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.