Microsoft’s celebration of the Xbox project’s 20th anniversary continued this week with the first live broadcast of “Xbox Pioneers: Creativity and Innovation – Past, Present and Future,” a roundtable discussion among some of the first Xbox architects, taped November 9.
Topics covered included anecdotes from the inception of the project, insights into the motivations for some of the early decisions in Xbox history, and predictions about what came next in the video game industry.
The discussion was hosted by retired Nintendo president Reggie Phils Amy, who seemed as surprised by his presence as anyone else. Committee chaired by Bonnie Ross, current president of Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries, and the only committee member still at Microsoft; former Microsoft Vice President Ed Fries, who was one of the first Microsoft employees to sign into the Xbox project; Robbie Bach, who retired from Microsoft in 2010 after leading the entertainment division for 10 years; and Peter Moore, who was corporate vice president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division from 2003 to 2007, where he became famous among his fans Halo 2 tattoo.
Since they worked at Microsoft, Bach, Fries, and Moore have all pursued new projects. Bach recently wrote a novel called Political Thriller Wilkes’ resurrection; Moore spent three years as CEO of Liverpool Football Club before taking up his current job at Unity Technologies; And Fries is the co-chair of 1Up Ventures, a gaming-focused venture capital firm.
Read on for highlights from the 45-minute session.
- On the first Xbox game: The first Russian game for Xbox was the launch title Fusion Frenzy, which was also the first Xbox game to undergo certification testing, and thus the first completed game for the Xbox Library.
- On Xbox Live: Bach highlighted the original Xbox Live release, which premiered in November 2002, as one of the most innovative decisions on the original platform. “When I think about those early days, Xbox Live… was very creative from a business perspective,” Bach said. “The idea of people paying $49 a year for a subscription. Think about how many subscription services it got in 2002. Xbox was really trying Drive some innovation in the business model.”
- More on Xbox Live: The original Xbox Live details were tricky at first, like the audio integration. “My memory of that is how crazy people think,” Bach said. It was originally credited to him Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon As a title that made people realize the value of the Xbox Live service.
- On the Ethernet port: According to Fries, one of the crucial decisions for the Xbox was to put a modem in it or an Ethernet port, because Microsoft couldn’t include both features in the final unit. That decision eventually came to Bach, who forgot he was the one who made it, but chose the Ethernet port because “it made more sense to go with the future than the past.”
- On a 56K modem: Bill Gates is said to have said about the decision not to include a 56k modem in the Xbox: “This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
- About the brand: The Moore effect is why Xbox products didn’t feature the Microsoft logo so prominently, that it chose to build the brand separately.
- On Halo and Xbox Live: Russian credits Halo 2 and the synergy of its developer Bungie working with the Xbox team, to propel Xbox Live into its prominent role on the Xbox platform.
- On Sega and Xbox: In Moore’s previous job at Sega of America, he was the CEO who made the call to discontinue Sega’s last console, the Dreamcast, in 2001. Since running the Dreamcast operating system on Windows CE, Sega and Microsoft already had a strong working relationship, and Sega was the first A console manufacturer is moving into online gaming. When the time came, Moore was able to neatly connect the dots between the Dreamcast and Xbox, especially with the first release of Xbox Live hitting the market.
- More on Sega and Xbox: This, in turn, clears up something I’ve always wondered about the original Xbox suite of software. Despite its lack of popularity in Japan (it is said to have only sold 450,000 units in the Japanese market), the Xbox still somehow ended up as a clearinghouse for exotic Japanese games, such as breakdown, panzer dragon orta, dead or live beach volleyball, And phantom dust. Between Ed Fries’ outreach attempts and Moore’s ties to Sega and Japan, Xbox ended up hosting several niche titles of the sort that had previously found a home on the Dreamcast. “When the Dreamcast faded into the sunset, the stick was passed over to the Xbox,” Moore said.
- On diversity: “When you think of Hello “It’s about making sure you have a diverse world and a variety of characters,” said Ross and the other games in our group. It’s not about the Xbox itself anymore, to paraphrase it like “meet gamers where they are,” and use Microsoft’s recent studio acquisitions as a way to get something for everyone.
- More on diversity: “It could be argued that the gaming industry is now or will soon be the largest media company in the world,” Fries said. “That kind of means that the term ‘player’ is disappearing. We are all gamers in some sense. Look at mobile games now, more than half of gamers are women. But who makes the content? Unfortunately, that’s just a small percentage of game makers, and they should That changes. To create authentic content, it has to come from people who are similar to the audience, says Bonnie.”
- On user-generated content: Development technology has advanced to the point where, in theory at least, everyone in the gaming space can create their own content, if not their own games. Ross referred to HelloForge mode, ForzaPlayer Lives created by the player, and complete files Maine Craft As spaces where personalized content for users is a big part of the overall experience.
- More on the creators: Moore, in his current role as Senior Vice President at Unity Technologies, spoke on the same day that Unity acquired Lord of the rings Director Peter Jackson’s special effects company Weta Digital. “We think there are already two billion originators,” he said. “We also believe that the world will switch to 3D technology in real time,” citing sports broadcast as an example.
- About the future of content: Bach predicted that in the future, the dividing lines between the separate entertainment industries – music, film, games and television – would collapse. “Music, video, real-time TV, it all comes together. I just think there are really great opportunities for different types of content that we won’t even know how to categorize.”
- On AR vs. VR: “I think augmented reality will be more practical [than VR] “Because it’s a mix of worlds and a mix of entertainment,” Ross said, when Phil Amy touched on the topic of Metaverse. “It brings everything together.”
- More on AR vs. VR: Bach sees the division of the VR/AR space, between attempts to move away from heavy VR helmets to “glass”, and productivity improvements (i.e. training in VR) going even further in large, specialized drilling rigs where accuracy is important.
- On PC games: “I’ve been hearing for 30 years that PC games are dying,” Fries said. “No, it’s not dying. It’s growing.” There is space in the market for both VR and AR.
- About future entertainment experiences: Moore and Unity are working on ways to disrupt the world of live entertainment (“democratizing the entertainment experience”), using virtual and mixed reality to open events to remote attendees. “It’s an old feeling that you have to be lucky to win the lottery, buy a ticket, travel somewhere… and then stand in the back and watch a big screen because you can’t get close enough to the stage.”
- On metaverse: Bach Phils asked Amy about the social implications of metaverses, where someone might have a very different life in virtual reality. “This is where the AR-type experience is better socially,” said Fils-Aimé, “because you’re not completely out of the real world experience. I worry about an experience that takes you away from your family, the environment, all of those things. My parental instincts kick in too, In terms of what I’d rather see my kids do.”
- More on Metaverse: Fries had just visited Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Washington, D.C., and he mentioned one of Roosevelt’s sayings: “Order without freedom and freedom without order are equally destructive.” He noted that if the metaverse is to be created, this should be kept in mind. “They’re still about people, and when you find people you have to have a balance between those two things.”
- In ethics: “We as technology owners have a responsibility to” think about morals and social concerns as they build the virtual/augmented reality space, said Ross. “I think we watch him play in front of us – what happens when we don’t. And I think this is our second chance at that.”
- In Gates’ Broken Bridge: When Moore was asked about his memories from his time with Xbox, he told a story about how at one point he agreed to stop working many of the NT servers that run regular Microsoft games. Unfortunately for him, that included the app that Gates routinely used to play bridge online with Warren Buffett, resulting in an awkward phone call from Gates to Moore.