Former Xbox director Robbie Bach recently shared some interesting insights into the early days of the humble Xbox.
Speaking at the Project Management Exp 2016 (you know, the event of the year), Bach delivered his keynote address and, followed by a Q&A session. As one of the key folk involved in the creation of the Xbox at Microsoft, Bach discussed the importance of Xbox Live in relation to the console as a whole.
When Xbox launched, one of the things we bet on was online gaming. That doesn’t sound very innovative today, but in 2002, it was very innovative. That business decision changed Xbox.
It’s fair to say that 2002 was a barren time in terms of online gaming. That breed of 12 year old who seem to have fucked everyone’s mum had yet to come into existence, and casual headset based abuse was but a dream.
Bach went on to cite that the irresistible combo of Xbox Live and Halo: Combat Evolve was pretty much the big reason the Microsoft console survived against the Gamecube and the PlayStation 2 (the latter of which dominated that particular cycle of consoles).
During his speech, Bach revealed that the original Xbox actually lost a ton of money – around $5 billion, in fact.
Of course, Microsoft have always had their fingers in a few pies, and their successes with the likes of Windows meant that it was a loss the company could afford.
Still, Bach maintained that the Xbox had a big effect on the future of gaming:
Now, the rest of the industry has copied and emulated to dramatic effect and has really changed the way people think about video games. You had voice with every customer; you could find your friends easily on the service. This was social networking before MySpace and before Facebook.
He also dropped the bombshell that the Kinect (in part a response to Nintendo’s ridiculous success with the Wii) was never a part of the company’s original plan for Xbox 360.
As the market developed; Nintendo did some things–something called the Wii and the Wiimote. There were some things we were seeing in our demographics where we weren’t reaching a broad-enough audience. Kinect became a new priority and we dropped something else off the list.
Bach never said what the Kinect ended up replacing, but he did acknowledge that Microsoft’s ability to change up plans of the fly is a critical skill.
Bach left Microsoft in 2010 after 22 years. He now appears at speaking engagements and advises companies and government agencies. After all, he helped create the Xbox. I’d listen to him.
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.