What you need to know
- Microsoft documents that reveal early plans the company had for the Xbox One console have leaked on Reddit. Though the post has been taken down, we've saved the link to the files and have verified their authenticity with our sources.
- The documents show that Microsoft was originally considering calling the Xbox One the "Xbox 720," and that it planned to sell the console for $299 and bundle it with the second-generation Kinect motion tracking controller.
- The slides also highlight the company's plan to make a console with lots of multimedia features and experiences at the time, which is consistent with how the Xbox One was designed and marketed to consumers.
- The Xbox One launched in 2013 with an MSRP of $499 instead, and many criticized this price as well as Microsoft's decision to not focus more directly on gaming. In 2022, Microsoft stated that sales of Sony's PS4 were more than double of the Xbox One's.
Microsoft's 2013 follow-up to its Xbox 360 gaming console was the infamously controversial $499 Xbox One. But based on information from newly leaked documents the company put together well before the Xbox One's launch, it was originally named the "Xbox 720," and was planned to retail for $299.
These documents were posted to the r/gaming subreddit on Monday morning, and though its moderators promptly took down the link to the PDF, we were able to save it beforehand. You can view the full file here, though we've included the highlights in the gallery below. Windows Central's sources have verified the authenticity of the documents (we saw and covered a few of the slides several years ago, actually).
The slides largely show Microsoft's plan to position the console as "the ONLY box you need for premium living room entertainment," emphasizing its ability to be used for watching TV, playing DVD and Blu-ray discs, and enjoying music and video streams as well as gaming. The documents also highlight the firm's ambitions to sync the new Xbox with companion devices like phones or tablets to "move experiences seamlessly across devices," and the bundling of the Kinect V2 motion tracking controller with every console sold.
Notably, almost all of this is consistent with how the Xbox One was eventually marketed to consumers when it was revealed, though its $499 MSRP was a full $200 higher than the $299 price point Microsoft was originally targeting. That price was fiercely criticized by consumers, and it's generally believed to be one of the primary reasons why Sony's PS4 sales were more than double of the Xbox One (had it launched for $299, the Xbox One would have undercut Sony's console). Many also lambasted the company for not strongly focusing more on gaming, decrying the platform's lack of exclusive games and worse overall performance compared to the PS4, which had a lower $399 MSRP.
The files also reveal that Microsoft was aiming for the console to have a full 10-year life cycle, with "GM positive" profits every year, 100 million units sold, and "flexibility to support multiple SKUS/Config over lifetime." Ultimately, the Xbox One lasted until 2020 — it, along with the Xbox One S and Xbox One X, was discontinued as the newer Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S systems arrived — and less than 58.6 million consoles are estimated to have been sold.
Another interesting note from the documents is that at one point, Microsoft planned to make an "Xbox 361" in 2012. This would have been "a new low cost Xbox 360 for every person and room in your house," which sounds a whole lot like the budget-friendly $299 Xbox Series S that's on the market today.
Analysis: How would $299 even be possible?
I had quite a chuckle when I first came across this leak, as it reminded me of a movie about boxing robots called Real Steel I saw back in 2011 while I was in middle school (I suddenly felt old shortly afterwards). In a sweeping shot of one of the film's massive boxing arenas, you can see a fake ad for the Xbox 720 console on one of its advertisement screens. I pointed this out to some friends at lunch and we joked about how funny it would be if Microsoft actually called its next Xbox that, so 13 years later, it's hilarious to learn it was pitched with this name.
Much of what's in these documents are things we already knew about Microsoft's original strategy for Xbox in the 2010s, though it's quite the bombshell to learn that the company originally hoped to sell the Xbox One for just $299 — with a Kinect V2 included. All the hardware in that package wasn't cheap, and while console manufacturers usually lose money on sold units, the fact the Xbox One's launch price shot up $200 to $499 indicates the company just wasn't able to afford going that low.
Ultimately, Microsoft's decision to bundle a Kinect with every Xbox One is probably why it couldn't match the $399 MSRP of Sony's PS4 at launch, which contributed massively to the overwhelmingly negative reputation the console had right out of the gate. Perhaps if it was made available as a separate accessory, things would have gone better for the "Xbox 720."
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