Microsoft initially considered giving away the Xbox for free or even buying Nintendo in a bid to grab market share in the game console market, a market which it is now dominates along with Sony. Gamesindustry.biz reported that both of these ideas were under consideration by the company back in 2001, when Xbox was launched for the first time.
Microsoft wanted to built strong footing
The two big names in gaming consoles back in 2001 were Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast. Microsoft thought that by giving away a free console, they could direct the attention of game developers to its nascent platform and convince players that some of the best games would be available on the platform.
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In an interview with Gamesindustry, Oddworld Inhabitants co-founder Lorne Lanning, creator of Abe’s Oddysee series of games shared that Microsoft’s initial focus was on casual gaming. “At the time, Xbox thought that the core market was going to be casual,” Lanning said.
In addition, Microsoft was partly focused on finding suitable competitors to popular proprietary games such as Nintendo’s Super Mario franchise. They said ‘we think you’ve got something that competes in that Mario space and we think Mario’s the thing to kill,” Lanning described. Lanning said that during those conversations, Microsoft discussed with him the idea of giving away Xboxes for free.
The idea was confirmed by Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley, who said that Microsoft even considered a not so good idea of buying Nintendo as a way to enter the gaming market.
Microsoft was right on some points
Microsoft believed that the Xbox games would be more “casual” rather than more “hardcore” like Halo, which eventually defined the success of the platform. Today, phones have become the platform for casual games.
However, Microsoft had made the right call when it tried to attract top-tier game developers to its new console. More importantly, Microsoft achieved success, despite failing to read the right market initially.
Now, looking inyo the future, Microsoft plans to connect Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone into a single platform. Users have already gotten a taste of this with recent updates to the Xbox App for Windows 10.