Everybody knows about Xbox these days – it’s a massive brand, and one of the main contenders on the console market.
But it turns out there was a time when even the bosses of the company who created the console simply weren’t into the idea at all.
Xbox co-creator Ed Fries recently spoke to IGN, where he shared the story of the ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre,’ – an important meeting that was arranged to decide the fate of the Xbox.
Fries revealed that there were actually two separate teams at Microsoft pitching game consoles to Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. Fries’ vision involved a box that had a hard disk and was essentially ‘a PC in disguise.’
The other team pitched something a little more traditional, billed as a ‘continuation of the Dreamcast line’. This explains why some early Xbox controller designs had such a Dreamcast vibe to them.
Some original Xbox controller designs from November 1999. Enjoy! pic.twitter.com/cTReQCJ96s
— Seamus Blackley (@SeamusBlackley) June 26, 2016
Gates ultimately sided with Fries, but the big man himself was initially ‘insulted’ by the concept of the Xbox.
See, Gates was under the impression that the Xbox would run some form of Windows. However, during the planning year, the team decided to drop the Windows angle and instead create a more ‘closed’ system. Obviously this didn’t go down too well with Mr Gates.
So we go into the meeting and four o’clock Valentine’s Day–Bill walks in he’s holding a Powerpoint deck and yells, ‘This is the blanking insult to everything I’ve done at this company’ and that was the start, so we all looked at [Xbox director and designer J Allard] because we knew Bill’s mad about the no Windows thing, because we forgot to ‘pre-disaster’ him.
But despite the furious reception from the Microsoft head honcho, the Xbox was made and released to the public in 2001 – so what changed Gate’s mind?
According to Fries, it was the idea of beating Sony:
Finally one of the observers at the meeting just raises his hand and says, ‘What about Sony?’ and he says, ‘Sony is slowly invading the living room with a processor here software there, they could be a threat to Microsoft.’ So Bill and Steve stop and look at each other and go, ‘Yeah…what about Sony?’ And so Bill turns and says, ‘I’m going to give you guys everything you want’ and Ballmer repeats the same thing. And I turn to Robbie and say, ‘That was the weirdest meeting I’ve ever been in.
A touching tale, but when all is said and done, I can’t help but wonder… how hard would a Dreamcast inspired Xbox have bombed?
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.