Microsoft joined the home gaming system market in 2001 with the release of the Xbox game console. With one giant black box and five release games, the console set a new standard in gaming capabilities that the other players, like Sony, were forced to keep up with.
Since that release 16 years ago, Xbox has grown to one of the largest, most influential gaming systems, companies and online trend setters, ever. In this article, we will take a look at the iconic game console that started a revolution in home video games.
There has been a grand total of seven different consoles released by Microsoft in the last 16 years. Each with slightly different components and capabilities. Three of the consoles were major releases with the other four being one-offs of the major releases.
This doesn’t include the various “special releases” of identical boxes. Some were gaming bundles with special colors, or special abilities, includes or downloads.
In 2001 the Microsoft Xbox was released. With the release came five games, the most popular of which was Halo: Combat Evolved. The console itself was large. Jokes were made about the size of the box, even so far as to prompt a comic showing different uses, such as a booster seat from grandma.
However, the insides were what made the console special. With a smaller nanometer chipset, a cooler running module and responsive hard drive, the games played on the system were near flawless and made gaming enjoyable.
The system wasn’t without problems though. The infamous Red Ring of Death, caused by improper heat shrink tubing, made a lot of warranty calls necessary. Microsoft even extended the warranty period for the first four release batches of the system, which eventually grew to include all of them.
The system did not lose much traction though, and game studios began to realize the potential of the machine and its components and were able to begin producing rich, detailed and impressive games for the unit.
In May of 2005, Xbox announced a new console. One to compete with the impressive Wii from Nintendo and the popular PlayStation 3 from Sony. The Xbox 360 took a stranglehold on the online community by expanding its online persona Xbox Live. Now players could download content, stream videos and music through Microsoft services, and with the advent of the “Silver” class, could do it for free (although limited). Upgrade to the “Gold” account of Xbox Live and you had no limits.
A year later the console saw a rebirth and one of the most popular forms of the console to date: Xbox 360 Elite. The Elite was black, instead of the standard white, and featured a 90nm chipset, which ran faster, quieter, and cooler. The Elite virtually eliminated any Red Ring issues and saw a single off-shoot called the Halo 3 Edition, which was a Marine Green color schemed Elite, bundled with an HDMI port, a Marine green colored Xbox Elite controller and headset, and a Play and Charge kit.
In 2010, the other major 360 release came out: The Xbox 360 S. The “s” standing for slim. It was a complete redesign with added features. The smaller, slimmer box now had built-in wireless, the 90nm chipset form the Elite, and more cooling ports, USB ports and the Xbox Kinect; a motion detection controller where the player used their body to control the games.
Competing for dominance in the eighth (and current) console generation, Microsoft released the Latest model: the Xbox One, in 2013. With the newly designed console, players had a larger focus on online content and abilities, included streaming and recording gameplay.
After security concerns and a pre-sale misunderstanding of Digital Rights, the console met all expectations. The ability to connect to Microsoft based computers, Xbox Live and use features such as Xbox Glass, the Xbox 1 became the benchmark for gaming excellence.
However, Microsoft wasn’t done. They created the first off-shoot: Xbox One S, again a slimmer, faster and cooler design. The 2016 design had all of the main components and features of the Xbox One but in a smaller, slimmer and white case.
One year later, Microsoft announced a new project: Project Scorpio. By the End of 2017, everyone knew what the project was, and the final name of the console was given: Xbox One X (XoX).
The XoX is currently the most powerful, most responsive gaming console on the market. With dual 8-core Jaguar processors, dedicated flash memory for the overclocked CPU, and preprocessing chipset, the Xbox one X, is compatible with monitor resolutions, frame rates and high definition settings that haven’t even been released.
While the overall sales still favor longtime favorites Nintendo and Sony, Microsoft concentrates more on gamer enjoyment and state of the art benchmarks that continue to raise the bar. If the console wars keep up, we are in for a very exciting and bright home gaming console future.
Where We Have Come From
As soon as the first Xbox hit the shelves in 2001, Microsoft set a standard in home gaming. Game manufactures clamored at the chance to build games for the platform using the latest and greatest technology.
With these new abilities, games have seen an increase in size, complexity and even cheating. Game codes, and “cheat codes” are not new to console gaming. Button press sequences have been a standard Easter egg since gamers have had buttons to press.
The most famous of which has been nicknamed the Konami Code. The button combination was first discovered in Konami’s hit game: Contra. Everyone that has ever picked up a controller knows the code: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, select (optional), start. In Contra, the code gave you and player two (if you pressed select) 30 lives instead of the default 3.
Now, games come with a code input box on a menu screen. You can unlock game components, such as new weapons, special abilities, extra lives and even new playable characters. Developers place these codes in on purpose for testing, and most stay through the production of the game to be discovered later by the players.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA) by Rockstar Games, is notorious for their cheat codes. In fact, GTA 5 cheat codes are some of the most heavily searched codes online.
Xbox introduced the online community to Xbox Live, a marketplace where players could access updates to their favorite games, downloads, music, events and movies. Over time, vendors of all sorts began making apps for the Xbox Live marketplace, including HBO, Netflix, Pandora and thousands of others.
Streaming live TV, music and videos, as well as games, became the norm. Players also have access to live game content where you can play with or against other live players in your favorite games.
Xbox Live has two accounts; Silver and Gold. The Silver account is a free, and limited account. You will have access to the marketplace, arcade and updates. Some features, such as Microsoft Video, Microsoft Music and Netflix are also available to the Silver accounts. For about $60 a year, you can upgrade to the Gold account where you have full access to all features.
One of the largest perks includes two to four free game downloads per month. Each year, Xbox releases 50 games to be downloaded for free. If you are on an Xbox 360, you get two of the four monthly games, and those on an Xbox One can access all four. For $60 per year, just in the free games alone, you will end up saving over $400.
There are many other perks to having a Gold account as well. Far too many to list here. While the membership isn’t mandatory, it is valuable. So valuable in fact that Sony has introduced their own version, trying to keep up with the standards set by the up and coming console.
Microsoft is relatively new to the console industry. However, with their backing, technology and history, they quickly became a force in the market. With their attention to the player as well as developer roles, the gaming giant has set the bar for what home game consoles should be.
Sony and Nintendo are the only ones able to keep up. Long-standing fan bases of all consoles rally behind their chosen console and create virtual wars against one another, trying to claim the top spot as the best in the business.
While one may not be favored over another for every particular reason, Microsoft has made the industry stand up and take notice, as well as notes. The future of home console gaming will continue to be watched, improved and astounding.
With the big three pushing each other to be better year in and year out, the real winner is the player.