Who to blame for the Xbox One’s ad-covered dashboard

By Brenna Hillier
18 August 2014 04:47 GMT

If you hate the ads crowding your Xbox One dashboard, you now know who to blame.


Ten years ago, Allen Murray was a program manager on Microsoft’s Xbox team. In a post on his personal blog, he’s confessed to being the person responsible for ads on the Xbox dashboard.

“If you hate seeing advertisements when you boot up your Xbox, let me apologize in advance,” he wrote.

“I am one of the people – if not THE person – responsible for ads on the Xbox.”

An Amazon veteran, Murray said his first job at Microsoft was on the team responsible for Xbox Live’s web services layer.

As an industry insider, he was in the know regarding a bunch of “neat, smaller” games available on Xbox via digital distribution – games like the now famous Hexic.

“It occurred to me that even though these games and this platform were rad, no one would know about it because it was several clicks down in the UI, hidden from view,” he wrote.

“There needed to be a way to surface and display these games that I knew that players would want to know about.”

With the support of Larry Hyrb – Major Nelson, that is – Murray went to his superiors to introduce the idea of dashboard ads.

It didn’t go down well. Microsoft was very resistant to the idea, saying gamers hate ads. The passage where Murray describes his difficulties selling the idea paints a very different image of Microsoft than cynical gamers might expect:

“I think it was my choice of language, using terms like ‘advertising’ and ‘banner ads’ that conveyed a tone of corporate soullessness. This was games! We were supposed to be cool and fuck the man and all that shit,” he wrote.

Eventually with Hyrb’s help a banner of the day system was prototyped and implemented. Hryb himself would schedule the ads, using a system Murray described as ‘pure hackery”.

“Nowadays the Xbox One UI is nearly all ‘ads’, i.e., links promoting content and apps in the Xbox ecosystem,” Murray concluded.

“So it’s nice to see that the idea caught on and if you hate the Mt. Dew ads, I am truly sorry.

“I just find it funny and interesting that 10 years ago it was an uphill battle to build a system that is pretty much the standard way to present content on the console.”

Finally, Murray noted that his second project at Xbox was designing the Xbox 360’s parental controls.

“I’m sorry about that, too,” he wrote. Ha ha!

As an aside, Murray also worked on Solitaire Blitz, one of the few social games every to genuinely catch me. (You still can’t have my money, PopCap. Reboot Insaniquarium and we’ll talk.)

Thanks, Gamespot.

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