The Kinect is something that Microsoft wants to complete delete from the history books. And a name that’s synonymous with the failure of the device, and the backlash to the early Xbox One rollout, is Don Mattrick. There are a multitude of reasons why the Xbox One signaled a major shift for Microsoft. Even with the name, Microsoft was showing that it wanted to be the one true destination for entertainment. And given the fact that it was the last-place finisher in the console wars of its generation, that obviously failed. But why?
A lot of what people blame Mattrick for is attributed to the “trend-chasing” with projects like Kinect, as well as the rollout of the Xbox One itself. The motion-tracking accessory was maligned by many gamers, regardless of skill level. Mattrick infamously said that “the controller is a barrier, separating video game players, from video games” during the original reveals of the product.
It’s strange to think about now, but it would seem that a lot of the blame comes from Don Mattrick. One visionary, the creator attributed to the original Xbox, even went so far as to reveal that Mattrick may have even hated the console. And it wasn’t just the Kinect, there was another major snafu in the Xbox One rollout that drew a ton of ire. Many gamers remember quite hilariously when the attempt at DRM on the Xbox One was basically booed off the stage at E3 2013. And in the fallout over the announcement of always-online DRM for the new console, Mattrick said the worst possible thing. During a quick interview at E3 with Geoff Keighley, Mattrick was quoted as saying that “we have a product for people that aren’t able to get some kind of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360.”
There’s not much you can do to smooth over the backlash to always-online DRM, but Mattrick somehow made it worse. In reality, if you could point to one thing to not do when people hate your product, it’s to say that they shouldn’t buy it at all.
And now, we might actually know why all these things kept happening. It turns out that Mattrick may have hated the console from the get-go. Seamus Blackley, the man credited with creating the original Xbox, actually had a very enlightening story to tell.
“I’ve never talked about this before, but the irony of Don Mattrick as Xbox Chief was huge for me,” Blackley tweeted. “When I first came to EA Canada to present the idea of a Microsoft console, he nearly blocked me from addressing the company because he didn’t believe it was possible.
Blackley was shopping around the Xbox prototype prior to launch, and during a meeting with then-EA Canada head Mattrick, the console was almost blocked outright. Blackley described the encounter as “tense,” saying that Mattrick didn’t want the heads of the company to see the new creation. How someone who had little faith in the brand becomes the head of its maker is bizarre. But, stranger things have happened. Mattrick left Xbox in 2015 to take on a leadership role at mobile giant Zynga for a short time.
In more recent years, the gaming division has tried to move away from the disastrous Kinect and DRM decisions which almost doomed the company. The push toward the Xbox One S seems to be going well. And obviously, the company ditched its plans for DRM shortly after they got thoroughly owned in front of everyone by Sony. And yes, it’s not very fair to say Mattrick is entirely to blame here. There’s likely some influences from Microsoft and its increasingly invasive approach to Windows that had something to do with all this, but that’s not how many common gamers will remember all this.