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Innovation & Design

XBOX 360: The Inside Story

How did Microsoft create its launch strategy for Xbox 360? Who made the big decisions, and how did Sony's plans shape Robbie Bach's thinking? In the first part of our serialization of the new book by Dean Takahashi, Next Generation offers a detailed view of the planning behind the launch.

Excerpt from 'The Xbox 360 Uncloaked: The Real Story Behind Microsoft’s Next-Generation Video Game Console' by Dean Takahashi (Published by SpiderWorks).

CHAPTER 12 3-30-300

Snoqualmie Falls is a memorable sight. About 30 miles outside of Seattle, it is a place that is famous as the opening scene for the Twin Peaks TV series of the early 1990s. Water from the Snoqualmie River hurtles 268 feet from the top of the rocky cliffs to the gorge below. Visitors can walk down the winding path to bottom of the falls, where they can feel the mist from the falls spray their faces. It's a dreamy place, the site of the creation myth of the Snoqualmie Indian tribe.

The Salish Lodge & Spa sits nearly atop the falls. The place was built in 1916 with only five guest rooms. It was a stopping place on a logging route, and it is still surrounded by Douglas firs, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce trees. The new lodge was built atop the old one in 1988. The spa was added in 1996, making it into a retreat destination. The dining room has an aerie-style view of the falls and the nearby Cascade Mountains. Its wine cellar has nearly 1,300 different selections. The new rooms have fireplaces and whirlpool baths. If you leave the window open, you can hear the thunder of the falls. Not a bad place for making visions.

In February, 2003, the Xbox leaders descended upon the lodge. They were a grizzled bunch of veterans now. In the face of withering skepticism, they had launched the Xbox video game console worldwide and were celebrating the successful launch of the Xbox Live online gaming service, which was now rolling out around the world. Hundreds of titles were available. Some of those titles, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, had a chance to prove the Xbox was more than the 'Halo console.'

But it was already late to start planning the next generation. Sony's Cell alliance was moving quickly. Bach thought that Sony made the mistake of signaling its intentions too early. But the announcement was useful. The Cell microprocessor sounded like a formidable technology, the kind that would probably race far ahead of the PC components that Microsoft might rely upon for Xenon. It was time to get to work.

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