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The original Xbox was almost free

by Eric Frederiksen | April 1, 2015April 1, 2015 12:30 pm PDT

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Every big piece of hardware undergoes a series of changes before it sees the light of day, and most of the early versions and ideas never make it out of the planning room. The original Xbox – Xbox #1, not Xbox One – was almost a lot of things.

It was almost a Windows machine, a movie player, a Nintendo system, and almost free.

In recent interviews with Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley and Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants, we learned about some of the narrowly-avoided paths the Xbox could’ve went down.

In some early planning stages, the team was looking at giving the system away for free as a way to get it into as many hands as possible. Oddworld Inhabitants initially jumped on board in light of this plan

“If you’re going to give the box away, you’re going to win. If you’re going to win, we want to be on board,” Lanning said of the plan.

Blackley said that many conversations within the company had the system pegged as a trojan horse for the Windows platform, saying that it should be forced to run Windows after some period of time (We’ll leave the jokes about that period being 13 years and change up to you).

Others wanted the system focused on movies or specifically on Microsoft-produced games. Even the idea of buying Nintendo outright was floated.

In the end, the better ideas prevailed.

“This is about building better environments for developers so that you can get better games at cheaper prices and developers can stay in business longer,” the team said as they sold various parts of Microsoft on the system. Thankfully, we avoided ending up with some weird mutant system running Nintendo games on a Windows Media Center-operated DVD player.


Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...

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