The Xbox, the Xbox 360, and Xbox Live have been successful because of many people. One person alone doesn’t get 66 million consoles sold or more than 25 million people signed up for a premium online gaming network. If anyone was singled out though, former head of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division, Robbie Bach, would be the man. Up until his retirement in 2010, Bach had spearheaded some real duds for Microsoft. The Zune and Games for Windows Live could certainly be called blemishes. Bach helped make the Xbox a defining piece of technology though, and the Xbox 360 has been the best-selling console in the US for 14 of the 24 months since his retirement.
He was a Microsoft man. Peculiar that he credits the Xbox’s success to Sony.
Speaking at the Northwest Entrepreneur Network (via Geek Wire) event in Seattle on Friday, Bach spoke candidly about the Xbox brand’s birth and how Sony’s bungling of the PlayStation 3 release helped make the Xbox 360 and industry leader. “Some of the success of Xbox was due to the fact that Sony did some really not so smart things. They mismanaged their 70 percent market share,” said Bach. “The transition to the PlayStation 3 was really, really bad. And really hard. They mismanaged their partners, they mismanaged their cost structure. They made their next platform so complicated that developers couldn’t develop for it.”
These bungles made it easy for Microsoft to curry favor with the biggest and most successful western publishers, namely Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard, as well as retailers like GameStop. “[We] were able to convince retailers and publishers like Activision, Electronic Arts and others that it was a good thing for Microsoft to be successful, because if we were not successful, the only game in town was Sony. Being dependent on somebody else was bad for them, and so they supported us disproportionately to what they should have, mathematically.”
Hence why Xbox 360 received so much exclusive support between 2005 and 2009.
Bach did not discuss Nintendo’s successes and failures during his talk, though the Wii certainly had an influence on how the Xbox business changed at the end of Bach’s career. The development of Kinect and Microsoft’s shift in focus from games to entertainment services like streaming television on the Xbox 360 have kept the console thriving even though it has aged dramatically in recent years.