Co-Founder Of The Xbox Discusses The Biggest Mistake Made At Launch

The original Xbox launch, in hindsight, probably ranks about 'okay' in terms of how it was received and how many units the console would go onto sell. It was a launching platform for an entire brand that didn't quite find its feet until the release of the Xbox 360. In an 'Ask Me Anything' over at Yarbly, co-founder Ed Fries discussed what he would change about that launch, and also discussed his cynicism over Virtual Reality.

But first: if he could change anything about the launch of the original Xbox, what would it be?

"Probably the easiest answer is the controller," said Fries. "A lot of people hated the big controller we shipped with the first version. Fortunately we had been developing a smaller controller for Japan and were able to switch that in to be the standard controller for the rest of the world pretty quickly after launch. Other than that, given how quickly we had to get everything together for launch I think we made pretty good decisions and got lucky that more didn't go wrong."

I actually suffered with my launch controller for a long, long time. It was only when I moved to Japan and bought a second Xbox that I got to grips with the smaller controller, which was initially designed for the Japanese audience. That adjustment, and its evolution with the Xbox 360, has resulted in one of my all-time favourite controllers of all time.

Interestingly enough, despite no longer working for Microsoft, Fries seems legitimately sceptical about the potential of Virtual Reality. Particularly with the recent failure of 3DTV technology.

"Given how little success the consumer electronics companies have had with 3D TVs with glasses," he explains, "I am skeptical that general users are going to be strapping this thing onto their face any time soon.

"I hear rumors about all kinds of cool stuff but will it make it to market?"



    ...I liked the Duke >:

      Are you some kind of giant?

        Well you know what they say about large hands...

          Large gloves?

            Damn you beat me to it. Damn this phone and slow connection.

            Edit: Nevermind was taking time to do work and read article. Didnt reload for comments. Case closed!

            Last edited 03/04/14 2:20 pm

          They have large hands? Sorry, I'm not good at this.

      I liked the Duke as well. The improved one was nicer for some things but I had the Duke for so long that my muscle memory was trained for it and I found swapping quite hard for some games (esp. Halo)

      It was like duel wielding a pair of large potatos!

      I used the Duke LONG after the Controller S came out.
      I guess I just got used to it. The S was a much better controller.

    Seems a bit of an odd comparison to make, 3DTV.

      Not to me, I took it as it was: If people don't want to wear simple glasses (low weight, etc) that let you see normally, etc, why wear an expensive, heavy, headset that blocks out everything.

        Sure, the glasses part is similar, but they do completely different things. 3DTV adds some crappy effect, while a VR headset is able to immerse you in another world. 3DTV added nearly nothing to the experience, whereas a VR headset adds a whole new depth to gaming.

          To me it's a case of as gaming is now an every day thing, for every day people, we can't wear the gamer-goggles (pun intended) and assume the rest of the world sees things as we do.

          ever used an oculus? its twin 3dtv's - that crappy effect is just a whole lot closer and more nausea inducing.

        Well, yeah. "They both involve things on your face therefore must be the same". Seems kinda silly.

        I mean 3D TV is just like an enhancement of something we've already had with added inconvenience, whereas VR is more its own "new" thing, which would be purpose-bought for what it can do rather than some optional extra that you might just end up switching off and never using. Or something, I'm not sure if I'm translating my thoughts into words properly.

          I share his scepticism about how much a “regular” person is going to want to have a pair of goggles strapped to their face for an extended period of time.

          Particularly people who share their houses or who aren’t happy about having one (or two) of their major senses completely removed from the outside world.
          Sure it’s ok for 5-10 minutes, but if you’ve got a significant other/ kid/ dog/ asshole roommate who’ll prank you while your face is strapped up then you probably don’t want to have your eyes and ears blocked off for hours on end.

          I know I don’t.

          Sure, it might be the best damn gaming experience ever, but I think there’s a LOT of people out there who aren’t comfortable or just don’t have the ability to completely remove themselves from the world just for a gaming session.

            That's true of nearly any product though, you can't please all the people all the time.

            And thinking of it as just something for games is thinking way too small, there's going to be so many different applications for it that there's no need for it to be embraced by the entire gaming culture. Games are just an easy and obvious entry point to becoming familiar with it.

              I really like the idea of real time streaming of sports events that have an omni directional camera rig running that vr users could just jump into. Or gigs etc.

              Last edited 03/04/14 5:56 pm

      Not an odd comparison at all, the general public, even those that absolutely loved the 3D effect moaned incessantly about glasses and decided that they would wait for glasses-free 3D.

      The experience of VR is a magnitude better than that of a good 3D movie, but the headset required is also a magnitude larger and less convenient and potentially dangerous.

      I love VR, am a developer, but I still think it will only get about as much penetration with the general public as steering-wheel controllers.

      I think VR is still at the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations' of the Hype Cycle

      Last edited 03/04/14 7:30 pm

    I didn't mind the Duke, but I preferred the smaller ones and I'm glad they set the benchmark for what would become the 360 and Xbone controller.

    I really liked the Xbox dashboard too, but it occurs to me I never once plugged it into the internet (which I did immediately when I got my 360 in 2006) so I find myself wondering what it would have looked like had it been updated after 2002.

    That adjustment, and its evolution with the Xbox 350

    What is this console you speak of?

      lol, it's the one before the xbox 360, everybody knows that.

    I remember the advertising using the term "cannon fodder"....

    ... what marketing genius came up with that? Let's let people know that they will be burnded and sacrificed for everyone else by being an early adopter!

    They still haven't fixed it, with that button layout :P

    Last edited 03/04/14 2:37 pm

    one of my all-time favourite controllers of all time

    A bit of redundancy there, @serrels :P

      I didn't keep reading after that, just shook my head and moved to the comments.

    The controller did provide a bit of amusement, though...

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