What if Microsoft, Sony and Sega were partners?
Ever wonder why Microsoft didn’t just outright buy Sega, instead of licensing Windows CE to the Dreamcast, or why Sony and Microsoft never hooked up? A recent IGN interview with former MS executive Joachim Kempin has provided some very interesting perspective as to why some of these dream team collaborations never came to be. Read on, true believers.
Former Microsoft exec claims Xbox created because Sony didn’t want to ’be a friend’
Microsoft made significant inroads in the console wars with the Xbox 360, stealing market share from the once-dominant PlayStation brand. However, Microsoft wasn’t always interested in entering the console market. In fact, according to a former Microsoft exec, the company only entered the console market because Sony refused to work with them.
Joachim Kempin was VP of Windows Sales at Microsoft for 20 years, having left the company in 2003, two years after the launch of the original Xbox. He said that the main reason Microsoft jumped into the console market was "to stop Sony."
"They were never Microsoft’s friend," Kempin told IGN. "And Microsoft in a way wanted them to be a friend because they knew they had a lot of things we could have co-operated on because they are, in a way, an entertainment company, you know?"
However, when Sony entered the market with the original PlayStation, Microsoft felt like its stronghold of the PC market could be eroded. Microsoft founder Bill Gates was afraid that "the living room computer" could threaten the Windows market, and Microsoft knew it had to work against Sony.
This story slightly echoes how Sony came to create the PlayStation in the first place. The Japanese hardware giant originally partnered up with Nintendo to create a CD add-on for the SNES. However, Nintendo eventually partnered with Philips on the failed CD-i. The apparent betrayal was motivation for Sony to enter the console space, and led to the formation of the PlayStation brand. While Microsoft doesn’t appear to have collaborated with Sony as deeply, it seems that friendship could have prevented these console wars from escalating at all.
Microsoft’s felt Sega lacked ’enough muscle’ for acquisition
Microsoft is a heavyweight in game consoles now, but before it made its mark with enormous controllers and Master Chief, the company was looking into ways to get a foothold. One idea was to purchase an existing company like Sega, but then-CEO Bill Gates felt the house that Sonic built lacked the "muscle" to compete with Sony.
Joachim Kempin worked at Microsoft from 1983 to 2003, and had an inside look at the machinations of Microsoft’s cracking into the industry. "There were three companies at that point in time, I think this was [Sony,] Sega and Nintendo," he told IGN. "There was always talk maybe we buy Sega or something like that; that never materialized, but we were actually able to license them what they call Windows CE, the younger brother of Windows, to run on their system and make that their platform. But for Bill [Gates] this wasn’t enough, he didn’t think that Sega had enough muscle to eventually stop Sony so we did our own Xbox thing."
Kempin says Sega was "a very different bird," and that Nintendo was having financial trouble at the time of the 3D transition, which led Sony to capture the market quickly with its first PlayStation. "They took off, and everyone else was left behind."
While Microsoft never bought Sega, they did eventually get former Sega COO Peter Moore, that handsome tattooed devil.
Special thanks to IGN, and Andrew Yoon and Steve Watts of Shacknews.com for these fascinating revelations.