By the time 2005 came around, home game consoles were at their peak, and as consumers, we were down to three major choices: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. All of the other attempts from various companies had since dried up, not able to keep up with the competition.
Generation seven started with the release of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the second console from the computer corporation giant. It was followed by the release of the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. Each console had new technologies, trying hard to win your loyalty and money.
Success of the Original Xbox
Microsoft didn’t set any records in sales of their debut console, however, what they did accomplish was making a statement. No longer would status quo be enough; gamers have demands and there is now a company willing to push the envelope to meet those demands.
Because of the Xbox release, Sony and Nintendo both scrapped plans for a re-release of their current consoles and began working on an all-new system from scratch. Microsoft was already doing just that.
The Xbox 360 would revolutionize home gaming, not only meeting gamers’ current demands but exceeding them in almost every way. The Xbox 360 was released a year before its competition, which not only helped sales but allowed Microsoft to take action to head off the market.
All Microsoft Did Was Everything
The initial success of the Xbox 360 was due largely to the fact it had no other competition for a year. However, Microsoft did not simply sit back and watch sales increase. They actively went forward with technology, gaming platforms and created new game studios to produce games for the system.
When the PS3 was released, it had one major upgrade that was a claim to fame: Blu-Ray. While the Xbox 360 used DVD9 formatted discs, the PS3 had a Blu-Ray drive and all games were made for this format. While fans of the system touted this as the one improvement that would beat the Xbox, game developers found it difficult to produce high quality games for the Blu-Ray format.
The Xbox 360 also started using larger and larger hard drives. The Xbox 360 hard drive was a calling card for the system and allowed game discs to be copied, making gameplay even faster and smoother.
Xbox Live also made a huge push in the gaming community with a total overhaul of the entire platform. Now players could create profiles, save games, download content, watch movies, listen to music and connect to their Microsoft system computers.
With two account levels, every player that owned an Xbox 360 had a live account. Silver accounts were free for everyone, although limited in their abilities. It still allowed for profile creation, system and game updates, and to browse the marketplace to purchase arcade games or game add-ons.
When the Nintendo Wii was released their new style of game control was revolutionary. Instead of being tethered to the console and simply pressing buttons for control, motion activated sensors forced players to act out the motions, such as swinging a golf club or driving a car, to control the game.
Sony saw the advantage of the new style of control and released their own version of the motion controllers a year later. While not as successful as the Wii and with fewer and fewer games being made for the Blu-Ray format, the PS3 began to dwindle in sales and support.
Microsoft Stayed Strong
The Xbox 360 was able to keep pace with the Wii for a while and even released their own motion control. The Xbox Kinect was not a controller. However, it was a full body motion sensor camera that used the players entire body to control the games. Players didn’t have to hold plastic controllers or push buttons at all.
The initial release sales of the Kinect set a world record for fastest selling computer device in history, with 8 million units sold in the first 60 days.
When the Nintendo Wii was released, Microsoft knew their sales would begin to suffer. They counteracted the loss with the release of their third installment of the flagship title Halo. Halo 3’s release was enough to keep the Xbox 360 sales ahead of the Wii, for a while.
Games and Peripherals Notwithstanding
Microsoft eventually did lose out on sales to the Wii (which sold an incredible 101 million units). However, their support, forethought and attention to gamer needs helped pave the way for Microsoft’s future as a gaming giant.
Each console has gaming titles that are specific to that console. Nintendo has Mario, for example, Xbox has Halo and Sony has Final Fantasy. At least, they used to. Final Fantasy’s franchise has been with Sony since the initial release of the title in 1987. Although it was originally a Nintendo only title (released for the NES) Sony bought the rights to Square-Enix and the Final Fantasy Franchise came with it.
Microsoft had their way with game producers and with a console worth making games for that unshackled limitations, Microsoft was able to sway companies to abandon their single system licenses. Square was only the first.
Not only is Final Fantasy now a multi-platform game, but Sony also lost exclusive rights to other popular titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Tekken, Metal Gear and Devil May Cry. With the loss of these exclusive titles, Sony continued to lose on sales, eventually coming in last for the generation 7 consoles.
Another popular add-on, aside from new Xbox 360 games and the Kinect, was the ability to lose the Ethernet cable. The release of the Xbox 30 wireless adapter allowed gamers to connect the system to their home WiFi network and still enjoy online gaming with over 1230 games.
Issues and Fixes
The Xbox 360 had two major issues that caused an uproar in the gaming community, and quite possibly hurt the overall sales numbers. The now famous Red Ring of Death error makes Xbox gamers shudder.
The power button LEDs were integrated into the motherboard to also act as error code visual aids in the event there was a problem. There was a problem. Error Code E74 cause the normally green LEDs that surrounded the power button to turn red. Nicknamed the Red Ring of Death, E74 was an overheating problem between the motherboard and the CPU. This caused the system to shut down and become inoperable.
Microsoft did as much damage control as possible, extending the warranty period out an additional three years, fixing the heat shrink tubing issue for free, and reimbursing those that had already paid for it.
Microsoft eventually did fix the problem and applied the fix in the new releases of the consoles. The Xbox 360 Elite was one of the most impressive consoles to come from the situation. It boasted a higher performance CPU, HDMI outputs, and a 65nm chipset that ran cooler, quicker and more responsive. (the 65nm chipset was also used in the original Xbox 360 as the Error E74 fix).
Soon after the release of the Elite, Microsoft restructured the entire Xbox 360 console and produced the Xbox 360 S. Media outlets and gamers referred to the system as the “360 Slim” although it was never verified that is what the S stood for.
The new console was a 360 Elite in a new, lighter, smaller and more efficient shell. The 360 S also removed the need for the wireless adapter as it now had an internal 801.1 b/g/n wireless adapter built in.
The sales continued and even after production stopped, support will continue at least through 2020 for the system, possibly longer.
Generation eight saw the release of the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. However, the Xbox 360 from generation seven continues to be supported, updated and used around the world. It is the only seventh generation console to have constant activity from both players and industry sides.
Now that Microsoft is working on the Xbox One and the latest, Xbox One X, support for the Xbox 360 is beginning to dwindle. However, continues to improve and develop the console and has promised to do so for a few more years.
The Xbox 360 once again set a standard in gaming that continues to be rivaled by few. Other companies are playing catch up with the innovation and technology that Microsoft is pushing out through their home gaming consoles.
With the ninth generation yet to be released, we as gamers can only imagine what the future holds. What we do know is that the big three: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will be at the forefront of the industry, once again doing battle to have the best console, biggest games and greatest features. Regardless of who sells the most, the real winners are the gamers.