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Xbox Co-Founder: "Microsoft Are Living In A Naive Dream World"

Matt Gardner
Kinect, Microsoft, Nat Brown, XBLA, XBLIG, Xbox 360. Xbox

Xbox Co-Founder: "Microsoft Are Living In A Naive Dream World"

Xbox OS "creaky, slow, and full-of-shit"

Another week, another former Microsoft employee prophesying doom for the Xbox owners. This time, though, it's one of the founders from the original Xbox project.

Nat Brown, who was recruited to join the Xbox project back in April 1999, and reportedly gave the console its name, has slammed Microsoft's practices over the past five years, saying that they've "been simply painful to watch", stating that the company have  been "coasting on past momentum", and lamenting "a complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room" in  an article simply titled "Stupid, Stupid Xbox".Brown's hard-hitting rant, posted on his personal blog, argues that  although the Xbox was always designed to provide a multimedia experience and become an entertainment hub,  Microsoft has" jumped its own shark" and has abandoned its core concerns. Or, as Brown puts it, "their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken."

In Brown's eyes, Microsoft have failed in two fundamental areas: providing an accessible, well-cared-for platform for indie developers that are at the forefront of the digital revolution, and presenting consumers with the things that they actually want, and doing so with a quick, intuitive UI.

"xBox’s primary critical problem is the lack of a functional and growing platform ecosystem for small developers to sell digitally-/network-distributed (non-disc) content through to the installed base of xBox customers, period.

"Why can’t I write a game for xBox tomorrow using $100 worth of tools and my existing Windows laptop and test it on my home xBox or at my friends’ houses? Why can’t I then distribute it digitally in a decent online store, give up a 30% cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad?

"Oh, wait, I can… sort of. Read some of the fine-print at the xBox registered developer program page (that “membership” would cost you $10,000/year and a ton of paperwork, with Microsoft holding veto power over your game being published), navigate the mess through to learning about XBLA (also costly, paperwork and veto approval) and you may end up learning about a carved off little hard-to-find store with a few thousand stunted games referred to asXBLIG where Microsoft has ceded their veto power (and instead just does nothing to promote your games). This is where indie developers have found they can go in order to not make money on xBox, despite an installed base of 76M devices. Microsoft, you are idiotic to have ceded not just indie game developers but also a generation of loyal kids and teens to making games for other people’s mobile devices."

The OS came under fire too, with Brown declaring that "xBox’s secondary critical problem is that the device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow, and full-of-shit."

Brown ended by blasting Microsoft's continued championing of its successes with Kinect, and predicting some rather large losses, particularly when Apple eventually decides to enter the living room fully.

"Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world. I have heard people still there arguing that the transition of the brand from hardcore gamers to casual users and tv-uses was an intentional and crafted success. It was not. It was an accident of circumstance that Microsoft is neither leveraging nor in control of.

"[...] These two critical issues – user experience and indie content – are not nearly in order and I see big investments in future interactive content happening, as well as idiotic moves to limit used games or put harder content protection into place than exists in mobile or tablets – i predict massive failure and losses here. And it makes me sad. Because it just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for 5 years. xBox just needs somebody with a brain and focus to get the product in order tactically before romping forward to continue the long-term strategic promise of an xBox in every living room, connected to every screen."

Amen to that. Recently, Microsoft showed further commitment to its programme of not giving a damn about indie devs by announcing the impending death of the XNA community dev toolkit, without revealing anything resembling a replacement.

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