Editor’s note: We previously ran a transcript of this fireside chat. Now you can watch on video below.
At our GamesBeat Summit 2016 event, that was evident in our opening fireside chat with Robbie Bach, former chief Xbox officer at Microsoft and author of the recent Xbox Revisited, a memoir of his time at Microsoft as well as his strategy for fixing our country’s problems.
Bach ran the Xbox group from the beginning at the dawn of the new millennium until 2010, or five years into the Xbox 360 console. He was ultimately responsible for the business, and it was a roller-coaster ride. The first Xbox was a consumer success, and it ushered in Microsoft’s best video game franchise, Halo. But the console lost $5 billion to $7 billion in its first four years. And Bach almost quit his job after a disastrous first revelation of the original Xbox at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. His boss wouldn’t accept the resignation.
Bach made a lot of the important decisions, and he gets some of the credit for turning around Xbox and making billions of dollars with the it successor, the Xbox 360. More than any other console, the Xbox 360 helped Microsoft close the gap with its competitors. But Bach said his job often felt like he was always putting out fires on his desk. He stamped out the ones that were burning brightest, he said, only to return the next day knowing that new fires had broken out.
The Xbox 360 was enormously popular with consumers, but it was afflicted at the outset from the “Red Rings of Death,” a defect that I have written tens of thousands of words about. Microsoft had to recall a bunch of bad machines at a cost of $1.15 billion. But the Xbox 360 went on to gain market share, and it may have represented Microsoft’s peak in the video game business.
Watching from afar, Bach saw the 2013 launch of the Xbox One, which has sold 20 million units by some estimates. But it has fallen significantly behind the PlayStation 4 in worldwide sales, which are nearing 40 million. That’s not a great scorecard, but Microsoft has been able to make money on those hardware sales, and it has far outsold Nintendo’s Wii U.
Now Bach is an advocate for “civic engineering,” or using bipartisan cooperation to rebuild our country. We talked with Bach about the lessons of those years in a fireside chat at GamesBeat Summit 2016. Here’s the video of our conversation.