

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Fries' integrity has me a bit teary-eyed. Willing to put your job on the line for a development team? That is class, and MGS is lesser after him leaving.
Damn right. Ed was very portfolio driven, he understood that quality and diversity were key. He wanted to cover as many genres and styles as possible. You can see that he just gets it, in a way that Microsoft still doesn't to this very day.

I already knew all that from other interviews, but I didn't know the circumstances of his departure. Just goes to show what a fucking terrible environment Microsoft had from a creativity point of view, and probably still has. They are so incredibly short-sighted about their gaming division and Phil Spencer is either 1. just as blind or 2. completely powerless to do anything about the bleak state of their first-party games.
 

j0hnny_385

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Feb 3, 2012
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Ed is an amazing guy! Such a good interview. Really interesting topics.

edit: I would really like to see him getting back to the industry full time (he's mostly a consultant/board member now) on...something. VR or something cutting edge. :)
 

d58e7

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Nov 6, 2004
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Ed is an amazing guy! Such a good interview. Really interesting topics.

edit: I would really like to see him getting back to the industry full time (he's mostly a consultant/board member now) on...something. VR or something cutting edge. :)
Wasn't he tied in some way to OUYA?
 

LordRaptor

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Aug 20, 2015
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Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer sound like a pair of bully dummies with no clue.
What Bill Gates wanted as a strategy is what they're currently sorta-kinda-but-not-really pursuing.

Steve Ballmer is an idiot and a bully though, and under him so was Ms corporate strategy for a decade.
 

Carn82

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Jan 15, 2014
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it felt like working on Office again,
This is also a good writeup: http://www.nodontdie.com/ed-fries/

You know what the irony was, probably the most frustrating part of working on Office was that it was so central to the company that everyone had an opinion about what you should do. We would be in fights with Bill Gates about what Word should be. A lot of times we didn't agree. So, when I went to work on games it was a breath of fresh air because there weren't a whole bunch of people above me trying to tell me what to do. [Laughs.]

So I just to go out to this green field and do what I thought was right. It either would work or it wouldn't. And it worked pretty well. The reason I left was Xbox got really big and it was like being back at Office again. [Laughs.] There was all this pressure.

Even if you watch now, like, Phil Spencer's speech yesterday [at GDC] -- Phil's a great guy, he's doing a really difficult job. "Okay, now, one Windows is going to run across everything, across Xbox, across your phone, across all these other things." [Laughs.] I would not work in that environment. I just know it's incredibly political and an incredible set of strategic decisions rather than -- I just want to make cool games, right? And a cool game machine, right? I don't care about what Windows teams' goals, or the phone team's goals.
 

LukasTaves

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Dec 14, 2011
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Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer sound like a pair of bully dummies with no clue.
I dunno, Bill pretty much wanted Xbox to be exactly what Xbox is turning to be now.

Granted, back then Ms had no way to deliver on that, but it's pretty amazing that 17 years ago Bill knew exactly how Xbox should be used to expand windows and not compete with it.
 

Alx

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Jan 22, 2007
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By the way you have the final confirmation that Microsoft wanted Xbox to be the Dreamcast 2

Yeah, as a DC-orphan at the time, Xbox really felt the closest to what the Dreamcast was. New IPs, a push for online gaming... Sega was split between the three remaining platforms, but Xbox got some real creative stuff.
 

BeforeU

Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.
Mar 19, 2014
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I feel sorry for Bungie.
I hate these one sided arguments. Its true that because of Bungie, Xbox is what it is today. But it is also true that without MS and Xbox community Bungie wouldnt have been as big as it is today.
 

j0hnny_385

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Feb 3, 2012
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I feel sorry for Bungie.
Why?
I don't. Not in the slightest.
Bungie was saved by MS, got the opportunity to develop Halo which became the killer app on the brand new MS hardware.
Even though Halo 2 had horrible dev cycle and crunch, in the end, everything paid off extremely well for both sides.
Bungie and MS parted ways on good terms and Bungie signed one of the biggest (biggest?) independent deals with Activision to develop Destiny (which itself is a massive commercial success).
Bungie deserved that success fair and square. And none of that would happen if the company had collapsed.
 

Dash Kappei

Not actually that important
Apr 8, 2005
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Tidbits are cool but I recommend to actually watch the whole thing, super interesting and Fries is very charming; Ryan does a good job in not getting in the way, letting Ed do his thing while still keeping him on track.
 

justsomeguy

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Sep 14, 2013
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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.
Holy cow no, Bill is a genius. He is renowned for ripping apart any idea which isn't 100% solid and seeing flaws nobody else sees.

I heard amazing stuff about a speech to the Vista team
 
Jun 26, 2011
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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.
Gates had built an empire on the windows monopoly which was to be pervasive in everything, that's his vision.

I'm not surprised the broken corporate structure drove Fries to leave but I didn't realize it was that bad, as much as people like to think Spencer is some sort of great saviour, the culture hasn't changed. People with vision will eventually be driven out, they'll be out of MS but they'll do great things.
 

Khoryos

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Yeah, as a DC-orphan at the time, Xbox really felt the closest to what the Dreamcast was. New IPs, a push for online gaming... Sega was split between the three remaining platforms, but Xbox got some real creative stuff.
I got an Xbox because that's where Shenmue and JSR went.

I'm still happy with that choice.
 

Ricky Ricardo

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Apr 20, 2014
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This interview is a treasure trove of information. It proves what I've been thinking for a long time, Microsoft is not monolith of single-minded intent. There are people inside the company who love games and gaming, and there are suits who are only concerned about profit and sales and don't "get" gaming. That divide is what is responsible the the Master Chief Collection starting out as "a love letter to Halo fans" and ending up as one of the greatest disasters in gaming history.

Also, that quote about Phil Spencer is amazing. I have argued with posters on this forums that they did not truly understand the realities of middle management. "He was on-stage and on-message for the Xbox One 2013 campaign! He's still slimy!" Doesn't take much experience to see what was going on. There were folks who had good ideas trapped in headwinds.

Anyways, wish some of those posters would show up now so we could actually have a meaningful discussion about the realities of leadship vs management.

Gates had built an empire on the windows monopoly which was to be pervasive in everything, that's his vision.

I'm not surprised the broken corporate structure drove Fries to leave but I didn't realize it was that bad, as much as people like to think Spencer is some sort of great saviour, the culture hasn't changed. People with vision will eventually be driven out, they'll be out of MS but they'll do great things.
The culture has changed, if you look at the Xbox division today compared to the Xbox division between 2010-2014, you can clearly see there been sweeping changes. There's still a lot of work to do honestly, but to deny there's been progress made is sadly misinformed.
 

LordRaptor

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Aug 20, 2015
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Also, that quote about Phil Spencer is amazing. I have argued with posters on this forums that they did not truly understand the realities of middle management. "He was on-stage and on-message for the Xbox One 2013 campaign! He's still slimy!" Doesn't take much experience to see what was going on. There were folks who had good ideas trapped in headwinds.

Anyways, wish some of those posters would show up now so we could actually have a meaningful discussion about the realities of leadship vs management.
If you want to absolve Phil Spencer of personal responsibility over shitty decisions that were made on his watch, you have to also absolve Don Mattrick of shitty decisions made on his watch.

Sorry, that's how it works.
 

charsace

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Mar 23, 2007
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If you want to absolve Phil Spencer of personal responsibility over shitty decisions that were made on his watch, you have to also absolve Don Mattrick of shitty decisions made on his watch.

Sorry, that's how it works.
If Mattrick is pushing something then Phil had to back it. This is how companies tend to work.
 

Simply Sami

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Mar 9, 2009
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If Mattrick is pushing something then Phil had to back it. This is how companies tend to work.
Phil was in charge of first party studios. Since he replaced Shane Kim for that job we been getting is Halo/Gears/Forza.

I like Spencer. But he was at fault for the piss poor first party support towards the last 3 years of 360.
 

LukasTaves

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Dec 14, 2011
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I dunno, it could go both ways. Ms recent push towards gaming on windows and windows everywhere could be both a corporate suit trying to focus on windows and phones, but it could be that Ms understands that gaming is a driving force they have, and by giving a platform agnostic of a single device they can let the gamers on Ms put as many awesome games as they like, but without trying to push a single box or OS.

In that scenario for instance, we wouldn't see they ceasing Pc game development, nor forcing a game to be ready to a hardware launch, both suits decisions that hurt their passionate teams on both platforms.

From what Nadella usually says it seems like it's the best scenario: He knows gaming is huge, and want them to be their own thing, but are repurposing the platform in a way all the company's platforms benefits.
 

Ricky Ricardo

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If you want to absolve Phil Spencer of personal responsibility over shitty decisions that were made on his watch, you have to also absolve Don Mattrick of shitty decisions made on his watch.

Sorry, that's how it works.
If you can point out where I absolved him of personal responsibility, then that'd be great.
 

Oersted

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Mar 14, 2012
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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?
Xbox was released in 2001.

Iwata became President of Nintendo in 2002.

Why not sitting down with Yamauchi? Does not make sense.
 

LukasTaves

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Dec 14, 2011
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Phil was in charge of first party studios. Since he replaced Shane Kim for that job we been getting is Halo/Gears/Forza.

I like Spencer. But he was at fault for the piss poor first party support towards the last 3 years of 360.
But that was directly responsible for the great 1st party support xbone had since the beginning.

They literally moved projects towards xbone, which is why on 360 they had a weaker output compared to Sony, but on Xbone they had a bigger one compared to Ps4.

One of the great things now is that with they way they are chaging this kinda of decision no longer needs to happen. It could also be the opposite, instead of forcing the software to be ready when the hardware hits, they can launch the hardware when there's software ready to go with it. They are even kinda doing it now with their win10 devices that will wait for the Redstone 2 update.
 

LordRaptor

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If you can point out where I absolved him of personal responsibility, then that'd be great.
I don't know if you did or not, but the ongoing narrative of Phil Spencer: AaaaAAAAaaaaa saviour of the universe and Don Mattrick: Ruiner of worlds is beyond stupid.
 

Ricky Ricardo

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I don't know if you did or not, but the ongoing narrative of Phil Spencer: AaaaAAAAaaaaa saviour of the universe and Don Mattrick: Ruiner of worlds is beyond stupid.
Again, what are you actually arguing here? I didn't say anything about Mattrick. Nor did I say Spencer was a savior. I said his job was/is more complicated and nuanced than "He OK'ed Kinect in every box."

That's not a complex concept.
 

Stinkles

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Sep 5, 2004
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Why not sitting down with Yamauchi? Does not make sense.
Yamauchi wasn't doing a lot of interviews back then, or before then, and he's doing significantly fewer now...

When he was alive, he tended to do quite clinical, abrupt financial press interviews and not that much else.
 

LordRaptor

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I said his job was/is more complicated and nuanced than "He OK'ed Kinect in every box."
I'm saying that if you accept that Spencer is a suit at a multinational with varied and vested interests, and has some successes, some failures, and some compromises, that that is also true of Don Mattrick.

There are a bunch of people - in this very topic even! - pushing this idea that Mattrick was cancer and Spencer is a saviour. It's classic confirmation bias.