Xbox 360 has been 'painful to watch' says hardware founder

Former Microsoft engineer blasts company for focusing too much on partnerships with "dying media companies."

Nat Brown, a Microsoft engineer who helped start the Xbox project and claims to have named the device, has severely criticised the company's direction, saying the last five years of the Xbox 360 have been "painful to watch."

"The past five years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch," said Brown on his blog, criticising Microsoft for allowing its focus on multimedia entertainment and partnerships with "dying media companies" to overtake its gaming roots.

"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). A complete lack of tactical versus strategic understanding of the long game of the living room. It culminated for me in recent coverage of interviews with Yusef Mehdi and Nancy Tellem and reports of the goals of a new LA Xbox studio to create interactive content."

Brown says a "Trojan horse" push for the living room was always the goal of the Xbox, but criticises Microsoft's current strategy. "My gripe, my head-smack, is not that the broader content/entertainment business isn’t where you want to go with a living-room-connected device. It absolutely is. Indeed, this was the point of Xbox, that was why it was the Trojan horse for the living room, where we could land and be welcomed by millions of console customers with more hardware and better software and network connectivity than the non-console devices (webtv, cable set-tob-boxes) we had been pursuing."

"No, more and better content was always the point and the plan," continues Brown. "My gripe is that, as usual, Microsoft 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."

Brown sums his argument up into two points: that the lack of a "functional and growing platform ecosystem for small developers" will hurt Microsoft in the long run, and that "the device OS and almost the entire user experience outside the first two levels of the dashboard are creaky, slow, and full-of-sh*t."

"Microsoft is living in a naive dream-world," concludes Brown. "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."

Despite his complaints, Brown says he is still thrilled to see the continued success of the Xbox. "Almost 14 years after the painful, pointless, and idiotic internal cage-match to get it started and funded, the hard selling of a compelling and lucrative living-room product to Bill (and then Steve as he began to take over), a product that consumers would want and love and demand, 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."

Nat Brown worked at Microsoft from 1990 to 2000, leaving the company before the original Xbox shipped in 2001.

Microsoft is widely expected to unveil its new Xbox hardware sometime this year, with the latest rumours for the machine indicating that it might attempt to block preowned software.

For more information on Microsoft's next-gen plans, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Written By

Hi! I'm Martin, for some reason or another I have managed to convince the people who run GameSpot that I am actually wor

Discussion

627 comments
dswyaed24
dswyaed24

Gaming should be top priority for a gaming system and company. When you dilute the original mission for the sake of intergrating other forms of media (tv, music, etc.) it creates for a weaker system. Not to mention that hardcore gamers, like myself, feel betrayed and get angry--we purchase the system for the sole purpose of gaming, nothing more. Now from a different perspective, I understand the need to remain extremely competitive, which they are, and reach out to a not-so hardcore gamer. They want it to be accessible to everyone and capatialize on that untapped group of consumers.

saadomar90
saadomar90

The same people who are knocking on the xbox for focusing too much on other medium than "purely the gaming experience" would be badgering them for not providing these functionalities.  I agree that gaming should ALWAYS be top priority for this device, but the other things are added incentives. What we should be asking Microsoft is to make more exclusives, more indie games with higher quality, better multiplayer servers, more utility for XBL silver. I don't mind getting more bang for my buck, as long as it doesn't take away from it. If microsoft decided not to spend on these extras, would they have spent it on better games? Or kept it in their pockets? Something tells me they would've been more likely to do the latter.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

I agree with him, stick with the core business XBOX - its games, its functionality, its capabilities. Anytime anyone asked me a question about xbox - i would start off with what awesome games it plays and then finish with what awesome game it plays. Even if the press asked me what color it was, that is how I would answer. 

If microsoft wants to dabble in internet tv, motion controllers, or whatever shit is flavor of the week that real gamers couldn't give a squat about. Let them do it, but always come back to the games. Games, Games, games, fe fi fo diddly its about the damn games. You think from the cold ass reception to windows glass and windows 8 on xbox that the blind and stupid management would get that we could care less about content blades, xbox music, or whatever - just keep pumping out great games- say NO to crappy games like Aliens that came out and give licensing breaks to awesome indie games. 

But like that guy above said - you can easily keep your dominance in the market by just sticking with that core machine that turns on and plays games, period. 

phatsanta
phatsanta

too bad that's more then 2 years ago

Creature_69
Creature_69

The only console I own this gen is the 360 and even still, I don't use the thing for anything other than games. Being in my 30's, a dad and employed, I really have no use for playing online as my play time is scattered. The thing that pisses me off about these "bells and whistles" Microsoft keeps touting is the fact that you have to have XBL Gold to access them. Oh, I (could) get Facebook and Netflix on there? I just have to pay for XBL Gold. I already pay for Netflix and Facebook is free on my computer. Why am I going to pay more to access what I already can on another device? If their plan is to create an all encompassing unit for entertainment, they need to demonstrate the value of that model to the customer. Make these things free to Silver members and keep your advertising minimal and game related. Quit trying to sell me high speed internet or a Ford Focus and let me know when marketplace games are on sale...

TohouAsura
TohouAsura

The man makes a valid point.

I do not blame Microsoft for expanding the scope of Xbox. Nintendo has done it with Wii, SONY has done it with PS2.

But I think the competition did it right, as opposed to what this grumpy old man says.

Microsoft, however, does exactly what he explained they do. They keep trying to expand and do more and more, add more services and pointless devices nobody asked for, meanwhile, the core product and it's services, become secondary and abused. It's very core, the pillars the console stands on, become weak and unattended.

Name me some good exclusives or core gaming related effortss Microsoft has given in the last couple of years? You won't find many.

The competition has atleast proven they still remember what a GAMING console is supposed to do.

brunorr
brunorr

I agree. When Xbox 360 won the motion controllers war I thought we would begin to see really inovative ways of playing games but MS chose to leave it as another casual device or they didn't find any way to apply it to classic/hardcore gaming.

AuronAXE
AuronAXE

Xbox 360 is a console for people who love multiplayer shooters.

That's it. It'd be great for other games, but it has almost no other good games other than shooters. It started with some quality exclusives but today all it basically has exclusively is Gears of War, Forza and Halo. Pathetic.

Seriously, Xbox Live is GREAT for teamplay. But I want to play more then shooters. I play all sorts of different types of games on my PC and at the same time I use Skype to communicate. It's just like Xbox Live if Xbox had more people playing varying games and not Call of Duty.

If Xbox came out with amazing RPG's, platformers, puzzle games, etc. It could be fantastic.  Mass Effect was great but it lost its exclusivity with the second one.

Think back to previous gens. When you thought of Sony you saw Crash Bandicoot, Cloud Strife, Solid Snake, Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper, Ratcher & Clank, etc.. Nintendo has always had Mario, Link, Kirby, Samus, etc. And Microsoft? Other than Marcus Fenix and Master Chief...who is there?

PayneKiller
PayneKiller

For me, it's been hilarious to watch. Even more funny is how the suckers would defend it then even pay for these "Awesome XBL Gold features".

WeWerePirates
WeWerePirates

The current interface is horrible. Every iteration before was much better at everything except ramming ads down my face.

tgwenz
tgwenz

I agree with the man. If nothing changes I am getting a PS4 

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

ps3 and nintendo a stumbling failure?

even though ps3 has sold more units world wide than the xbox 360 and the wii has outsold both the 360 and the ps3 lol.

if ps3 and nintendo are a stumbling failure, then what does that make the xbox lol. This man is an idiot, plain and simple

Karjah
Karjah

Considering that XBOX charges for an online experience often equivilant in game to other systems they had better be putting together one hell of a good set of services for users.  I'm sorry but if I am going to put down good money on your console I expect more then "A better store layout" if I'm paying for online service. 

jark888
jark888

Without Xbox Live Gold membership, I couldn't benefit much from Xbox 360's fancy features or ads.

bongsyas_23
bongsyas_23

that picture of Ballmer is priceless.  he must've read this article beforehand

theHydra014
theHydra014

While I see the appeal of having the whole "One Box, All Entertainment," I don't use any of these features at all. When I fire up the 360, it's because I want to play games, not stream a movie and music. It frustrates me to even have to pay for services that I never use, just so I can play games online... 

badiie05
badiie05

And now people are noticing? ok....

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

Ditch the "full living room experience". I don't care about Smart Glass, I don't care about Kinect, I don't care about 95% of the apps, I don't care about playing music on my xbox, I don't care about web browsing on my xbox.

I own a computer, an iPod, a web connected HDTV that can access Netflix directly, and a cable service provider that I can rent movies from On Demand. I don't need xbox to provide any of those services for me. I only need the console to play games.

RaddaRaddaRadda
RaddaRaddaRadda

I got to the part where he called Nintendo and Sony "stumbling failures" and stopped. Xbox has its dedicated fanbase, but if he thinks the Xbox brand is so far ahead of PlayStation and Wii, he's just not paying attention.

The Wii owned the last console gen by a disgusting margin, and Nintendo dominates the handheld market. PlayStation 3 is even with Xbox 360 in global sales, despite a year's head start by Microsoft.

I know this guy wants to harp on the competition, but he should at least sound like he knows what you're talking about. This guy doesn't have a clue.

CoolCoke
CoolCoke

Before HALO  in 2002 there was not one hardcore game on playstation, nintendo 64 or dreamcast, not one. what is this guy talking about? all the hardcore gamers were on their pc's for at least 20 years before systems and consoles went hardcore.it's a contradiction of vice versa, the  exact opposite, an oxymoron, a blatant fallacy

Vodoo
Vodoo

Wow!!! This guy doesn't hold anything back, lol. But he's pretty accurate in his concerns. 

 It is a huge mistake for Microsoft to terminate all first party development of its games. They're relying 100% on 3rd party developers to handle all platform exclusives. Very soon the 3rd parties are gonna shift completely to multiplatform because they stand to make alot more money by reaching a wider audience. Then, Microsoft's gonna be up a creek without a paddle to save them. 

They should not be shifting focus to all these entertainment apps. Don't get me wrong, some of them are great and I definitely spend a decent amount of time using Netflix and other apps. But the main focus for EVERY SINGLE CONSUMER that bought an Xbox is for gaming. For Microsoft to put gaming as a secondary priority is basically to turn your back on the millions of people, called your paying customers, that want good exclusive games. People didn't buy a 360 to watch Netflix. It's a nice BONUS FEATURE, but people paid first & foremost for a game console.

jvsexy
jvsexy

I still HATE X360 because of the RROD !! And their customer service ???!!! was 'wow' !


yearssomuch
yearssomuch

The Xbox HAS been hard to watch. When it first launched it still had a solid lifeline to the hardcore fans. Now, they've abandoned them completely and have put 100% of their focus into all things CASUAL. If you seriously think that Microsoft's journey into next-gen won't be a frenzy of all things casual, then you're incredibly naive. After the changes that Xbox 360 has gone through with so much emphasis on all things non-gaming, quite frankly I'm scared to see just how bad the 720 will truly be.

fivezerothree
fivezerothree

Mr  Brown you dont like all of the three dumb consoles 360 ps3 and wii ,

So What the fck ?

steelmouth
steelmouth

damn i just wasted my life reading this crap, what the hell is this guy cring about

KingMoorman
KingMoorman

Look at the guy's face, people! He's an actual troll, sent here to tear us apart and hate one another! Dont listen to the lies! #GamersUnite

Vambran
Vambran

What is this guy talking about? Xbox360 is doing just as well as the PS3 , aside from blu-ray they have pretty much the same features and games. 

The only console this gen that has been painful to watch would be the Wii.

pwc2
pwc2

I'm quite disappointed in the ESPN app, which was one of the main reasons I bought a Xbox 360. You used to be able to watch lots of games, but now most games are either blacked out, or have to have a cable/satellite. :(

Karjah
Karjah

@brunorr There are no winners in the "motion control war".  We all lose because the vast majority of motion control games are total and utter garbage.

Ghosthunter54
Ghosthunter54

@Karjah How about account security so your credit card number doesn't get stolen?

DriftEJ20
DriftEJ20

@OHGFawx While I use my Xbox for all of those aforementioned things, I agree. Especially because I can get all of those things from at least one other device that's connected to my TV. The one thing I can't get from Vizio apps or my phone or my laptop are games (well, I can, but not the same games, ok well I can get a lot of the same games on my Mac/PC, but that's not the point). While obviously Microsoft didn't exactly just grab people from the gaming devision and put them in charge of the Maxim app, they're still pooling from whatever amount of money Microsoft is dedicating to the console, and in terms of that, they're taking a major backseat. It's like they've just decided:

"Give money to 343 for Halo and Epic for Gears, and people will live with whatever else comes out because people have already chosen Xbox over PS3 in the US by a fair margin, we've given up on Japan, and Nintendo hasn't proven itself to be a direct competition. Good thing most people build their multiplats for Xbox and port them to PS3".

Honestly, if Sony can get their s*** together in terms of delivering a better online experience, they've got my money for the next console generation. They have so many more exclusive IP's that are worth playing, and the Kinect has proven itself more in the hands of hackers than Microsoft itself, who have done nothing but get me yelling "GARRUS! CONCUSSION SHOT!" at my TV.

Salta06
Salta06

@OHGFawx  Agree completely. I play games on my consoles and that's it. It's the sole reason I purchased my XBOX 360 - to play games....

masterdrat
masterdrat

@RaddaRaddaRadda His point of view is that while Microsoft started from nothing, Nintendo and Sony were enable to prevent MS to become their equal and take a third of their market share. This is where they are failures.

dustbreakangel
dustbreakangel

@RaddaRaddaRaddaI got to the part where "This guy doesn't have a clue." and stopped. I believed more than half of this article is dedicated to preach Microsoft about the failure of Xbox, while also mentioning Sony and Nintendo both once each. This guy doesn't have a clue.

notorious98
notorious98

@CoolCoke And yet the PS2 was thriving.  And Madden would have been considered a "hardcore game".  Or perhaps Goldeneye?  It wasn't until XBox 360 really pushed the online tools that any game really took off.  The reason why "hardcore gamers" were on their PCs is because it offered an easy to use online experience.  Counterstrike is a great example of that.

pcgamer194
pcgamer194

@yearssomuch Agreed. I have always wondered why there weren't more than three consoles (excluding DS, PSP, etc.) being produced, but now might be the time for some market expansion. 

How about 720, AND...the 720 Black. 

OR, just scrap it all and make an entirely different product? Why can't we get anymore of that?

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

@Vambran He never said they weren't doing well.. in fact, he said they were doing better than the competition, but only because the competition was a joke. 

deathblow3
deathblow3

@J_H_E_Y @Aaronp2k actually neither ps3 still lags behind not by much but still behind 360 74.1, PS3 72.5 total world wide sales

R10nu
R10nu

@Ghosthunter54  

It's developer's problem, not end-user's. 

It's like asking your shop customers to pay extra so you won't let the robbers in.

notorious98
notorious98

@dustbreakangel So, what you're saying is that you finished reading the guy's post completely.  Weird way to "insult" a person.

deathblow3
deathblow3

@Aaronp2k @deathblow3 @J_H_E_Y doesn't mater Xbox still beats them in sales figures and I going off reported figures and that is without any support from japan

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@deathblow3 @J_H_E_Y @Aaronp2k when ps3 ships to a retailer they actually are still selling it to the retailer. Sales figures only covers retail, but really speaking ps3 has sold more consoles because once a retailer has the product it has been sold to them by sony so they can then resell at a higher price to the customer. This is called wholesale, they sell cheaper to the retailer and then the retailer adds their price (the retail price) so they can profit off it. 

R10nu
R10nu

@pinballv42 Just like console manufacturers charge $10 more for every game, which goes straight to their pockets.

With this in mind charging additional annual fee is obnoxious.

I've not booted up my 360 in years, but people here mention ADs which are now in place on top of all afformented.

And some people actually defend this practice.

Mind = blown.

pinballv42
pinballv42

@R10nu @pinballv42

I think you'll find the margin on your product covers the on costs of the shop, which include security both physical (guards) and electronic (card payments... Etc).

R10nu
R10nu

@pinballv42

I don't know the kind of shops you're visiting, but my shops provide guards of their own, while i only pay for the goods. 

Because me getting mugged in a shop would make me and everyone else not go to this shop, thus making the shop go bankrupt.

Turns out it's their problem at the end of the day, huh?

notorious98
notorious98

@pinballv42 @R10nu @Ghosthunter54 Security guards are hired by those shops to keep people from stealing from them.  While the security guard will help the customer if there's a problem, that's not, specifically, what they were hired to do.

pinballv42
pinballv42

@R10nu @Ghosthunter54

Shops do charge you not to let robbers in, they are called security guards!

Would you go to a shop if you keep getting mugged there?