Former Microsoft executives who were involved in the development of the original Xbox have told Bloomberg in an interview that the team tore down a PlayStation 2 for reference while designing the console.
After Bill Gates showcased a prototype of the Xbox at Game Developers Conference, the design team was tasked with turning it into a retail product. Head of Xbox at the time, Rick Thompson, ended up resigning because he was concerned about the costs associated with the project.
“I don’t know how you go to work every day, where you build more boxes to lose more money,” Thompson told Bloomberg while explaining his decision to resign. “We’d made plush dolls, mice and keyboards and reference-design stuff, but never a project like this,” added Robbie Bach, who took over Thompson’s role and became the second head of Xbox. The team then decided to tear a PS2 down.
“In the old days, there weren’t companies that did tear-downs, so we actually had to take a PS2, we took the entire thing apart, put it on a giant wood board,” explained Aaron Greenberg, who still works at Microsoft. “We did a whole competitive review, and we went through every component, every piece and priced it out and tried to figure out how many screws and how much did it cost.”
Then head of hardware, Todd Holmdahl, revealed that the team comprised of less than 20 people, who were “naive” about the complexity of the project. This small team not only had to design the product, but also had to figure out sourcing and manufacturing strategies.
Looks like the PS2 teardown helped!