The Original Xbox Was Nearly a Free Giveaway

By Gerald Lynch on at

It may have launched its Xbox One as initially the priciest of the current-gen consoles, but Microsoft had once considered giving away the very first Xbox for free.

The wild plan was revealed by Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning, in an interview with GamesIndustry.biz. Microsoft courted the Abe's Oddysee maestro for its fledgling console by describing a casual-focussed games machine that could be provided without an upfront charge, not unlike a mobile contract.

"At the time, Xbox thought that the core market was going to be casual. They were going to be the casual gamers' machine," said Lanning.

"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'."

Of course, Microsoft never did give the Xbox away, but it did eventually toy with other payment models. In the US back in 2012, it trialled a $99 Xbox 360 and Kinect bundle, subsidised by an $15-a-month subscription fee. With a 24 month Xbox Live Gold membership thrown in, gamers were effectively locked in for two years. Microsoft eventually shuttered the service in 2014 and, with this latest snippet of information from Lanning, it's not hard to imagine that the subsidised Xbox 360 offer could have been a trial run for a potential similar Xbox One deal. [GamesIndustry.biz]