Since Microsoft made its entry into the competitive gaming console landscape in 2001, the Xbox brand has risen to become a ubiquitous brand in the sector. Xbox co-creator Ed Fries has now revealed that the original Xbox project was almost shut down completely by Microsoft founder Bill Gates who was not too pleased with the idea of having it move away from Windows towards a closed gaming system.
In a recent interview with IGN, Fries said there were two teams pitching their ideas for a new gaming console to Gates and Steve Ballmer.
While one group, which included Fries, wanted to create a device that had a hard disk and would be "a PC in disguise", the other wanted to design a console that would be a "continuation of the Sega Dreamcast line".
Designer Seamus Blackley recently shared some images of the prototypes for the original Xbox console's controllers that were inspired by Sega's console because, as he put it, "at the time Dreamcast was king".
According to Fries, the meeting on the original Xbox took place on Valentine's Day of 2000.
"So we go into the meeting at four o'clock Valentine's Day," Fries said. "Bill walks in, he's holding our Powerpoint deck, throws it down on the table and says, 'This is a [blanking] insult to everything I've done at this company'—basically was the quote. And that was the start of the meeting."
"We all looked at J Allard (Xbox director and designer) because we knew Bill's made about the no Windows thing, because we forgot to, in Microsoft terms, 'pre-disaster' him."
Since Allard was "like in shock for a minute", Fries said he tried to talk to Gates about the situation as well, but he too was yelled at and shut down. Robbie Bach also tried to step in before getting shut down himself. Ballmer then explained to the team that their business plan would lose a lot of money for the company - a point that Fries said further extended the meeting for several hours.
Finally, someone present at the meeting raised his hand and asked: "What about Sony?" According to Fries, the observer had written about how Sony was "slowly invading the living room" with new products that could pose as a "future threat to Microsoft".
Both Gates and Ballmer stopped and looked at each other, repeating the same question, "Yeah, what about Sony?" Fries recalls.
Gates then turned to the team and said he would give them his "full blessing" with all the resources they need and the opportunity to work separately from the rest of the company, after which Ballmer repeated the same sentiment.
"That was the weirdest meeting I've ever been in," Fries said he told Bach after it ended.
Recently, Fries also mentioned that the tech giant met rival console makers Nintendo and Sony during the Xbox planning process to discuss a potential console partnership with each of them. Both companies, however, reportedly declined the offer.