Xbox architects share stories from the console’s early days and discuss the future of gaming

The 20th anniversary of Microsoft’s Xbox project continues this week with the online launch of “Xbox Pioneers: Creativity & Innovation – Past, Present & Future,” a roundtable discussion among several Xbox’s first architect, recorded on November 9

Topics covered include anecdotes from the project’s inception, insight into what prompted some of the earliest decisions in Xbox history, and predictions about what’s to come in the industry. video game industry.

The discussion was chaired by retired Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aimé, who seemed as surprised to be there as anyone. He chaired a panel that included Bonnie Ross, the current head of Microsoft’s 343 Industries subsidiary, and the only panel member still working at Microsoft; former vice president of Microsoft, Ed Fries, who was one of the first Microsoft employees to sign on to the Xbox project; Robbie Bach, who retired from Microsoft in 2010 after leading his entertainment division for 10 years; and Peter Moore, who served as corporate vice president of Microsoft’s interactive entertainment division from 2003 to 2007, where he became famous among fans for his Halo 2 tattoo.

Since their time at Microsoft, Bach, Fries and Moore have all pursued new projects. Bach recently wrote a novel, a political thriller called Wilkes’ Resurrection; Moore spent three years as CEO of Liverpool Football Club before taking his current job at Unity Technologies; and Fries are co-chairs of 1Up Ventures, a gaming-focused venture capital firm.

Read on for highlights from their 45-minute session.

  • On the first Xbox game: Ross’s first game for Xbox is the launch title Fuzion Frenzy, it was also the first Xbox game to undergo certification testing and later the first complete game for the Xbox library.
  • On Xbox Live: Bach highlighted the original version of Xbox Live, which premiered in November 2002, as one of the most innovative decisions on the original platform. “When I think back to those early days,” Bach said, “Xbox Live was… super innovative from a business perspective. The idea that people would pay $49 a year to have a subscription. Think about how many subscription services you had in 2002. Xbox is really trying to spur some innovation in the business model. “
  • More on Xbox Live: Early Xbox Live details were a rough patch at first, such as voice integration. “My memory of that is how crazy people thought we were,” Bach said. He credits the original Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon as a title that made people realize the value of the Xbox Live service.
  • On the Ethernet port: According to Fries, one of the key decisions for Xbox was whether to put a modem or an Ethernet port because Microsoft couldn’t afford to include both features in the final device. In the end, that decision fell to Bach, who forgot he was the one doing it, but chose the Ethernet port because “it makes more sense to go with the future than with the past.”
  • On a 56k modem: Bill Gates, reported, on the decision not to include a 56k modem in the Xbox: “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
  • About the brand: Moore’s influence is why Xbox products don’t feature the Microsoft logo so prominently, as he chose to have separate branding.
  • On Halo and Xbox Live: Credit Ross Halo 2, and developer synergy Bungie works with the Xbox team, to propel Xbox Live to its prominent role on the Xbox platform.
  • On Sega and Xbox: During Moore’s previous job at Sega of America, he was the executive who called for the cessation of production of Sega’s last console, the Dreamcast, in 2001. Since the Dreamcast’s operating system ran on Windows CE, Sega and Microsoft have had a strong working relationship. and Sega was the first console maker to jump into online gaming. When the time came, Moore was able to neatly connect the points between the Dreamcast and Xbox, especially when the first Xbox Live version hit the market.
  • More on Sega and Xbox: That explains something I’ve always wondered about Xbox’s original line of software. Although it is not common in Japan (it is reported only sold 450,000 pieces in the Japanese market), Xbox still somehow ends up as a cleaning house for quirky Japanese games such as Breakdown, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, and Ghost dust. Between Ed Fries’ outreach efforts and Moore’s relationship with Sega and Japan, Xbox ended up hosting a handful of niche titles of the kind that had previously found a home on the Dreamcast. “As the Dreamcast faded into the sunset,” Moore said, “the baton was passed on to Xbox.”
  • About diversity: “When you think about Halo and other games in our portfolio,” says Ross, “it’s about making sure you have a diverse world and a diverse set of characters. Her interpretation isn’t so much about Xbox anymore, as it’s about “meeting the players where they are” and using Microsoft’s recent studio acquisitions as a way to get something for everyone.

“The gaming business is said to be now or soon to be the largest media business in the world.”

  • More about diversity: “The gaming business is said to be now or soon to be the largest media business in the world,” said Fries. “That means this term ‘gamer’ is gone. In a sense, we are all gamers. Looking at mobile gaming right now, more than half of all mobile gamers are women. But who creates the content? Unfortunately, that’s only a small percentage of game makers, and that must change. To create authentic content, it needs to come from people like your audience, as Bonnie says. ”
  • On user-generated content: Technology has advanced to the point where, at least in theory, everyone in the gaming space can create their own content, if not their own games. Ross pointed at HaloForging mode of, ForzaPlayer-created live matches and all Minecraft is a space where user-customized content is an important part of the overall experience.
  • More about the creator: Moore, in his current position as Senior Vice President of Unity Technologies, casually stated on the same day that There is unity Lord of the Rings Special effects company Weta Digital directed by Peter Jackson. “We believe there are already 2 billion creators,” he said. “We also believe that the world will move to real-time 3D,” citing sports programs as an example.
  • On the future of content: Bach predicts that in the future, the dividing lines between separate entertainment industries – music, movies, games, television – will be broken. “Music and video and real-time television, all coming together. I just think there are really great opportunities for different types of content that we wouldn’t even know how to categorize. “
  • On AR vs VR: “I think AR will be more realistic [than VR] because it is a mixture of world and a mixture of entertainment,” Ross said, as Fils-Aimé lectured on the subject of the metaverse. “It brings everything together.”
  • More on AR vs VR: Bach sees a divide in the VR/AR space, between efforts to transition from bulky VR helmets to “glasses” and productivity improvements (i.e. training in VR) that actually move further into rigs. Specialized, cumbersome, where accuracy is important.
  • On a gaming PC: “I’ve been hearing for 30 years that PC gaming is dying,” Fries said. “No, it’s not dead. It is developing. “There is room in the market for both VR and AR.
  • About future entertainment experiences: Moore and Unity are looking to disrupt the world of live entertainment (“democratize the entertainment experience”), using mixed and virtual reality to open events to remote attendees. “The almost archaic feeling that you’ve been lucky enough to win the lottery, get a ticket, go on a trip… and then stand in the back and watch the big screen because you can’t get close to the stage. ”
  • On the metaverse: Bach asked Fils-Aimé about the social impact of the metaverse, where someone can lead a completely different life in virtual reality. “This is where the AR-style experience is socially better,” says Fils-Aimé, “because you’re not completely different from the real-world experience. I’m concerned about an experience that takes you away from your family, your environment, all that. My parenting instincts also come into play, in terms of what I want to see my kids do.”
  • More info about metaverse: Fries had just visited the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Washington DC, and recalled one of Roosevelt’s quotes: “Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.” He notes that if the metaverse is to be made, that needs to be kept in mind. “They’re still about people, and when you get people, you need to strike a balance between the two.”
  • Ethical: “We as technology owners have a responsibility to think about ethical and social concerns as they build VR/AR spaces,” says Ross. “I think we’re seeing it happening right in front of our eyes – what happens when we don’t. And I think this is our second chance. “
  • In Gates’ interrupted shuttlecock game: When asked about his memories of his time with Xbox, Moore told a story about how at one point he approved downtime for several NT servers running games. Microsoft’s casual play. Unfortunately for him, that included the app Gates often used to play bridge with Warren Buffett, leading to an awkward phone call between Gates and Moore.

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