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MS refused to sell Xbox 360s to US Army

MS refused to sell Xbox 360s to US Army

Microsoft apparently refused to sell Xbox 360s to the US Army for use as a training device.

The US Army's chief technology officer, Roger Smith, has today claimed that the US military approached Microsoft not long ago about buying Xbox 360s to use as training tools for soldiers - but that MS refused to sell consoles to the armed forces for that purpose.

Speaking to Wired, Smith said that Microsoft didn't want to sell consoles to the military because it was afraid of damaging it's reputation by being so closely associated with actual violence. Microsoft didn't want parents avoiding the console because they saw a real-life parallel of the virtual violence.

According to Smith's comment Microsoft was also concerned about sabotaging the product as a whole, as selling Xbox 360s in bulk to the military would create a hardware shortage that wouldn't be aided by the fact that the army would only want one game per console.

Microsoft isn't alone in the matter though and Smith mentions that the military tried to source consoles from Nintendo and Sony for training purposes too, but licensing and certification issues slowed talks to a standstill.

"Neither Microsoft, Nintendo nor Sony could deliver a coherent answer. The responses were not unfriendly or unhelpful so much as uncomprehending," said Smith.

"Our initial enthusiasm when Xbox and XNA were new products has cooled," said Smith. "At this time we have no active or anticipated projects or R&D that are looking at using either of those products for military simulations. I would be happy to reopen these discussions if Microsoft is interested in selling these products to our community."

Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

41 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
liratheal 10th February 2010, 13:16 Quote
..Sounds reasonable, actually.
rickysio 10th February 2010, 13:19 Quote
More like :

Boss : Damn it, I/We don't want to deal with mass RRoD issues from the Army.
Worker : Don't sell them?
Aterius Gmork 10th February 2010, 13:24 Quote
What a low blow.

"Hey, they don't want to do business with us because they wouldn't make any profit as we don't buy games from them and they don't want to be associated with us as people will realise that war not just some game for little kids. We really should post this closed business statement everywhere we can so they'll get their negative press anyway."
dyzophoria 10th February 2010, 13:26 Quote
yeah I find MS's decision quite reasonable, with all the fuzz about violence on videogames
tonyd223 10th February 2010, 13:28 Quote
Nah - bulk purchase kills a sale when there's no profit in the products. Think about it - if the US arm approached Lexmark and said they want to buy 100,000 printers but they were never gonna buy any ink (the only thing that makes the profit), and they want a bulk discount on the printers...

meh
rimscar 10th February 2010, 13:30 Quote
they went directly to Microsoft? Surely a Sergeant could have been tasked to browse Amazon or BestBuy......

and these guys are in charge of weapons
PureSilver 10th February 2010, 13:33 Quote
Sounds pretty reasonable to me...
rickysio 10th February 2010, 13:35 Quote
Sony : I'm already making a loss, and you want discounts?!?!?
liratheal 10th February 2010, 13:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimscar
they went directly to Microsoft? Surely a Sergeant could have been tasked to browse Amazon or BestBuy......

and these guys are in charge of weapons

..Yeah, go to places that mark up and add a middleman.

How on Earth was going directly to the source a bad decision?
theflatworm 10th February 2010, 13:43 Quote
Woo to Microsoft. Good to see someone taking a stand against ACTUAL violence. On a related note: it always confuses me that the Daily Mailers et al who complain about violence in games are the first people to support a war when it happens in real life.
Flibblebot 10th February 2010, 13:44 Quote
...and how exactly would the Xbox be used for training? What would it teach the soldiers? How to circle strafe and scream profanities at one another? How to handle the alien invasion of Earth? How to do a perfect 720 on a snowboard?

The mind boggles :p
tron 10th February 2010, 13:44 Quote
There's would be no real financial benefit for Microsoft here, in terms of game sales.

However, if the military really needed some XBOXs, they could still get hold of units from wholesale or retail outlets.
http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/07/20/military-using-game-controllers-pilot-drones-disarm-bombs
rimscar 10th February 2010, 13:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimscar
they went directly to Microsoft? Surely a Sergeant could have been tasked to browse Amazon or BestBuy......

and these guys are in charge of weapons

..Yeah, go to places that mark up and add a middleman.

How on Earth was going directly to the source a bad decision?

Because this is such a non-story. Given the budget of the US Defence department, sourcing poxy x-boxes via a middleman would probably have less of a markup than one humvee. And aren't they still making a loss on each console sold, or is that just Sony?
Did they just give up at that hurdle, call the press and cry foul, or did they resort to shopping like normal punters when they met with some difficulty......
:)
AngusW 10th February 2010, 13:59 Quote
I fail to see how it could be used as a training device myself. I don't think playing call of duty will train them very much :P
Kúsař 10th February 2010, 13:59 Quote
MS has just saved thousands of soldiers. There are no military simulators for xbox like ArmA and using casual FPS like CoD for training would end up as total disaster: "...and so I ran across the street, got shot 5 times from AK, so I waited for a few seconds to recover from headshot..." :D
AngusW 10th February 2010, 14:03 Quote
"I hear theres no respawns irl"
Blademrk 10th February 2010, 14:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kúsař
"...and so I ran across the street, got shot 5 times from AK, so I waited for a few seconds to recover from headshot..." :D


Hope they don't try the rocket jump then.
ApostleUk 10th February 2010, 14:25 Quote
They use xbox 360/PS3 (lol at wii remote though) pads for there UAV's and other robotic equipment.
the UK does also as people are more used to using them as apposed to normal joysticks.

Note not all UAV's and robotics are used this way but a lot are.
tron 10th February 2010, 14:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kúsař
..and so I ran across the street, got shot 5 times from AK, so I waited for a few seconds to recover from headshot..." :D

... then I received 20 more bullets entering chest and I managed to advance myself towards one of the 50 random health packs lying on the battlefield... :D
digitaldave 10th February 2010, 14:37 Quote
MS are just embarrassed with all the idiotic mic spammers on xbox live
supermonkey 10th February 2010, 15:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimscar
they went directly to Microsoft? Surely a Sergeant could have been tasked to browse Amazon or BestBuy......

and these guys are in charge of weapons
When a very large organization is looking to buy quantities of hardware that number in the hundreds, if not thousands, it's common practice to talk directly to the manufacturer. For one thing, as liratheal pointed out, if you're looking for stock hardware you avoid paying the markup at a retail outlet. Second, if a large organiztion is looking to buy a given piece of hardware in large quantities, there is the potential for modifications, such as custom firmware or hardware to meet specific demands.

As an example, when NASA is ready to purchase a new still camera, it talks directly to the manufacturer. The standard lubrication inside a dSLR will evaporate in the vacuum of space, so the company applies a special lubrication during the manufacturing process.
sHORNY 10th February 2010, 15:36 Quote
America's Army runs on the PC, If they think its a good enough game to recruit people then why not train people.
Practice makes perfect, I can now prone with my legs through any wall !:p
rimscar 10th February 2010, 15:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by supermonkey
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimscar
they went directly to Microsoft? Surely a Sergeant could have been tasked to browse Amazon or BestBuy......

and these guys are in charge of weapons
When a very large organization is looking to buy quantities of hardware that number in the hundreds, if not thousands, it's common practice to talk directly to the manufacturer. For one thing, as liratheal pointed out, if you're looking for stock hardware you avoid paying the markup at a retail outlet. Second, if a large organiztion is looking to buy a given piece of hardware in large quantities, there is the potential for modifications, such as custom firmware or hardware to meet specific demands.

As an example, when NASA is ready to purchase a new still camera, it talks directly to the manufacturer. The standard lubrication inside a dSLR will evaporate in the vacuum of space, so the company applies a special lubrication during the manufacturing process.

Really? By heavens, who'd have thought it.....
For one reason or another, many companies don't sell products directly to those asking for them, but that never stops them from getting stuff elsewhere, nor trying to make a news story out of it.....
If the deal was to include modifications to a base model then that is an entirely different premise on which to stop a sale, so that example is irrelevant. Apparently they just want to use it to run Arma or somesuch.
I`m sure if they did go to a middleman and asked for 10000 units they would be given preferential rates, even if t meant they couldn't then afford to run one of their aircraft carriers for 0.1 of a nanosecond......
pcnerd 10th February 2010, 16:22 Quote
well my guess is that the army would play dead or alive extreme beach volley ball and forget to take their guns with 'em . (no offence i' ma pc raper ie i love pcs and NO i m not a fanboy :)
Psytek 10th February 2010, 17:20 Quote
I'm more interested to hear what game it is they want to train soldiers with. The mention of XNA hints that maybe they developed their own, it'd be interesting to find out.
cheeriokilla 10th February 2010, 18:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psytek
I'm more interested to hear what game it is they want to train soldiers with. The mention of XNA hints that maybe they developed their own, it'd be interesting to find out.

Why not Halo? or GTA 4?
ChuckyP83 10th February 2010, 18:20 Quote
They need to learn to bunny hop snipe.
TimB 10th February 2010, 18:45 Quote
They would be used for operation training of UAVs and oher remotely operated robotic hardware. They would not be used for combat training.
liratheal 10th February 2010, 18:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by rimscar
Because this is such a non-story. Given the budget of the US Defence department, sourcing poxy x-boxes via a middleman would probably have less of a markup than one humvee. And aren't they still making a loss on each console sold, or is that just Sony?
Did they just give up at that hurdle, call the press and cry foul, or did they resort to shopping like normal punters when they met with some difficulty......
:)

You, along with about 80% of the posters here are missing what is the most logical reason.

I expect they wanted to use the console as a base, and use a custom OS - Hence the need for contact with Microsoft. Presumably, then, attach it to a training program of their own design.

To make those changes they'd need a licensing agreement of some sort with Microsoft, and with any luck, there wouldn't be Halo style bunny hopping, or recovering from a headshot.
TWeaK 10th February 2010, 19:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Article
The US Army's chief technology officer, Roger Smith

Am I the only one who read this and thought that Stan Smith has finally let his alien friend out of the loft so he can get a job?
TurtlePerson2 10th February 2010, 20:15 Quote
They could just buy them from a wholesaler or maybe even buy them at stores.
supermonkey 10th February 2010, 20:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by TurtlePerson2
They could just buy them from a wholesaler or maybe even buy them at stores.
You're missing the point of purchasing direct from a manufacturer. Have you ever tried to call up your local retailer and asked for 5,000 game consoles? How many units do you think they have in the storage room?

I'm still curious as to whether or not the Army is looking for stock units, or if there were any requested modifications. The Wired article seems to indicate that the Army would be looking for stock hardware, given the cost savings over computers. Still, the article does go on to speculate about having a console for every soldier for training and e-learning. That many consoles would fall outside the capability of a retailer to support. I think the only way to buy in that kind of bulk would be directly through the manufacturer.
metarinka 10th February 2010, 21:07 Quote
working as a defense contractor. You never buy from a third party source. Also you buy on a contract, not Point of service. Meaning your contract would say MS would provide x consoles for Y cost with soo many hours of training/ engineering support/ repair etc to be carried out by so and so. Can't simply go to a distributor or wall mart and buy up 10,000 consoles and call it a day. I don't see how a third party could beat MS on that price, hence they wouldn't win. A third party could be used to supply engineering and development support if MS was unwilling/unable.

all the obvious jokes about tea bagging and bunny hopping aside. As mentioned I don't think this was intended to use a simulation aids for combat training AKA Call of duty. I thought the idea was custom software for UAV training and other similar activities.

There was a game developed for the army a few years back who's name I'm forgetting (not America's army) it was a teaching aid for squad leaders and the likes to teach decision making. They also released a changed consumer version, anyone remember the name? it was unit based and you issued commands to your squad. It was one of the first games that you didn't really control the individual soliders so much as control the squad. anyways the Army ended up balking saying it wasn't a useful training tool and the dev's got off with a huge part of their development cost subsidized and a decent game.

Anyways as a company MS has every right to refuse product, probalby a money losing proposition for them. I know several vendors who won't handle certain DoD contracts or any at all because of the hassle. It's not profitable.
Sir Digby 10th February 2010, 21:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by theflatworm
On a related note: it always confuses me that the Daily Mailers et al who complain about violence in games are the first people to support a war when it happens in real life.
Because wars, unlike games, are fought against those dirty foreigners?
crazyceo 10th February 2010, 23:01 Quote
I heard CS:S was used pc based for a lot of training strategy. Those god damn "AYE Rabss!" as the yanks call them.

I think Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have made a great move to distance themselves from this kind of bulk sale. Can you imagine the next COD when some parent group stands infront of some news cameras blurting that little Timmy can train to kill just like our Armies! but then moan they need home land security in case of terror attacks.

Hey I'm as Holy as the next guy, Allah is Gay, Jesus was a Hippee and Buddha was a fat bloke who ate all the pies but do we really need to bring gaming into the arguement?

Didn't Saddam (pre-hangin on YouTube days) want to buy a sh!t load of playstation one's to build some kind of super (cough! crap cough!) computer to plan terror and chaos around the world? and we all know how that went!
Boogle 10th February 2010, 23:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by metarinka
There was a game developed for the army a few years back who's name I'm forgetting (not America's army) it was a teaching aid for squad leaders and the likes to teach decision making. They also released a changed consumer version, anyone remember the name? it was unit based and you issued commands to your squad. It was one of the first games that you didn't really control the individual soliders so much as control the squad. anyways the Army ended up balking saying it wasn't a useful training tool and the dev's got off with a huge part of their development cost subsidized and a decent game.

That would be Full Spectrum Warrior!

For the people talking about the Army playing games - metarinka is right, the Army wanted to develop their own applications with XNA - not use existing off-the-shelf games.

I suspect the big sticking points were the aforementioned violence issues, and the fact that the Army would want a full development kit, full dev support, and a load of consoles - without releasing any games to the buying public, or buying games themselves. In essence there would be a shortage of consoles on the market for real gamers, and internal resources would be diverted to the Army when it could be better spent on profitable game devs. In short - MS/Sony/Nintendo would make zero money, and could even make a loss - the financial incentive wasn't there.

To be frank the Army will have to make a custom PC. While a console would have been cost-effective, clearly it wasn't in the interests of the OEMs. At least with a PC, making the prequisite custom peripherals will be easier :) Most they'll have to fork out is £500 for the 64bit key for signing the drivers - they would have forked out for Visual Studio /w MSDN and the design & manufacturing anyway.
knutjb 11th February 2010, 01:01 Quote
Most of you missed the point entirely. When the Army used Doom to train with it was specifically tailored to a specific need. That is what they are after. They have the XBOX PlayStation generation working for them so what tool do you want to pick? Duh... I think MS is making a business mistake. They would set the price, they would make money, and likely a transferable R&D project to mainstream sales. There are pains in dealing with the government but MS already does so. Yes they could go PC but the game console makes logistic sense, all you need is a TV and a little power, PCs require too much effort to achieve the same outcome. Besides for most a PC is work a game console is fun.
Krayzie_B.o.n.e. 11th February 2010, 01:16 Quote
This story is worthless. The U.S. military bought 1700 PS3 and has ordered 3000 more and the U.S. Military is very happy with the results.
I think the military was going to do something that the XBOX360 couldn't handle bottom line. That would have turned into a PR frenzy. No company ever turns down a U.S. Military contract. That's like giving away a winning lotto ticket.

DOD contract = FREE MONEY.

Nintendo is Japanese owned so I can understand them saying NO plus it's a kiddie system
Sony like i mentioned earlier has sold 2000 to the U.S. Military
crazyceo 11th February 2010, 10:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krayzie_B.o.n.e.
This story is worthless. The U.S. military bought 1700 PS3 and has ordered 3000 more and the U.S. Military is very happy with the results.
I think the military was going to do something that the XBOX360 couldn't handle bottom line. That would have turned into a PR frenzy. No company ever turns down a U.S. Military contract. That's like giving away a winning lotto ticket.

DOD contract = FREE MONEY.

Nintendo is Japanese owned so I can understand them saying NO plus it's a kiddie system
Sony like i mentioned earlier has sold 2000 to the U.S. Military

Sony is Japanese as well, so wouldn't they have had the same reservations as Nintendo?

All three systems can cope with army related strategy training gaming. What can the PS3 do that the Xbox360 can't when it comes to gaming?

I smell a brainfart!
MonkeyTurnip 11th February 2010, 13:03 Quote
MS saying that they didnt want thri hardware associated with real violence is rubbish, im sure that intel, amd, nvidia, ati, gigabyte etc are ok with most of the armies in the world using their hardware for training and in real combat situations. hell i bet a large proportion of those machines runs windows or a version of it, but alot will have a custom OS. to me its probably the fact that the us army wanted some mods done to it and MS cba to do them, and the fact they wouldnt be purchasing any games either
livesabitch 12th February 2010, 03:52 Quote
why dont they build there own gaming stations for training! they must have the money to do this so why not???? dont really make sence to me. all they would have to do is emulate the software to play xbox, ps3..... games! job done!
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