Sections

Xbox founder slams Microsoft’s last 5 years, have been “painful to watch”

Wednesday, 13th February 2013 11:46 GMT By Dave Cook

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, 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.”

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 expereince 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.”

It’s a damning post. What do you make of Brown’s testimony? Should Microsoft stop spreading its bases thin and focus on core games while giving indies a leg-up? Let us know below.

Thanks GI,biz.

Breaking news

41 Comments

Sign in to post a comment.

  1. manamana

    Oh boy and how right he is. Since Kinect it went downhill with Xbox.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Myth

    Almost hard to believe this guy isn’t currently employed in the industry with all that insight…

    Actually, he hasn’t worked in the industry since 2000 from what I can tell, and his title at Microsoft was never higher than Software Architect according to his LinkedIN.

    Are we really sure we want to credit this guy with creating the Xbox?

    #2 1 year ago
  3. RandomTiger

    I like this guy, I need to read his full post.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Gheritt White

    OMG, I couldn’t agree more.

    Also, last five years = Don Mattrick. JUST SAYIN’

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Fin

    @1

    Yeah? Why do you think that?

    #5 1 year ago
  6. SplatteredHouse

    Even reading as much as I have so far of that article, I am confident I will find myself in at least 90% agreement – Microsoft are, and have increasingly been, rudderless and drifting.

    I stopped buying things from them for that very reason. That was why my 360 had to go, and did. Completely terrible platform direction, and alternating between jumping at shadows, and running around like headless chickens. This will be among the traits, that if present/maintained would destroy any likelihood that MS get ANOTHER chance with me. I enjoyed Xbox, I thought they had a great thing, but were victims of circumstance, but around the timeframe mentioned, they changed – things became increasingly noticeably ad/media driven, – and lately, they’ve just been flailing around.

    “No, more and better content was always the point and the plan. ”
    That’s the saddest thing in all of it, in my view. That they intended to offer a broader range of content, and instead they’re championing the few (the most “loyal” publishers), their community is nomadic, fickle and the strategies intended to give them an edge on Sony, didn’t gain them, as much as they just cost everybody else. As far as this idea of unifying services, transferring them between Microsoft platforms. GFWL.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Gadzooks!

    He’s not entirely wrong.

    Losing indies will be a huge mistake, Kinect is just not up to the job it is being handed, and the stubborn refusal to relinquish any small amount of control over the platform is turning devs and communities away.

    I don’t know many console owners that plan to stay with Xbox next-gen. I think MS are going to have a very very hard time. A serious kicking will probably be needed to get them on track again.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. DarkElfa

    Nothing good will ever happen as long long as Bill Gates’ douche-bag drinking buddy remains in control of Microsoft.

    Balmer is a big, bald buttfuck and he never should have been left in charge of MS or even given the responsibility of tying his own shoes laces.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Psychotext

    Did he completely miss XBLIG or something? Half of his rant basically doesn’t apply because of it. Sure, the games on there might not sell particularly well… but that’s as much in the hands of the devs failing to market their titles as anything else.

    I could write a game tomorrow in XNA and as long as it passed peer certification it would find its way onto the platform. I don’t need a dev kit or anything more complicated than a copy of Visual Studio (even that isn’t completely required) and a 360.

    #9 1 year ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @9 he mentions XBLIG in his post, saying that Microsoft has handled it improperly, or something to that effect. It’s in there though :)

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Jeff Patarken

    @8 Thanks to you, I now have “Ballmer the Big Bald Buttfuck” playing in my head to the tune of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Psychotext

    @10: I see, I only read the text above. Cheers.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @12 no worries :) Read the full thing though, it’s insane.

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Mike W

    Well MS became accustomed to announcing how much they a sell month instead of some annoucing some interesting titles.

    That’s my beef with them. They’re stroking their own ego and it’s going to come back and bite them ass, if they don’t get their shit together.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. DrDamn

    Tend to agree with a lot of that to be honest – and on balance particularly this bit … “Touting strategic and market success when you’re just experiencing your competitor’s stumbling failure”. They have all been caught out by the emergence of mobile gaming and the development/distribution models they benefit from. Stuff like XBLIG, PS Minis, PS Mobile just demonstrate they don’t fully understand it too.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. SplatteredHouse

    @11: Do you suppose that can land under a defensible definition of parody. :p
    @14: They placed their priorities with publishers, to such an extent that they began to feel consumers concerns were secondary, is my suspicion. As long as the scores and buys come in, what does much else matter, right?

    #16 1 year ago
  17. G1GAHURTZ

    Microsoft is finished. Just like Sony and Nintendo…

    …oh, and PC gaming.

    Lets all buy Samsung instead.

    They’re the new Apple.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. BraveArse

    Nailed it IMO. I haven’t used either of my 360s much at all in the last year +, because of all the things mentioned. I’m due for live renewal soon and this will be the first time since Live started that I won’t be bothering to pay. MS need to start speaking to and exciting their customer base instead of their share holders, admittedly as do the other platform holders to a lesser extent.

    No one likes to feel like yet another cash berry to be popped.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. TheBlackHole

    Well, I can’t see anyone in the industry hiring him in future with that kind of attitude.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. OlderGamer

    This guy really sums it up nice.

    And like Gadz, I know next to no one that wants a next gen xbox. Most of my friends and family have gone/will go WiiU + PC. That is my plan as well.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. manamana

    @5 just to make one thing clear: I play all consoles and like them all. That being said, M$ has build-up very much momentum with the Kinect but didn’t delivered *anything* noteworthy inhouse wise. Still they pushed the hardware, sold a heck of them and let third party developers grab all the glory with titles like Dance Central to cater the “casuals”. Yet they had nothing but Rare’s awkward bundled titles.

    Also M$ had a chance to build upon their XBLA but couldn’t manage to come somewhat close to the simple Apple App-Store infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong, I played a lot of XBLA titles last year. But look how many titles are launched in the App-Store. Seems like Apple has titally taken over small to big developers on arcade like games. M$ was pretty close to that too but they totally forgot about that, putting it behind some three-click away, simple texted green buttons instead of pushing them into your face.

    I hope that with the next Xbox they continue to build upon XBLA and on a strong first party line-up.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. The Dude

    Yep, agree!

    #22 1 year ago
  23. stretch215

    I’ll most likely be grabbing both consoles again next gen. Though, if the rumored nextbox specs are true I’ll be going ps4 first.

    #23 1 year ago
  24. fearmonkey

    Im off to read the article, but I agree with what he has been quoted with here. Over the life of the 360, it seems MS forgot what made the Xbox brand cool in the first place.

    #24 1 year ago
  25. daytripper

    The current OS is awful imo, not surprised it was designed by someone who has very little interest in gaming, she is all about the apps yo!

    #25 1 year ago
  26. OlderGamer

    I am not a big MS supporter, but one thing that strikes me is that Netflix is watched more then games are played on xb360(and PS3). So it is somewhat understandable that the companies will want to focus on apps and expand the things you can do with your systems.

    It is also understandable that a website full of dedicated gamers won’t feel the sameway.

    #26 1 year ago
  27. sh4dow

    I agree with basically everything he says.
    This generation has made me a “late adopter” and in the next one, console manufacturers may have to see how much cash they can rake in without my support.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. manamana

    Why I have to watch adverts in an already payed environment is also beyond me and a reason to hang out more on PS3.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. Diingo

    The future of gaming rests in the hands of actual gamers, not the publishers. Valve is proving this to be true with their infrastructure of Steam – allowing gamers to build their own content then release it to the public however way they wish. With console makers, they put up walls restricting that innovation.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. DSB

    I think his post makes a lot of sense.

    Especially in terms of the design. I remember making an angry post that sounded eerily similar when I bought my second 360, and getting jumped by angry fanboys, but honestly I think the PS3 is every bit as bad.

    Managed to get a Sony DVD/online player that has the same interface, and it just makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

    You pretty much have the choice between navigating through a herp derp X/Y axis, or a bunch of useless fucking squares that have little to no functionality, beyond putting distance between you and what you’d like to (eventually) press.

    I can’t tell if it’s lazy or reactionary or what, but it makes those designers look fucking stupid. It pisses me off just thinking about it :P

    How can you live in a world with so many devices that do so many things right, and still do so many things wrong?

    #30 1 year ago
  31. Cobra951

    It’s funny how there are maybe 4 of those many square tiles on the Xbox interface that I actually care about. But at least they’re still there. I can still go (more or less) directly to my games and launch one. I have never used a console for anything else, and I probably never will. But if there’s big money to be made from the dumb casuals, I can’t blame Sony or MS for going after their pockets. They lose me only if they take away or dilute the functionality that matters to core gamers.

    #31 1 year ago
  32. SplatteredHouse

    I’d embrace the reinstatement of the shards in a heartbeat. Tiles, pah.

    #32 1 year ago
  33. DSB

    @31 But that’s the whole difference between good design or bad design. Good design is more direct, bad design is less so. (Well, part of good design at least).

    Sure, it’s not a huge hassle to start a game, unless it’s on the HDD. And really, who cares about digital, right? :P

    It’s not like Microsoft could be making a killing on letting people download all their games, they’re better off if they pick them up at Gamest… Oh, hey, wait a minute.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. Da Man

    He’s right, alas you have to be thankful to Sony once again. The original Xbox was the epitome of a gaming machine, great visuals, exceptional library of games and a pioneer of online services, way before PC/Steam let alone other consoles.


    D-Sub learning math and UI design through internet games blogs. Amazing.

    #34 1 year ago
  35. DrDamn

    @33
    Pins are helpful on the 360 interface but essentially a big admission that the core interface sucks badly for finding things. There are too many ways to get to the same place and they are long winded too, with lengthy delays waiting for lists to populate. You’d hope with 3.5Gb reserved for the OS that would be significantly improved with Durango. Under the bonnet the 360 OS is light years ahead of the others too.

    #35 1 year ago
  36. Cobra951

    @33: Actually it’s still plenty easy to navigate to your games. ‘Rb-Rb-A’ gets you there, ordered by most recently played. And of course, just pressing ‘A’ after booting up the system launches the disc game. But then it takes 6 ‘Rb’ presses and ‘A’ to get to the system menu from a boot-up. Haha! I just hold ‘Rb’ down to whiz by all the media fluff I never even look at. That and ‘Lb’ to go back to Home or Games from System is the sum total of what I do on the tiled nightmare.

    #36 1 year ago
  37. kezwar

    I agree 100% I’ve seen no innovation whatsoever from Microsoft in years. And I am no fanboy.

    #37 1 year ago
  38. kezwar

    from a gaming perspective I mean.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. DSB

    @36 And that actually makes sense to you?

    It’s a games console, no? Shouldn’t that functionality kinda be front and center, instead of RB+RB+RB+RB+RB+RB+A?

    And why on earth am I going through a social pane with an avatar store on my way there? Is the 360 somehow more of an instant messenger than a games console?

    Nevermind the superfluous login screen, or the fact that the biggest panes are the least used.

    Maybe Microsoft simply doesn’t know how people use their consoles, which is every bit as scary, as thinking that their designers have completely missed 10 full years of design innovation.

    It just fundamentally doesn’t make any sense. Most games have better interfaces than that today.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. fearmonkey

    @39 Don’t worry DSb, soon you will be able to talk to your console and wave your hands in the air to navigate its menus, no more LB – RB.
    excited yet? lol….

    This is what happens when you let alot of these big execs make decisions…
    An exec (who probably plays minimal amount of games) thinks something is a good idea, and the others all jump in because they dont want to risk their jobs by disagreeing.

    #40 1 year ago
  41. DreadSabot

    I agree with some of what he said. There has been a sent of drifting lately with no real push to innovate, but I am not sure if that has been for 5 years. i would say more like the last 2 years where they have let Sony steal the spotlight back a bit.

    On the same token the announcements they made for the X1 sold me on the tech side and I did like the games. I have always felt other than STEAM and maybe Stardock very few companies know how to promote indie games. I doubt Sony will be much better at it – especially based on the mess their current market place is.

    Android has a good market but its the sales and spotlights in STEAM which lead to impulse buys for me – I never feel the same way in Android market.

    The funny thing about Xbox is that they originated the whole self publish deal with XNA and that is in my opinion what led to the hacking of the 360, so it is no surprise they are shying away from it this time.

    The sad thing though in the last 3 gens it seems like the system that got hacked wound up be the winner of the race in the long run.

    #41 12 months ago