So for whatever reason, I appear to be utterly fascinated/obsessed by the current generation of gaming consoles. I follow minutiae about the consoles with the sort of dedication most people give only to sports teams (and honestly, given that comparison, I don’t even feel that bad about it). Of the lot, the one I’ve been the most consistently impressed by is the Xbox 360, so it seems rather natural that I’d read Dean Takahashi’s Xbox 360 Uncloaked , which purports to be an insider account of the birth of the 360.
I say “purports to be” for a reason; Takahashi didn’t have insider access during the creation process, so this is sort of a retro-vision view of things, with Microsoft employees telling him after-the-fact stories about things that happened back in the day. That’s fine, and doesn’t detract from the book. Sure, you have to read between the lines to intuit the particularly unpleasant things that happened, but I suspect most people are practised at that skill. The real problem is that Takahashi has basically no inside information at all leading up to — and especially after — the 360’s launch. The result is chapters that retell the public events of E3, the Tokyo Gameshow, the MTV unveiling of the 360, and various other things that I already paid attention to the first time. If you didn’t read all the news about these things when they happened, Takahashi’s retellings will bring you up to speed — but then, if you didn’t pay attention to E3, what are the odds you give a flying fuck about game consoles at all?
The other main flaw of the book is that it ends too early. We get a retelling of E3 2005, where Sony made a strong showing with its “previews” of games to come on the PS3 for its Spring 2006 release. We don’t get any coverage of E3 2006, where Sony started showing real game footage that didn’t come close to living up to the 2005 “render targets,” plus announced the bombshell pricing of the PS3. The result is a feeling that the book’s final “Good luck, but...” slant is slightly off the reality that ultimately came to pass.
Still, these flaws notwithstanding, the book is a quick and absorbing read for anyone who cares about the gaming industry in an unhealthy manner; and it does clear up a lot of the confusion about the personnel behind the Xbox and the 360 — I know who Peter Moore, Robbie Bach, and J Allard are, but I never quite understood how they related to each other in terms of Microsoft’s hierarchy or their actual duties, so it’s nice to have that kind of stuff cleared up. Ultimately, this is only recommended to obsessives, and only with the caveat that it’ll tell them a lot of stuff they already know.