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How Bill Gates Reacted To The Original Xbox Pitch

Original Xbox
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The original Xbox was a marvel in the world of gaming. It opened Microsoft up for becoming one of the three major players in the console gaming arena, but it may not have even gotten off the ground had Microsoft's creative architect Bill Gates and Microsoft's then-CEO Steve Ballmer originally had their way based on their initial reactions.

Gamespot picked up the news from a discussion that one of the original co-creators of the Xbox console, Ed Fries, had with IGN. Even though Fries is no longer with Microsoft, he's still talking about the glory days of the OG Xbox's nascence. The relevant parts about Bill Gates' initial reaction to the OG Xbox are quote below, where Fries explains that they wanted to launch the console without a Windows OS pre-installed and Gates did not react well to that at all, with Fries saying,

So we go into the meeting and four o'clock Valentine's Day--Bill walks in he's holding a Powerpoint deck and yells, 'This is the blanking insult to everything I've done at this company' and that was the start, so we all looked at [Xbox director and designer J Allard] because we knew Bill's mad about the no Windows thing, because we forgot to 'pre-disaster' him, so J is in shock for a minute and Bill yells at me and shuts me down and Robbie steps up and Bill shuts him down anyway, and then Ballmer goes through and says we're gonna lose a lot of money and he's beating us up about that.

The issue was that Ballmer and Gates felt as if the only way a home console would work is if it came with Windows pre-installed. The idea was that it was going to be a two-pronged assault on the home entertainment sector, with the PC capturing home productivity and office management, and the Xbox capturing entertainment and edutainment. Both devices would run Windows and increase the marketshare of the OS for Microsoft.

However, Fries and company did not want to have Windows installed on the Xbox and that ended up flipping Gates and Ballmer out, because the whole point would have been to grow the Windows ecosystem.

So how did the OG Xbox come into being if it received such a negative reaction the first time around? Well, things took a completely different turn when Sony was brought up in the conversation. Fries explains...

[...] so finally one of the observers at the meeting just raises his hand and says, 'What about Sony?' and he says, 'Sony is slowly invading the living room with a processor here software there, they could be a threat to Microsoft.' So Bill and Steve stop and look at each other and go, 'Yeah...what about Sony?' And so Bill turns and says, 'I'm going to give you guys everything you want' and Ballmer repeats the same thing. And I turn to Robbie and say, 'That was the weirdest meeting I've ever been in.

And that's how the OG Xbox was given the green light.

Strange story, eh?

A lot of gamers love the original big black box because it birthed some great franchises that helped shape Microsoft as a legitimate competitor in the home console space, including Halo, Forza Motorsport, Fable, Crimson Skies, Blinx and Project Gotham Racing to name but a few. It helped pave the way for other franchises to come into being, including Gears of War, Kameo: Elements of Power and Viva Pinata.

Just think what sort of great games we would have missed out on had that one guy not brought up Sony during that meeting for making the Xbox console? The current landscape would have looked a heck of a lot different than it does today.

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.