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Xbox founder derides Microsoft's 'progress'

Xbox founder derides Microsoft's 'progress'

Microsoft's Xbox project took a steep nosedive after Nat Brown left, he claims - but it's hard to argue with his strongly-worded critique.

The man responsible for Microsoft's venture into console gaming has lashed out at his former workplace, accusing the company of coasting on past momentum and failing to capitalise on new technologies while alienating developers and creating an excrement-filled user experience.

Nat Brown, a founding member of the Xbox team at Microsoft and the man responsible for giving the company's inaugural console its name - although also a man who seems to insist on calling the device an 'xBox,' an awkward bit of typography which has been quietly corrected in the following quotations - has made his feelings clear regarding the project's recent direction in a self-confessed rant entitled Stupid, Stupid Xbox. In his blog post, Brown accuses Microsoft of having lost its way, with the current user interface - the Dashboard, in Xbox terms - being singled out as a woeful experience.

'[The Xbox 360's] secondary critical problem is 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,' claims Brown, providing screenshot examples that range from the repetitive 'Select a Device' storage dialogue that appears each time a game is launched to the 'unsaved progress' warning that appears when a game is quit - even directly after saving.

But there's a bigger problem than a clunky UI, Brown claims - and one which is likely to see the Xbox lose significant ground to rival devices, especially with the explosive growth of mobile gaming and Android-powered gaming consoles: the lack of accessibility to developers. '[The Xbox 360's] primary critical problem is the 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 customers, period. 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% cut and strike it rich if it’s a great game, like I can for Android, for iPhone, or for iPad?'

While Brown admits that there are ways for an independent developer to get involved on the Xbox platform, he dismisses each in turn: membership of the official Xbox Registered Developer Programme costs $10,000 a year, pricing amateur developers out of the market; the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) is likewise too expensive for most and gives Microsoft full veto power over whether your freshly-developed game will even be listed for sale; and Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) is, Brown claims, 'where indie developers have found they can go in order to not make money on Xbox, despite an installed base of 76M devices.'

'The past 5 years, and the last year in particular, have been simply painful to watch,' Brown claims. 'Coasting on past momentum. Failing to innovate and failing to capitalise 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.'

With Microsoft expected to launch its next-generation Xbox console, a device claimed to be based on an x86 processor and with at least passing compatibility with a Windows-based PC, these things could change - but Brown's scathing critique certainly suggests that the company has a long way to go if it wants to fend off the threat from Sony's soon-to-be-unveiled PlayStation 4 and Valve's probably-launching-in-2014 Steam Box console-cum-PC, not to mention the Ouya and other Android-based microconsoles with low purchase costs and easy accessibility to indie game developers.

11 Comments

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Corky42 13th February 2013, 13:43 Quote
Wait we are talking about the company that made Windows 8.
What does he expect ?
Snips 13th February 2013, 14:42 Quote
Why is he not there anymore?

I've nothing but praise for the new dashboard and it's UI. You can also point out that because you can use a windows laptop to design an APP and try it out on your friends Andriod or iPad, the quality of said apps is highly questionable.

Looks like someone caught him in the middle of a fine wine session and asked him for some quotes o.0
Griffter 13th February 2013, 14:44 Quote
Sour grapes perhaps?
Gareth Halfacree 13th February 2013, 14:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
You can also point out that because you can use a windows laptop to design an APP and try it out on your friends Andriod or iPad, the quality of said apps is highly questionable.
You haven't spent much time on the Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace, have you? Quality is variable, but trends towards dross. Oh, and dodgy Japanese games with pre-pubescent 'maids,' and their apparently-written-by-twelve-year-olds western knock-offs.
Blademrk 13th February 2013, 15:46 Quote
I'd have to agree that the last two iterations of the X- Box OS haven't been brilliant (I actually seriously hate the metro interface that it has evolved into and still prefer the original "Blade" interface) and while the last update did improve it slightly over the previous version, it also made it a lot slower transitioning between sections.

Also there seems to be a few bugs with the latest version - like the sign in bug where it doesn't sign you in, even though your profile is set to auto-sign in (and selecting your profile results in a system hang up where it's quicker to reset the 360 than wait for it to load the profile).
liratheal 13th February 2013, 16:14 Quote
I dislike the Xbox experience so much that I packed mine away and put it on the loft.

I have a profile for anyone that insists on having one and me playing it, and that's stored on a USB stick.

I'm not much for Sony, either. I'd have put that in the loft too, if it weren't for the misses using it occasionally and me using it for Dust 514 on occasion.
Hanoken 13th February 2013, 20:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by liratheal
I dislike the Xbox experience so much that I packed mine away and put it on the loft.

I have a profile for anyone that insists on having one and me playing it, and that's stored on a USB stick.

I'm not much for Sony, either. I'd have put that in the loft too, if it weren't for the misses using it occasionally and me using it for Dust 514 on occasion.

ah you got to another point made by Brown... because of the cluncky os, other competitors are able to hold onto the competition. He just throws out how Microsoft is not capitalizing what they have and squash the competitors
Snips 14th February 2013, 09:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snips
You can also point out that because you can use a windows laptop to design an APP and try it out on your friends Andriod or iPad, the quality of said apps is highly questionable.
You haven't spent much time on the Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace, have you? Quality is variable, but trends towards dross. Oh, and dodgy Japanese games with pre-pubescent 'maids,' and their apparently-written-by-twelve-year-olds western knock-offs.

Is it not just as bad if not worse on Android and Apple?

You can point out a few bad eggs on the Marketplace but you have to look really hard for anything of quality and decent on Android and Apple stores.
SexyHyde 14th February 2013, 18:54 Quote
I own about 20 games on android I'd rate them all as very good or excellent. I've download about five games for free that I would have purchased if they were good but they turned out to be 'not my cup of tea'. My Xbox 360 was sold a long time ago. One thing I've noticed with all my friends that play Xbox 360, they never seem to be enjoying it, they are always frustrated and angry. Totally different to how I am when playing my PC.
mikemaher205 14th February 2013, 22:34 Quote
Based on a x86 processor. So once again the console world will remain behind the potential of x64? Interestingly though, with the shift to being more linked to a PC (obviously Windows 8), could this cause some to return to the PC? How long will the general public of gamers go on before they realise that most +£300 laptops could actually play the games they like (Battlefield and the likes) on a controller they are used to and at the same time mean they only have one device drawing energy and taking up space? Maybe the console world coasting is good for the PC lover...

Or am I just being a naieve noob?
Gareth Halfacree 15th February 2013, 07:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikemaher205
Based on a x86 processor. So once again the console world will remain behind the potential of x64?
Both the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4 - or whatever they end up being called - are believed to be powered by 64-bit x86 processors. Have you tried to buy a high-performance 32-bit processor in the last few years? Not easy.

The term "x86" can refer to both 32-bit processors - original x86 - and 64-bit processors - AMD64, or, as Intel prefers, x86-64. This is because AMD64 is merely a 64-bit extension to the 32-bit x86 instruction set architecture - which is why an AMD64-compatible processor, like a Core i7 or an AMD A10 APU, can run 32-bit x86 code without difficulty.
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