Microsoft considered the idea of giving away the original Xbox free of any charge. That’s according to Lorne Lanning, the creator of Oddworld series, who had a conversation with the platform holder in the very early days of the Xbox project.
The console was supposed to address the casual gamers’ market and Microsoft was looking for a game/mascotte that could “kill” Nintendo’s Mario. That’s why they called in Lanning and his Oddworld franchise.
“At the time, Xbox thought that the core market was going to be casual. They were going to be the casual gamers’ machine,” he explained during an interview with GamesIndustry International.
“Now, that’s why they approached us because they said ‘we think you’ve got something that competes in that Mario space and we think Mario’s the thing to kill… We see that space. We want that audience. We love Oddworld so why don’t you get on this bandwagon? And we might give the box away. So now you’re like, ‘look, 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’.
Back in 2001, the original Xbox launched at the price of $299/€479/£299,99 as Microsoft put on hold the project of a free console, at the end, probably because they shifted their focus on hardcore gamers. Anyway, this idea has not completely disappeared from Redmond’s headquarters.
In 2012, in fact, Microsoft launched a subscription-based offer for Xbox 360 and Kinect bundle at the price of $99 and a monthly fee of $15 that included the complete access to Xbox Live Gold.
The experiment has been conducted only in the United States so far, but we don’t exclude that something similar could happen with Xbox One, too, in a gaming world that seems increasingly close to the smartphone’s yearly upgrades mechanics.