Xbox's Early Days Included The Idea of a Free Xbox

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Steve Anderson
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Xbox's Early Days Included The Idea of a Free Xbox

A free Xbox. It sounds like the kind of thing that email scam letters are based on, doesn't it? But according to the word of a new report that just emerged, it was the kind of thing Microsoft actually considered. The earliest days of Xbox were a strange time indeed, and the reports spell out what was going on.

The reports in question come from Seamus Blackley, who co-wrote the proposal that got Xbox started in the first place and brought Microsoft into focus as one of the biggest names in gaming today. According to Blackley--who did an interview with"everybody and their brother" who even saw the project at Microsoft responded much the same way, insisting that the console should be given away at no charge. I should point out here that we're talking about the original Xbox, which gave us the XBOX HUEG meme for the sheer size and density of the device. Penny Arcade once did a strip featuring Gabe's controller being replaced with an 800-pound grizzly bear and noting that it felt smaller and lighter than the original.

A free Xbox wasn't the only strange idea that the Microsoft staff tried to bring into play: also, it was suggested that the Xbox should be forced, at some point, into running the Windows operating system. This was a blow to the operation; Blackley noted that the entertainment industry wasn't happy with the idea of the system running Windows, at one point turning to obscenities to describe feelings about the Windows platform. But despite the fact that the first Xbox reportedly lost Microsoft money, the third one has been out on shelves for better than a year and a half and is still doing quite well against its biggest competitor.

I was a player of the original Xbox myself, almost after the fact. I picked one up used at a good price at a local GameStop, having been playing the PlayStation 2 for quite some time beforehand. While I noted that there weren't exactly a lot of games on hand, several of what were available became personal favorites. "Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge," "Sid Meyer's Pirates" and of course "Morrowind" were all big games for me, most of which I played long into the Xbox 360 era. But even I knew that the Xbox controller was a hand-filler--and me with very big hands--and the lack of games was a problem. Still, Microsoft clearly learned some lessons, and took some interesting chances in the meantime. The rise of the app environment meant that, in many cases, the Xbox line didn't need to run Windows as it could still do some things with just the apps. Some reports suggest that the Xbox One will eventually run at least a breed of Windows, and that may not be such a bad thing either. Only time will tell just what the Xbox both does and looks like down the line, but this is still likely to be a point to watch in the meantime.

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