Microsoft has another reason to be embarrassed about the development of its Xbox console. One of the founders of the original project – the man who named the console in the first place – has published an unapologetic rant about the bad decisions and wrong turns that the console and entire project has made in recent years.
In a blog post entitled “Stupid, Stupid xBox!!” (Using the lower-case “x” and upper-case “b” that he originally suggested), Nat Brown first prides in his involvement in the origins of the Xbox. “Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over)… I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come, how many installed units it has, how it is crushing its original console competitors, how the brand has grown and endured, and especially how great the games have become,” he wrote before heading into a far less upbeat assessment of how the console has grown in the last few years.
“The past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch,” he wrote. “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, Sony, Nintendo – you are, I’m afraid, stumbling failures). A complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room.” The focus of his anger was, he explained, “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.” That’s not all, though; he also complained about the outdated operating system and UI interface – or, as he put it, “the device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow and full-of-shit.”
Accusing Microsoft of “living in a naive dream-world,” Brown argued that the success of the Xbox in creating an audience of casual gamers and transforming gaming into a lifestyle choice instead of a niche market was something that happened despite Microsoft’s input, not because of it. He goes on to suggest that the console’s current problems will mean it’ll get left behind in the near future.
“Because these two critical issues – user expereince and indie content – are not nearly in order and I see big investments in future interactive content happening,” he wrote, “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.” Not that that idea brings him any joy, apparently. “It just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for 5 years,” he said, finally hinting that all Xbox needs is “somebody with a brain and focus to get the priduct in order tactically before romping forwards to continue the long-term strategic promise of an Xbox in every living room, connected to every screen.”
Yikes. You mad, bro?