Xbox 360’s transition from hardcore to casual "was an accident of circumstance"

One of the founders of the original Xbox programme at Microsoft has lashed out at the direction the company has taken with Xbox 360.

Nat Brown was one of the key figures behind Microsoft’s assault on the living room and while he understand Microsoft’s want to make the Xbox 360 the central living room entertainment hub, he is deeply critical of many decision made by the firm.

I was a founder of the original Xbox project at Microsoft and gave it its name,” he wrote on his blog. Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded… I am actually still thrilled to see how far it has come, how many installed units it has, how it is crushing its original console competitors, how the brand has grown and endured, and especially how great the games have become.

But the past five years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch. Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalize on innovations like Kinect. Touting strategic and market success when you’re just experiencing your competitor’s stumbling failure (yes, Sony, Nintendo – you are, I’m afraid, stumbling failures).”

Brown believes that Microsoft is destined to lose its battle of the living room at the hands of rivals Apple and Google. Indeed, he believes that Microsoft didn’t even intend to fight this battle in the first place.

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

Brown goes on to argue that while Microsoft’s content/entertainment strategy is broadly correct, the company has jumped its own shark and is out stomping through the weeds planning and talking about far-flung future strategies in interactive television and original programming partnerships with big dying media companies when their core product, their home town is on fire, their soldiers, their developers, are tired and deserting, and their supply-lines are broken”.

Highlighted for specific criticism is Xbox’s struggle to embrace indie programming in the way that Apple has and the console’s increasingly cluttered and often slow OS

Because 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,” Brown concludes.

And it makes me sad. Because it just doesn’t have to fail, even though it has been punted around poorly for five 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.”

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