Believe it or not, it was 10 years ago today that the first Xbox, Microsoft’s very own home console, came out in North America. Happy Birthday, Xbox!
The Past – The Xbox
After a successful run in the PC market, Microsoft decided to expand their business and start producing consoles under the Xbox brand. The first model of the Xbox came out the 15th of November in North America, early 2002 in the rest of the world. The console was part of the so-called Sixth Generation of videogame consoles, and competed directly with Sony’s PlayStation 2 and Nintendo’s Gamecube. The console was in for a heavy competition but it delivered and quickly became a fan favorite thanks to launch titles like Dead or Alive 3, Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, Fuzion Frenzy, Project Gotham Racing and Jet Set Radio Future. Still, what gave it the most edge was the FPS Halo: Combat Evolved. At the time, FPS in consoles were sort of an oddity (Perfect Dark and Goldeneye being some notable exceptions), and Halo, produced by Bungie (A studio recently acquired by Microsoft), proved to be a winning bet. It’s sequel, Halo 2, was the best selling Xbox Title of all time.
The Xbox quickly rose to a heavy competitor in the console wars thanks to perks like having big controllers (lots of gamers complained and still do about how little or weird were the Gamecube and PlayStation 2 controllers), and the Xbox Live gaming service. Xbox Live launched in November 15, 2002, and allowed subscribers to connect their consoles to an Internet broadband connection and play their games online with other subscribers, which proved to be a hit (only PC gamers could do this before), and paved the way for competitive gaming in consoles.
The Present – The Xbox 360
Microsoft updated the brand only 4 years later, in November 22, 2005, with the launch of the Xbox 360. As a member of the seventh generation of consoles, it competed directly with the Nintendo Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3. The console was designed to do everything the original Xbox did but bigger and better, with higher end hardware. With time, revisions of the console incorporated HDMI outputs (that’s right, the original models weren’t capable of HD), hard drives which kept increasing their size, better pricing and more and more bundled accessories. Current versions include 1 or 2 wireless controllers with “transforming d-pad”, Wired Headset, and Composite AV Cable with a 320 Hard-Drive.
Microsoft also updated their Xbox Live to make it fully compatible with their newest console, and added support for gamerscores (a system that measured how many achievements a player had earned, which granted, was first used in Halo 2, an Xbox title), and pairing systems so players could play in groups of even skills. The Xbox 360 was selling like hotcakes thanks to titles like Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Gears of War, and Call of Duty 2. Microsoft also made further use of the online capabilities of the console, and started offering and selling new games as well as old classic titles over Xbox Live Arcade. Also, thanks to the Avatar system, users started creating their own online personas to represent themselves in the Xbox community.
The next big step for the console came in 2009 when Microsoft announced “Project Natal”, which eventually became Kinect: a system where gamers could play games using body gestures and voice commands instead of controllers. The peripheral was released on November 4, 2010 and worked with every version of the Xbox yet. Sales for the Kinect were high, and reception was generally good, but some gamers felt like this was a step on the wrong direction, as they were expecting more core games, like the ones that had risen the franchise to the top, instead of casual games for the whole family, or that they would only play at a party.
The Future – Xbox 720?
As the franchise turns 10 years old, it’s still selling strong both amongst casual gamers and hardcore gamers, who get to enjoy titles such as Left 4 Dead 2, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 3, Final Fantasy XIII, GTA 4, Halo 3 and many, many more. Still, as PC’s have dramatically increased their hardware performance in the last few years, some gamers have started asking for an update to the Xbox 360, currently codenamed Xbox 720. So far, little is known about the X360 successor, as both Sony and Microsoft have announced they want to stretch this console cycle as much as possible, but rumors hint towards an end of 2012 release date, which would probably mean that Microsoft should be announcing the next-generation Xbox at the next E3. In the meanwhile, Nintendo are already preparing their Wii U, which will be their direct competitor. Whatever the case may be, we can’t wait to see what the Xbox brand has in store for us in the next few years.
If you still want to see more Xbox related material, why don’t you check the Xbox 360 Steampunk Controller Mod, or straight up celebrate with this Xbox cake? Also, speaking of Xbox Cakes, here’s a cool list by the people at Xbox Freedom.