It comes down to a simple reason: Public Relations.
The consoles were to be used in place of the PCs that are currently used for training and education, but Microsoft didn’t want to sell the Xbox 360 or license XNA game development tools to the Army at a trade show in 2006. (The man wanting to buy them being Roger Smith, chief technology officer for PEO STRI, the Army command that purchases training equipment. ) This could possibly save the Army millions upon millions of dollars, considering that the PCs cost around a $1,000 for each person, and the 360, with the proper accessories, could max out at $500. And remember, every soldier gets one.
Reasons sited by Microsoft as to why they don’t want the Army to buy up their consoles.
- 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.
- A big military purchase could create a shortage of Xbox 360s.
- “If the Xbox became an Army training device, it could 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 Wired.com
Wired.com contacted Microsoft about the above reasons and spokesman David Dennis said he didn’t know about Smith’s talks with Microsoft, but that the Army “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 of now the Army doesn’t really care about Microsoft and the 360 at the moment, stating that “Our initial enthusiasm when Xbox and XNA were new products has cooled. At this time we have no active or anticipated projects or R&D that are looking at using either of those products for military simulations. I would be happy to reopen these discussions if Microsoft is interested in selling these products to our community.”