Xbox, we tell you about the day she almost died

Xbox, we tell you about the day she almost died


Twenty years ago, by the time Xbox came into the world, the video game industry was booming and it was already clear that it would become a universal issue. Everyone knew it and even Microsoft knew it, already engaged since the 90s in the publication of video games and with one foot in the world of consoles, with the Windows CE of the Dreamcast. The beginnings were difficult and Japan still resists (it is said that Nintendo laughed at Microsoft's first approaches), but the efforts paid off and the Xbox brand has established itself and entered the homes of millions of gamers. .

Yet, 12 years after the debut of the first massive console, Microsoft has come a step to shut down the entire Xbox division, just at a time when much of the entire industry has begun to turn to video games . To celebrate 20 years of this brand, today we want to talk about one of its most critical moments, namely the day the Xbox almost died.

Xbox: the console that almost died and that has risked not to be born

The first Xbox, a big, big and bad console, but certainly not devoid of personality The birth of the Xbox depended on the confrontation between an executive and a president of Microsoft, just like its survival after the Xbox One disaster. At the time, as we have already said, it was already clear that the video game would grow to almost completely permeate society. Hence the attention towards this market by a Microsoft that, after having set foot in gaming through Windows, peripherals and the publication of games such as Age of Empire, had also entered the world of consoles with Windows CE for Dreamcast .

The act of investing in a console is a dangerous thing even for a powerful company like the one founded by Bill Gates. We are talking about products dedicated to the fickle entertainment market that require an entire division, with all the complexity and costs that this entails, and that have also brought video games to their knees who created them and made them grow. Those who were part of the Atari of the late 70s and early 80s know this well, crushed by the weight of too much enthusiasm on the market, and also those who lived the beginning of the millennium at SEGA. Therefore, a certain mistrust is normal, especially on the part of a company that made money on spreadsheets and that still collects a large part of its mammoth earnings from the business segment.

For all this, the work of a few men was fundamental who, after putting together the prototype, managed to bring Bill Gates to their side, at first offended by the fact that someone had thought of creating a Microsoft machine without Windows inside. Fortunately for us, Ed Fries 'passion prevailed, Seamus Blackley's stubbornness and Gates' interest in that market that he undoubtedly considered stimulating. And that's when the first Xbox became a reality and he did it with the strength that is expected from a product of a massive and determined company like Microsoft.

Xbox took to the field with arrogance, power, attention to multiplayer and games capable of putting on a show, earning a prominent place in the history of video games. At first, however, the image of Microsoft suffered as a monopolist of operating systems and a titanic company, far from the naive idea that one had of companies involved in video games. And it is important to take into account how this was partly true, at least at the time, to understand how the Xbox division came one step away from closing at a time when almost every tech company on the planet was investing in video games. From the point of view of a part of Microsoft, in fact, these were marginal, mostly an experiment that should not have weighed on the budget of a company that has always made the bulk of the gains with services and operating systems.

The Xbox One disaster

The first Xbox concept, insane but undoubtedly memorable The unveiling of Xbox One wasn't the only factor making things complicated in Microsoft's gaming division, but it has undoubtedly had a weight on the perception of the console that after the launch had to deal with performances clearly inferior to the competition and with the actual lack of noteworthy titles. At that point, the abandonment of various leaders began, starting with Don Mattrick, now compromised but certainly not guilty of everything. He had, we know, the command of the Xbox and is the one who replied to the complaints about mandatory connectivity "if you can't connect, buy a 360", but he was never alone in all of this. Mattrick also had a boss and had to answer to a management who, among other things, could not find fault with the wicked idea of ​​making it mandatory to log in every 24 hours in order to use Xbox One.

In command of the hut was Satya Nadella who, having been in charge of Azure before being CEO of the company as a whole, looked to the cloud and did not consider gaming central to the company. Furthermore, he was fresh off the job and was therefore likely determined to record strong results to prove that he was the right man for Microsoft. This is why we believe that it played a role in the genesis of the console, even if only in the form of a total lack of interest, since it turned out a car with few exclusives, with a lot of restrictions, a non-exciting power and with many promises more from the center. multimedia than from a gamer machine.

Phil Spencer is considered as a hero by Xbox fans and with the Game Pass he has received copious thanks also from the PC people Hence the angry reaction of the users, almost a riot that has undoubtedly contributed to the comparison between Spencer and Nadella on the future of Xbox, but which represents only the culmination of a clear departure of Microsoft from gamers, as a function of corporate business dynamics. Among other things, both console players, with the drastic decrease in exclusives in the second half of the Xbox 360's life, and PC players afflicted by the terrifying Games for Windows LIVE service and the lack of support for the DirectX 12 on Windows 7.

The signs weren't particularly positive and those who spoke of Xbox One as a possible ransom by Microsoft made the situation worse. But in the end, things didn't go too badly either, at least considering the disastrous start. The management could not avoid the disaster, separated into three sections and left without a command line by Mattrick a few months after the launch of the console, but in that moment the foundations for the future of Xbox were laid. In those months, the current management was formed, starting with Phil Spencer, who immediately won the love of the fans by saving Xbox from the guillotine.

The day Xbox almost died, but was saved

Kinect 2 was not exploited to the fullest, disappearing from the horizons of the Xbox On May 21, 2013 a not too enthusiastic Don Mattrick presented a console unable to function without an internet connection, subject to a game sharing that was worth a sensational mockery from Sony, more expensive than expected and made even more obnoxious by doubts about the possibility that Kinect 2 could be used to spy on people. What's more, there was very little talk about games and that was the worst of it. Suddenly all hopes of seeing a big launch to justify the Xbox 360's waning end-stage have lost their meaning, pitting the most avid Xbox fans at a bleak conference.

So it's no surprise that Satya Nadella, with all doubts about the video game's usefulness for the company, decided to ask Phil Spencer if he made sense to keep Xbox alive. And that's when the future of Xbox was decided. There was no epic confrontation, no duel to the death. There was the right man, in the right place, at the right time. Phil Spencer, formerly head of European Microsoft Studios and at that time head of the first party division, simply explained to Nadella the importance of video games for the consumer sector, also illustrating what he would have done if he had had the command post. .

Well, he had it and actually changed the fortunes of the Xbox already with Xbox One X, also transforming the communication of the brand and holding on to Bonnie Ross, the only other executive who appeared during the Xbox announcement One to work for Microsoft again. Meanwhile Satya Nadella has become a gaming fan, believes in Xbox Cloud, bought the entire Zenimax and in the meantime has contributed and approved the Adaptive Controller project, inspired by her son's disability. In all this xCloud has cohesive all divisions of Microsoft, Game Pass has united PC players with Xbox consoles, the exit of the darkest period in its history, has returned to being a leading player in the world of video games.

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