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J Allard on how the Xbox 360 shaped modern console gaming

The flamboyant ex-Microsoft exec gives a shiny new interview on "sweating the details and solving hard problems" to bring the Xbox 360 to life, 10 years on from its release.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

December 4, 2015

2 Min Read

"In most ways, Xbox 360 was simply satisfying the vision that we had for a new game console that could disrupt the marketplace with something new for gamers and creators and hopefully usher in more participants in the category."

- Former Microsoft exec and Xbox 360 pitchman J Allard

J Allard was the impresario of the Xbox 360 for Microsoft, and in a new interview with GamesTM, he reflects on what he and his team accomplished in launching the console 10 years ago -- what they did, and how they did it, and of course, why.

He (rightly) points out how the decisions his team made set the tone for the prior core console generation and (largely) put the company ahead of Sony in the execution department -- but also says that it wasn't always an easy sell at the time.

"We got hammered for not having a modem and committing to broadband and insisting on the importance of voice. Generally speaking, the industry didn’t have faith in mass storage, downloadable content or digital distribution. Concepts like trial versions of titles and non-retail titles like Xbox Arcade were met with resistance. Unified Gamertags and Friends, Achievements and user-generated content seemed like outrageous asks of publishers and developers," Allard tells GamesTM.

"Had we not persevered through the difficult discussions, many of these aspects of gaming would likely have played out much more slowly, and Xbox would not have become the brand that it grew into."

Allard, along with fellow Xbox-focused MS exec Robbie Bach, left the company in 2010. 

He also shares an interesting perspective on what it takes to successfully launch a product like the Xbox 360:

"On something like the Xbox 360 project, I think sweating the details and solving hard problems demands incredible creativity, but not the type that the media likes to romanticize. The Xbox 360 project was really simple. It wasn’t easy, but relative to the army working on it, the goals and specs were very clearly defined. The creativity was in working through the hard problems that came up to meet those goals to get it done on time, on budget and with the features we promised. We sweated a lot of details to make sure that gamers wouldn’t be disappointed and that developers could realize their creative vision."

The full interview has a lot more from Allard on the birth of Microsoft's most successful console. If you want to reminisce with an at-the-time report, read Gamasutra's writeup of Allard's GDC 2005 keynote. We also recently spoke with Robbie Bach to get his reminiscences about the Xbox 360. 

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