San Jose Mercury News journalist Dean Takahashi has released his new book, 'Xbox 360 Uncloaked', via online publisher Spiderworks, and the long in production tome presents a number of interesting new details on the genesis of Microsoft's next-gen console.
Gamasutra will be dealing with the book in more detail over the next few days, including an in-depth podcast interview with Takahashi about the book and his history as a journalist. But we're happy to present the book's key highlights here, as an easy way to understand the important new facts Takahashi has uncovered.
Firstly, Takahashi makes the claim that Microsoft made a million extra consoles when Sony had a shortage of PlayStation 2 consoles in 2004. But Microsoft chose not to make more consoles because it didn't want to incur more hardware losses. Those losses amounted to $3.7 billion over four years, or $168 per box. Even with those losses, Microsoft is prepared to risk another $17 billion over the next 10 years on Xbox products.
A particularly key point: Microsoft authorized Project Helium, in December, 2003, with the goal of creating a new version of the Xbox 360 that could run the Windows operating system. Exploring a hunch for Bill Gates, the Xbox team eventually canceled the project. In addition, it's revealed that the Xbox executive team decided on its master plan for the Xbox 360 at a retreat at the Salish Lodge & Spa in March, 2005. Chief Xbox Officer Robbie Bach laid out the strategy in a three-page memo whose hallmarks included: launching early in 2005, owning the silicon intellectual property to create low-cost hardware, and differentiating Microsoft from its competition through Xbox Live.
Takahashi also re-iterates information he recently covered for the Mercury News: not content to fight in game consoles alone, Microsoft has reassigned J Allard and Greg Gibson, key technical leaders on the Xbox 360, to work on a handheld game project code-named Xplayer. The team had explored plans to launch handhelds in 2001 and in 2003, but scuttled the plans both times.
Finally, and hilariously, according to the book, J Allard lost a bet with Newsweek writer N'Gai Croal over how many PlayStation Portables Sony would sell. Allard's part of the bet: he has to wear dreadlocks for the month of May, 2006, including on stage at the E3 trade show. However, it's unclear whether Allard, now apparently not a core Xbox 360 spokesperson, will make an on-stage appearance during the pre-conference event.
More information about Takahashi's book, including links to buy the eBook and physical book versions of the tome, is available at the Spiderworks page
devoted to it.