Xbox Founder Says Microsoft's Last 5 Years Were "Painful to Watch"
The past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch."
by Luke Karmali
February 13, 2013
Xbox 360's last five years have been "painful to watch" according to a former Microsoft engineer who helped create the original Xbox in 1999.
In a blog post entitled "Stupid, Stupid Xbox", Nat Brown asserts that Microsoft has spent the last five years mistakenly trying to turn the Xbox into a multimedia hub whilst abandoning all the studios and design features that made it a great games console in the first place.
He explains, "The past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch. Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect. Touting strategic and market success when you’re just experiencing your competitor’s stumbling failure (yes, Sony, Nintendo – you are, I’m afraid, stumbling failures). A complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room."
Brown goes on to clarify that he completely agrees greater living room connectivity should be part of Microsoft's business plan, but not at the expense of what made it great in the first place; a focus on games.
The past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch. Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect.
"No, more and better content was always the point and the plan. My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken.
"Xbox’s primary critical problem is the lack of a functional and growing platform ecosystem for small developers to sell digitally-/network-distributed (non-disc) content through to the installed base of Xbox customers, period.
"Why can’t I write a game for Xbox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home Xbox or at my friends’ houses? Why can’t I then distribute it digitally in a decent online store, give up a 30% cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad?"
Brown concludes by saying pretty damningly that "Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world," stating that "Xbox just needs somebody with a brain and focus to get the product in order tactically before romping forward to continue the long-term strategic promise of an Xbox in every living room, connected to every screen."
Brown also noted the growing threat of Apple's gaming influence, claiming that a gaming-capable iOS-based TV or set-top box could "kill" traditional consoles from Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo due to the company's higher rev-shares from developers and massive install base. Brown's comments echo similar statements from Valve co-founder Gabe Newell, who last month called Apple the "biggest threat" for next-gen consoles.
The company's come under fairly heavy fire recently from past employees. Just last week we revealed how the former VP of Windows Sales, Joachim Kempin, thought the company needed to refocus on PC, whilst he explained why it got into the console business, why Bill Gates didn't think buying SEGA was a good shout and how the Xbox 720 will likely use Windows 8 as the basis for its interface.
What do you think? Has Microsoft lost its way with how it's handled the Xbox and is an urgent refocus on games needed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.