Master Chief and Mario could have been such good friends.
In a recent interview with gamesindustry, co-creator of the Original Xbox, Seamus Blackley, and Oddworld Inhabitants’ president Lorne Lanning revealed some of the early details and considerations that went on behind-the-scenes before the release of Microsoft’s first step into the console gaming world.
“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,” Blackley said.
While giving away the first Xbox away for clearly didn’t pan out, neither did a lot of other ideas that came up in the early days of development. The team considered Xbox becoming an entertainment box by making it a movie player, or even going as far as solely letting it play Microsoft games.
“Just name it, name a bad idea and it was something we had to deal with,” Blackley said.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing premises Blackley revealed in the interview was the team’s short-lived idea to directly eliminate some competition and offer Nintendo and team Mario a huge amount of cash to buy them out.
“At the time, Xbox thought that the core market was going to be casual. They were going to be the casual gamers’ machine. Now, that’s why they approached us because they said ‘we think you’ve got something that competes in that Mario space and we think Mario’s the thing to kill … We see that space. We want that audience.” Lanning said.
But the most controversial problem with the original Xbox came from within Microsoft itself, as the team debated how close Xbox was going to associate themselves with the brand.
“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 sh*t from you in the entertainment industry. In fact, if anything you do runs like f*cking Windows, we don’t want anything to do with it, right? That was a very common perception,” Lanning said. “There was a lot of resistance; it was, ‘Microsoft Game Studios? F*ck 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’.”
Despite all of the “what-ifs” that sound like they could have happened to the original Xbox, the team seems to have made fairly decent choices, selling over 24 million Xbox units and still remaining in the console business 14 years later today.