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Seamus Blackley on tricking Bill Gates and the "Jedi mind tricks" that were needed to make the original Xbox

Xbox – Future Owns
(Image credit: Future)

Seamus Blackley has told Edge Game Changers that he tricked Bill Gates to get the original Xbox made. 

The latest feature in our look back at console launches that changed gaming forever focuses on the original Xbox, and how it came in to disrupt Sony's hold on the market. 

Blackley, former director of the X-Box Advanced Technology Team, reflects on the struggles that he had convincing the company to take a gamble on the console. He says: "There was a meeting in a small conference room with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. And Steve never, I don't think, ever thought it was a good idea. There's a story I've told where I was standing in line in the cafeteria with Kevin, and Steve Ballmer snuck up behind us and yelled in my ear, making me throw my food: 'YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE ALL OUR MONEY!'   

Faced with this opposition, Blackley reveals the tricks and deception that helped get the console from the planning stage to a reality, which included lying to Bill Gates, and telling him the console would incorporate the Windows operating system. He explains: "We absolutely, intentionally hoodwinked him. And I absolutely, explicitly in writing to him many times said that we were doing that at the time. You know, it's a big risk. If it's successful, he's going to be happy, and if not, then not as happy. But look, the reality is that, again, you need to remember that this is a company that doesn't understand games, let alone consoles."

"Now that doesn't mean that, as they think more about it as the project progresses, they don't come to understand it's not true, which is what happened. Windows was really not the value proposition on this any more. They had thought that before: 'Oh, we should make a Windows gaming platform – Windows will offer all these values...' Which is garbage, right? It's garbage, it is not true. No gamer gives a fuck about Windows features. But for the guys in Redmond, it was true. And you're not going to convince them. I mean, have you tried convincing your grandfather of something?

That then lead to what Blackley refers to as "Jedi Mind Tricks" as higher-ups at Microsoft came around to the idea of ditching Windows in the Xbox. He tells us: "Eventually somebody would come back to you with your idea – they would say, 'Hey, you know, this doesn't need Windows at all'. And you have to control your urge to fucking kill them, because you've been telling them that for two years and now they finally come up with it like it's their idea. But that's the Jedi mind trick." 

Check out more in the Edge Game Changers Series, including why the Sega quit the console business

Ben Tyrer

Hello, I'm GamesRadar's News Editor. I've been working in the games industry since 2013, after graduating from Bournemouth University with a degree in multimedia journalism. Since then I've worked for Official PlayStation Magazine as a staff writer and games editor, as well as writing for Official Xbox Magazine, Edge, PC Gamer, GamesMaster, PC Games N, and more. When I'm not moaning about being beaten on FIFA and Warzone, I'm writing news, features, and reviews for this wonderful site.