As the emphasis on technology-based training increases, the U.S. Military finds itself at odds with Microsoft.
The expense and complication of live tests make gaming a perfect alternative to teaching crucial skills. Most military-based software is for the PC, but each military PC, in addition to having different specs, can cost over $1,000. Though not well known for its thriftiness, the military has been looking into alternatives, including gaming consoles. Consoles can be acquired far more cheaply than decent gaming PCs, and most recruits enter service already at least somewhat familiar with them. A room full of 360s sounds like it would be an ideal solution, but there’s just one catch: Microsoft is unwilling to meet the military’s requests for hardware.
Roger Smith, chief technology officer of PEO STRI, the division responsible for the purchase of training equipment, said Microsoft has refused to sell him the consoles. The concerns seemed to be twofold: First, that a military purchase of a large amount of consoles would have a low attach rate – these 360s would be for training, not gaming – and would therefore lead to a financial loss for Microsoft. The other issue was Microsoft’s apparent concern that association with the military might somehow tarnish its reputation.
In a statement to Wired by PR agency Edelman, it was stated the military was welcome to try other venues, such as working with developers as they have in the past to develop training games for the Xbox and purchasing them at retail price. The statement made no mention to whether or not Microsoft would be willing to sell large quantities of Xbox 360s to the military.
The response seems to have cooled the military’s enthusiasm for bringing their training to the console platform. Smith said there are no current R&D plans, but also stated the military would be happy to reopen negotiations with Microsoft.