Xbox 360′s last five years have been “painful to watch”, due to Microsoft’s increased focus in turning its console into a multimedia hub at the behest of gaming. That’s the statement of Nat Brown, a Microsoft engineer who joined the company when it was conceptualising the original Xbox in 1999.
Brown has penned a personal blog post – entitled “Stupid, Stupid Xbox!!” – in which he voiced his concern over Microsoft’s direction as of late. He begins, “I was a founder of the original Xbox project at Microsoft and gave it its name”, before recalling the gratification felt after the console enjoyed success after launch.
However, things haven’t been so good lately, as Brown continued, “But 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, [...] 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’s beef with Microsoft is not that it views consoles as an integral part of the living room experience – in fact, he welcomes its inevitability in his post – but he also argues that Microsoft is going about it all wrong.
He continued, “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.”
The lack of indie support is also an issue, he suggested, “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 closes this section with a rather damning accusation, “Microsoft, you are idiotic to have ceded not just indie game developers but also a generation of loyal kids and teens to making games for other people’s mobile devices.”
On the issue of Microsoft’s so-called ‘success’ in the multi-media market, Brown added, “Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world. I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and tv-uses was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of.”
He then closes with, “So, because these two critical issues – user experience and indie content – are not nearly in order and I see big investments in future interactive content happening, as well as idiotic moves to limit used games or put harder content protection into place than exists in mobile or tablets – I predict massive failure and losses here.
“And it makes me sad. Because it just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for 5 years. 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.”