Former Microsoft engineer criticizes Xbox paradigm

Posted by Trent Nouveau

A former Microsoft engineer who worked on the original Xbox in 1999 has harshly criticized Redmond's current console strategy, terming it "painful to watch."

Indeed, says Nat Brown, while a multimedia experience was always a critical aspect of the long-term plans for Xbox, it has taken center-stage at the expense of gaming, smaller devs and digital distribution.

"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.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-top-boxes) we had been pursuing," Brown opined in a blog post.

"No, more and better content was always the point and the plan. 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."

According to Brown, the Xbox's primary problem is the acute 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 customer.

"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 per cent cut and strike it rich if it's a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad," he asks rhetorically.

"This is where indie developers have found they can go in order to not make money on xBox, despite an installed base of 76 million 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."

Finally, Brown slammed Microsoft's Dashboard UI, which he refers to as "creaky, slow, and full-of-s***."

"These are the 2 fronts Microsoft is going to lose on in the living room battle with Android 38, iOS. It's not going to be based on whether they have (a more expensive) Netflix, whether they have original TV/video content or interactive kids television shows which integrate with Kinect. They will lose unless these two things are sorted out well and quickly.

"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," he added.