Microsoft thought about giving the Xbox away for free in the early 2000s


Today we know the Xbox brand as one of the biggest players in the console space, easily keeping pace with its rivals.

Yet just over a decade ago, this was not the case. Sony ruled the console world with its Playstation brand, with Nintendo barely keeping up and Sega having crashed by the wayside some time before. It was into this that the first Xbox was born, an ungainly suitcase-sized box adorned with a massive “X” logo and a high asking price. Everything could have gone wrong, Microsoft’s toe in the water might have been met by a crocodile.

In an interview with, Lorne Lanning (from Oddworld Inhabitants) a figure who was heavily invested in the first Xbox, claims that Microsoft knew this was the case, and made plans. Lanning states that plans were put in place to ‘give the Xbox away’, literally handing it over to consumers for free, in order to make in-roads into the console market.

This was merely one plan among many, others talked about simply buying Nintendo outright in order to establish a presence, though this plan was realized in some form with the purchase of celebrated Nintendo partner Rare in the early noughties.


Lanning also claims that some suggested that the Xbox should be a ‘trojan horse’ for Windows, though the idea was quickly shot down, with the consensus being,

“You got the brand that everyone resents having to buy, how’s that going to work in the entertainment industry? See, we don’t need your OS in the entertainment industry.”

Now, in the present, we know that none of this happened, but this is still a fascinating insight into the confusion that often surrounds the launch of a major product, and how to avoid it. Though counter-history is a fool’s game, this makes for an interesting hypothetical nonetheless.

Should Microsoft have bought Nintendo? Let us know in the comments below.

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