Direct3D was intended to be a Microsoft controlled alternative to Open GL, focused initially on game use.
Since Windows 95 was itself still new and few games had been released for it, Microsoft engaged in heavy promotion of Direct X to developers who were generally distrustful of Microsoft's ability to build a gaming platform in Windows. John, the evangelist for Direct X, staged an elaborate event at the 1996 Computer Game Developers Conference which game developer Jay Barnson described as a Roman theme, including real lions, togas, and something resembling an indoor carnival.
It was at this event that Microsoft first introduced Direct3D and Direct Play, and demonstrated multiplayer Mech Warrior 2 being played over the Internet.
The name Direct X was coined as a shorthand term for all of these APIs (the X standing in for the particular API names) and soon became the name of the collection.
When Microsoft later set out to develop a gaming console, the X was used as the basis of the name Xbox to indicate that the console was based on Direct X technology.
Microsoft needed a quick solution for programmers; the operating system was only months away from being released. John, and Engstrom (program manager) worked together to fix this problem, with a solution that they eventually named Direct X.