If there were anything that would make Uncle Sam angry, blatant ignorance and greed when lives are at stake is probably up near the top. Now keep the upcoming text light hearted as this hasn’t been confirmed in any way by Microsoft (as if they’d admit blocking the military…).
The military is growing increasingly digital these days. With that growing reliance on digital services and applications naturally comes the increased need for more and more personal computers. You typical military spec computer is easily $1,000+. Much like the rest of the country is pinching pennies in tight times, so is the Army, as they’re looking for ways to increase “digital presence” without busting the bank. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Xbox 360.
Argue if you want, but the Xbox 360 with it’s cheap hardware, massive online gameplay and options for scenarios, and rather robust library of war games means it’s a pretty good fit as a training tool for the fine men and women training our country. Common sense also makes a might appearance. It’s simple actually. Why should the Army spend upwards of $1,000 on training computers for each and ever soldier if an Xbox 360 can be had for significantly less and be used for multiple soldiers? It’s basic math.
That wonderful plan was killed however by the most unlikely of people — Microsoft. According to Roger Smith, CTO for PEO STRI (the Army command responsible for purchasing training equipment), Microsoft refused to sell him or the Army any consoles. No direct reason was given. Roger however speculates the denials happened because of one of three reasons:
* Microsoft was afraid that the military would buy up lots of Xbox 360s, but would buy only one game for each of them, so MS wouldn’t make much money off of the games.
* that a big military purchase would create a shortage of Xbox 360s.
* that if the Xbox became an Army training device, it would taint its reputation. Microsoft was concerned that “do we want the Xbox 360 to be seen as having the flavor of a weapon? Do we want Mom and Dad knowing that their kid is buying the same game console as the military trains the SEALs and Rangers on?” Smith told me during an interview for Training & Simulation Journal.
The above are Almost valid reasons until you think about the fact it’s the US Army asking for a tool that could help soldiers *not* die on the battlefield. Microsoft PR of course claimed to have absolutely no knowledge of the incident. All in all, if the account by Roger Smith is in fact 100% correct (and there isn’t any real reason to doubt him), I can guarantee that Microsoft’s PR is going to be dealing with a PR shit storm.
To be fair, Microsoft’s side of the story followed soon after:
has multiple avenues to pursue building simulations. They can team up with a professional Xbox 360 publisher and development studio that have the expertise to assist them with development of a complex simulation. In fact, the Army has successfully done this in the past by working with publishers such as Ubisoft (’America’s Army’) and THQ (’Full Spectrum Warrior’). Or, if the Army prefers to build a simulation without engaging game development professionals, Microsoft has also enabled independent developers to create games for the Xbox 360 using the XNA Game Studio development tools, and deploy and play them on retail Xbox 360 consoles using an XNA Premium Creator’s Club membership.
As you can see, Microsoft skirted around the million dollar question: Did they block the military from buying up a large quantity of Xbox 360s?
Unfortunately for Microsoft, the certain truckload of cash they’d have made on a mass Army purchase of Xbox’s is now “of little interest” to Smith and the Army in general anymore. Though Smith does mention that if Microsoft were to ever broach the subject again, he’d be more than willing to reopen talks.
Disappointed in Microsoft’s stance? Do you think it was all because of the money?