The Story Behind Bill Gates and the Xbox

By | 4 months ago 

Xbox co-creator Ed Fries explains in an interview how Microsoft founder Bill Gates nearly shut down the original Xbox project entirely due to it not using Windows.

Microsoft has had a hold on the gaming market for a long time, simultaneously offering PC gamers a platform to play their games on and offering the Xbox line of consoles. While the Xbox is now a household name, it almost didn’t happen at all, and ultimately a single person is responsible for getting Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to green-light the Xbox console gamers know today.

In a recent interview with IGN, the co-creator of the original Xbox console Ed Fries discussed the creation of the console and Microsoft’s intentions for it. He explains that there were two internal teams each working on a console concept for Microsoft, with one essentially being a “PC in disguise” and the other bearing a stronger resemblance to existing consoles like the Dreamcast. Bill Gates was more interested in the idea of a gaming console that would run the Windows operating system, so Ed Fries’ team proceeded with their idea.

The Xbox was eventually heavily modified from the original concept, no longer using Windows at all and instead implementing its own operating system that worked well with games. However, at this point, the Xbox nearly died in development, as Bill Gates was none too pleased with the decision. Fries recalls Microsoft’s “Valentine’s Day Massacre” in which Bill Gates furiously ripped apart the development team for circumventing his original idea.

Thankfully, an unknown employee stepped in and pointed out that Sony’s newfound success with the PlayStation could potentially impede upon Microsoft’s control of the market in the future. Though Gates had been enraged just a moment before, his temperament completely shifted when realizing that Sony could capture the console market if he shut down the team’s plans, so he instead decided to fully support it:

“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.'”

Although gamers have since installed Windows 95 on a Xbox One, chances are the Xbox would have provided a very different experience had it used Windows XP or a variant of it, as that was the latest version of Windows at the time. Even so, Bill Gates pretty much got his wish in the end, as the Xbox One now seamlessly streams to PCs running Windows 10 and is intended to work hand-in-hand with Windows 10.

Microsoft has taken coupling Windows and the Xbox One even a step further by creating the cross-platform Xbox Play Anywhere system that allows gamers to purchase a game for the Xbox One and also receive a copy of it for their PCs. While Bill Gates’ idea may not have flown back then, Microsoft has gradually worked its way toward fulfilling his concept two console generations later.

Source: YouTube – IGN