Ex-Microsoft VP: Xbox "was to stop Sony"

Microsoft's "enforcer" Kempin on why the company started making consoles

Former VP of Windows Sales at Microsoft, Joachim Kempin, has revealed why the PC company decided the enter the console market. And its rival Sony had a lot to do with it.

"The main reason was to stop Sony," he said in an interview with IGN.

"You see, Sony and Microsoft... they never had a very friendly relationship, okay? And this wasn't because Microsoft didn't want that."

The way Kempin tells it, Bill Gates himself had concerns that a future PlayStation could evolve into something that might threaten Microsoft's bread and butter, the home PC. And there was an element of unrequited love.

"Sony was always very arm's length with Microsoft. Yeah, they bought Windows for their PCs but when you really take a hard look at that, they were never Microsoft's friend. And Microsoft in a way wanted them to be a friend because they knew they had a lot of things we could have co-operated on because they are, in a way, an entertainment company, you know?"

"I mean, at least a portion of Sony is and they had some really good things going there, but as soon as they came out with a video console, Microsoft just looked at that and said 'well, we have to beat them, so let's do our own.'"

Kempin retired from Microsoft in 2002 after a long career with the company. He recently published a book about his time there, Resolve And Fortitude: Microsoft's "Secret Power Broker" Breaks His Silence. In the late nineties Business Week gave him the nickname "Microsoft's enforcer."

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Latest comments (12)

Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
Yup, knew this long ago.

But its interesting to re-cap looking at the current situation and the staggering success Microsoft have achieved - especially considering the doubts (from many quarters) they could ever be successful.

Despite the Xbox being a flop in Japan, MS have still managed to outsell the Playstation for almost the entire generation, particularly in the US. Now some analysts are suggesting the 360 could exceed Wii life-time sales the way its going.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Adam It depends on how you define success. The Xbox 360 cost Microsoft so much in the first half of its life with production costs and fixing the RROD that they really made very little profit on the platform in the end. Far less, in fact, than Nintendo made on the Gamecube last generation.

Also it's only a candidate to pass the Wii in the US, not anywhere else in the world.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers8 years ago
Also it's only a candidate to pass the Wii in the US, not anywhere else in the world.
This is not true. The Xbox 360 is poised to overtake the Wii in the U.K. as well.
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Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software8 years ago
I would still rate Sony's success a lot higher, since when they entered the console market - back when you had Nintendo and Sega - no one believed they could pull it off, and instead they blew everything else away. Not always in a very gentlemanly manner but for an entire generation "playing video games" became unanymous with "playing Playstation". Unthinkable before hand.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago

Sure, but I think its fair to rate 'success' as installed base and effectively breaking Sony's plans for living room dominance.

And yes, the 360 is set to over take Wii in more than one region...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 7th February 2013 5:27pm

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Francisco Javier QA Engineering & Coordination, Saber Interactive Spain8 years ago
Europe isn't only UK... Wii is the clear winner this gen not only by units sold, but for revenue generated. Neither Xbox360 and PS3 together can get somewhat close to the money did Wii for Nintendo. Outselling a console (that has been succeded by now) in one or two countries means nothing when it's a clear winner globally on sales and on revenue. Talking about which machine sold more consoles is nice for kid's forums but here at Gameindustry makes no sense.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Francisco Javier on 7th February 2013 5:29pm

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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee8 years ago
Kids forums?

I thought we were speaking about the reason the Xbox platform EXISTS and Microsoft's obvious vindication given its continued and increasing strength. Seems pretty clear to me, I don't think Xbox 360, Wii or PS3 sales affect any of our personal lives...

Specifically, looking at the context of the article this is something Microsoft and 'Xbox' will massively build on and its clearly shaping a large portion of their future strategies.
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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises8 years ago
I wonder how much this former VP is saying is fact, and how much of it is being made up to help him sell a book...
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Francis Cermak Website Administrator, HeavenGames LLC8 years ago
What this ex-VP is saying does not exactly line up with Dean Takahashi's excellent 2002 book, "Opening the Xbox." That book offers an exhaustive inside look at the back-room haggling that went on at MS during the formative Xbox days, and on more than one occasion was on the brink of not happening.
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Cameron Lourenco Studying Business Managemant, Conestoga College8 years ago
I agree with Francis ^
The reason this VP is giving might be partially the reason that some Executive may have held at one point, it could have been a tipping point, but really it looks like a stupid childish reason, and one that ended up costing Microsoft billions of dollars with the first xbox, and several billion more with the 360. Profits have been small due to the strategy Microsoft used - they wanted to copy Sony's strategy of selling to hardcore gamers, and fight them head on for the same audience. When you enter a fight, you never come out unscathed, and both Sony and Microsoft took a beating financially from that decision. Nintendo was the only company smart enough to find a new audience of non gamers that had never been tapped before, and had reaped massive profits compared to Sony and Microsoft.

I really respect Nintendo's ability to create a whole new pie to eat from, rather than taking from an existing pie from another company. That's a very American strategy, to feel that you need to destroy other companies and take what they have created for themselves, rather than realizing there was a whole new market untapped that could have made Microsoft billions had it taken advantage of what the Wii was able to take advantage of this generation.
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Roberto Dillon Associate Professor, James Cook University8 years ago
It's funny how history repeats itself: Coleco and Nintendo, Nintendo and Sony and now Sony and Microsoft, with the second getting frustrated on failed possible collaborations and then saying "Let's do our own!".
I wonder who's next...
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
I also agree with Francis. Everytime I read an interview with one of the founding fathers of the original Xbox they always mention how much they had to sell Bill Gates on the idea of making a console for quite awhile before he actually gave them the green light. I think Mr. Kempin is just looking for a soundbite. But lets pretend that he's telling the truth. The fact that Microsoft came out of nowhere and has taken so much market share away from Sony in the console space is very impressive. But they did not achieve that success without casulties. And they also proved that both companies can co-exist in the same console space and be relatively successful.
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