Fries fell in love with games while playing arcade games in the early 1980s. Both of his parents were engineers, and he sees in his love for games something similar to his father's love for airplanes while working at Boeing. As a teen he programmed a clone of Frogger for the Atari 8-bit family which was distributed through bulletin board systems. It was seen by someone from game publisher Romox who offered him a job, and the game was published as The Princess and the Frog in 1982. Fries wrote two other games for Romox: Ant-Eater (similar to Dig Dug) and Sea Chase.
After earning a B.S. in Computer Science from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1986 Fries returned to the Seattle area to join Microsoft on productivity software. He has referred to this time as being like Ender's Game and says "We were recruited as children to fight in their wars, Excel vs Lotus 1-2-3 and Word vs WordPerfect." 
In the late 1990s he led the team that created the first version of the Xbox game console. He was a prime evangelist of the platform to game developers and had an important role in the acquisition of developers Bungie, Ensemble Studios and Rare.
Fries left Microsoft in January 2004. He consulted with a startup company, FireAnt, that was later sold to Sony Online Entertainment. He was also involved with several startups including Ageia, which aims to bring the first "physics accelerator" chip for games to market, and Emotiv Systems, a company building an EEG based game controller.
Fries is currently[when?] working on bringing his favorite game, World of Warcraft, to three-dimensional life with his startup company, Figure Prints. The company makes 3D models of a player's characters using a fleet of Z Corporation printers. Within the first 12 hours of his company going live, over 4,000 people had requested an order for a model. Fries explains in an interview that each model can take about one week to complete.
- Brightman, James (February 5, 2014). "The Saga of Ed Fries". Gamesindustry.biz. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
- Stilphen, Scott (2015). "Ed Fries interview". Atari Compendium.
- Hague, James. "The Giant List of Classic Game Programmers".
- Bishop, Todd (January 14, 2004). "The game is over for Xbox's Ed Fries". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved September 2, 2010.
- Beschizza, Rob (August 3, 2010). "Former Microsoft VP brings Halo to the Atari 2600". BoingBoing. Retrieved September 2, 2010.