It was the first time Microsoft had developed a videogames controller, which proved too big for the Japanese. Also 'X' and black "means death" - oops.
"The first Xbox controller was built internally at Microsoft’s gaming peripheral group, who at the time had made things like the SideWinder joystick. They had a controller they made for PC gaming, so they took on the job and we didn’t pay that much attention to what they were doing," said Ed Fries, noting their first major mistake.
"Honestly, when the first controller came out, our group didn’t give a lot of feedback on it. We didn’t have a lot of experience on controllers anyway, so we didn’t have an issue with the prototype," he added. “But when I went to Japan to show the console, man, they really had a problem with it. I was told a number of crazy things, like the controller should weigh the same as water in your hands."
The original Xbox controller was criticised universally for being a bit of the clunky side, but by the time they realised smaller was better - it was too late.
“But in the end, it made sense that we’d make a smaller controller for Japan because, yeah sure, it was just way too big for their hands. That’s where the ‘S’ controller came from. Problem was that when people internally started playing with the ‘S’ controller, everyone preferred it to the massive one – but it was too late by then, we were set for launch.”
Even the name 'Xbox' and its black casing was an issue. "We heard all kind of negative things from Japan, like we couldn’t use the name Xbox because ‘X’ means death, and the console couldn’t be black, because that also was the colour of death," said Fries.
"The first Xbox consoles we released in Japan weren’t black, in fact, they were a smokey colour – but I was always thinking to myself, ‘hang on, isn’t the PS2 black?!'"
It's a good read to see how Microsoft's now mighty Xbox platform empire was forged, and how it. Now look at them, they've just gone and released their - hooray for big business.