Microsoft's decision to dive into the game console market with the original Xbox shocked the industry. Why would a company that made its billions by selling software on an open platform decide to make a proprietary box? The original Xbox was put together in record time, leveraging existing PC technology (an Intel Celeron 733 CPU, an NVIDIA graphics card, and a hard drive) to create a new gaming platform, one that leveraged the Windows XP kernel and DirectX technology. Was Microsoft's goal simply to battle Sony and Nintendo for the gaming console market?
If so, it was an uphill battle. Microsoft spent billions of dollars building and marketing the Xbox, and although the console has sold over 24 million units, it still struggled to equal the GameCube (also over 24 million) and could come nowhere near the PlayStation 2 (over 100 million). The new Entertainment division at Microsoft lost money in every quarter except for one: the quarter when the massively popular Halo 2 was introduced.
Still, Microsoft is legendary for their ability to stick at things. Most people laughed (and rightly so) in 1985 when Windows 1.0 was introduced, but the program went on to become the best selling operating system of all time. Fortunately for Microsoft, the original Xbox was not nearly as dysfunctional as Windows 1.0-it was a solid (if somewhat bulky) performer, and features such as Xbox Live put it technically ahead of the competition.
Now with the massively redesigned and more powerful Xbox 360 released, many people are wondering what the future has in store for Microsoft's gaming efforts. Arstechnica.com recently had the opportunity to chat with Matt Lee, a software developer who works at Microsoft in the Xbox division. He had some fascinating things to say about the console, the games market in general, and the future of the Xbox 360.
This was a good read for 360 fans.
That is a good read for anybody.
Nice to hear from someone at the top of the their industry that clearly loves what they do.
"I think porting from Xbox 360 to PS3 will be reasonably difficult, since the Xbox 360 has a lot more general purpose processing power that can be flexibly reallocated, and all of the Xbox 360 CPU cores have equal access to all memory. The asymmetric nature of the Cell could easily lead to situations where the game has too little of one type of processing power and too much of another. And the content might suffer as well, since you'll never see a PS3 title with more than 256MB of textures at any given time, due to the split graphics and system memory banks. When we announced 512MB of unified memory on Xbox 360, I think all of our game developers (and the artists too) did a little happy dance. It's easier to use and gives developers much more flexibility in how they allocate memory for various resources.
In terms of performance, I think that the PS3 and the Xbox 360 will essentially be a wash. We ran the numbers a while back and the two systems come up surprisingly close in theoretical peak performance, despite the one year difference in release dates. However, I know for a fact that we have a great advantage in software and services—our development environment and tools are years ahead of the competition, and this will ensure that Xbox 360 game developers can easily realize all of this performance and make superior games. Xbox 360 is a great system to develop on, a real pleasure—and I believe our developers agree."
i don't care if the 360 has better graphics. it's all about the games. and the 360 has more games for me coming up.