“Sony makes sound systems, DVD players, walkmans, camcorders, televisions… if they could connect all these things together, it would be a computer, a potentially existential threat to Microsoft.” explains Ed Fries, the games man from the Redmond company at the time of the first Xbox, in the Power On report. “They said their new console would be so powerful it would replace the PC”Replies Seamus Blackley, the daddy of the Xbox. He add : “it was like shooting cannonballs at Microsoft headquarters”. Certainly, Microsoft was already making video games before Sony offered them, but it was the Japanese giant’s desires for greatness that pushed the American company to manufacture its own machine. In other words: the Redmond firm had to fight back.
At the end of the 1990s, four people from the DirectX team, who were working on solutions for developers, were thinking about Microsoft’s future in the field of future graphics technologies. These geniuses of programming and graphics are Otto Berkes, Ted Hase, Seamus Blackley and Kevin Bachus. The group is exploring where Microsoft could further develop, and for them, the observation is clear, we must go more significantly in the video game.
After the announcement of the PlayStation 2 in 1999, the Japanese company does not hesitate to repeat that its console will replace computers. Faced with this threat, Bill Gates asks the DirectX team to analyze Sony’s statements. Berkes and Blackley provide a detailed report on what the PS2 can do, on what is true or exaggerated. At the end of the report, they incorporate the idea that Microsoft should make a games console to better fight Sony.
A week after the official announcement of the PlayStation 2, Bill Gates and other executives of the group retire to the Semiahmoo golf and country club for a week. It is a place where leaders develop strategies and give the green light to ideas. This is where Rick Thompson, the hardware man of the band (from 1987 to 2000) goes. The procedure is as simple as it is original. Each person who has an idea or a subject to propose writes it on a sign which they then hold in front of them. People interested in the subject then post in front. Rick Thompson writes: “what would happen if Sony and the internet giants join forces to push us aside”. Several people line up in front of Thompson. Among them, Bill Gates. A debate is organized around the question, a debate which ends with another question: does Microsoft have an interest in launching its own game console? Gates then asks Thompson to study the different possibilities. A call is launched within the company to know if people have ideas. It is from this moment that the DirectX team, the one who had already thought about the question, will present its preparatory work. Less than three years after this conference, the Xbox will arrive in stores.
Power On: The Story of the Xbox is available in full via here.