Microsoft considered launching Xbox for free, eventually adding Windows

By Stephany Nunneley, Wednesday, 1 April 2015 15:16 GMT

At one point during the development of the original Xbox, Microsoft considered making the console free.

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Speaking with GI.biz, Oddworld Inhabitants’ Lorne Lanning said this was the deciding factor when it came to releasing Munch’s Oddysee on the Xbox platform at launch.

“At the time, Xbox thought that the core market was going to be casual,” said Lanning. “They were going to be the casual gamers’ machine. Now, that’s why they approached us because they said ‘we think you’ve got something that competes in that Mario space and we think Mario’s the thing to kill.

“We see that space. We want that audience. We love Oddworld so why don’t you get on this bandwagon? And we might give the box away.’

“So now we’re like, ‘look, if you’re going to give the box away, you’re going to win. If you’re going to win, we want to be on board’.”

Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley said internal conversations regarding what to do with Xbox were bouncing in all directions: some saying it should be free, others wanting it to run Windows after a certain point in time.

Lanning said forcing Windows wouldn’t have been the vest idea, because the industry wasn’t to keen on the operating system.

“You got the brand that everyone resents having to buy, how’s that going to work in the entertainment industry? See, we don’t need your OS in the entertainment industry,” he said. “We don’t need shit from you in the entertainment industry. In fact, if anything you do runs like fucking Windows, we don’t want anything to do with it, right?

“That was a very common perception. There was a lot of resistance; it was, ‘Microsoft Game Studios? Fuck Microsoft!’ And we went around the world defending them. We said, ‘Look, this is about building better environments for developers so that you can get better games at cheaper prices and developers can stay in business longer’.”

Microsoft eventually decided against a free Xbox and releasing Windows on it, obviously, but the ideas behind the latter still persisted and slowly but surely, it is coming to pass with Xbox One.

Back in January, it was announced during the company’s Windows 10 event the Xbox One app would be made available on all PC and tablets running the operating system.

Developers can also create one game across all W10 devices allowing for Cross-Buy and cross-platform play, as is the case with Fable Legends.

The firm also revealed Xbox One users would be able to stream their games to a W10 PC and it was looking into the ability to stream PC games to Xbox One.

Xbox was released in November 2001 and went on to sell 24 million units worldwide as of May 2006.

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