Microsoft is not new to games. In every iteration of their computer Operating Systems they have always added games for people to pass the time with. When the 6th generation of home consoles was at its height, Microsoft released their first home console: Xbox. The major competitors being Sony and Nintendo, the Xbox soon became a console to take notice of.
With a library of games that rivaled any competition in terms of value, game play and graphics abilities, the Xbox original set the bar for future consoles. Microsoft hasn’t looked back since.
It All Started With…
In the late 1990s, Sony and Nintendo were rivals putting out fantastic games to go along with their high selling consoles. When Sony launched the PlayStation 2, Microsoft stepped in to attempt to claim the crown. The Xbox was born and released in November of 2001.
Even though the Xbox was over a year late, the initial sales rivaled all other consoles on the market. Microsoft quickly became a force in the market and only Sony and Nintendo were able to keep up. Even though the PS2 has out sold every other console, ever, the Xbox was here to stay.
Microsoft backed their play with an ever-growing library of highly profitable games. With notable titles like Halo: Combat Evolved and Project Gotham Racing, players were never left without top-tier titles. The Xbox quickly amassed a cult following of devoted players.
Xbox Went Live
One of the most notable features of the console was the ability to connect to Microsoft servers online through the use of an Ethernet cable. With an account, you could play games online, download extra content for your current games and play against others.
Even though the service was free, it was still in its infancy. Xbox Live for the original Xbox grew in popularity and when the successor console, the Xbox 360 was released, many players demanded that Microsoft keep the original console servers online.
Microsoft did as they were asked. The Xbox Live servers supported the original game system until April of 2010. There are still efforts to this day to continue playing original Xbox games online. Some developers have ported systems to play with each other without the use of the Microsoft servers, but nothing official from Microsoft is in the works.
The Game Library Grows
Even with the release of the Xbox 360 in 2005 (which was the first 7th generation console) Microsoft and their partners continued to release games for the original system for another two years.
In the six-year run of the original Xbox, the gaming library grew from five Launch Day titles to 1048 titles. Some of these titles were region specific and not released worldwide, however, the library was still impressive in terms of titles and genres.
Xbox revitalized the RPG genre that was solely marketed through the PlayStation and its ownership of the Final Fantasy franchise. Xbox countered by convincing Bethesda to continue the Elder Scrolls series by cross-platform means with the Microsoft OS and the Xbox.
The partnership grew and expanded to all computer systems and all major consoles including PlayStation. Bethesda released three new games because of the partnership with Xbox and had grown into the genre’s Juggernaut.
Xbox didn’t stop there. The Halo series turned the First Person Shooter genre on its head and left game creators and the competition alike, stunned. Arguably the most successful FPS series ever produced, Halo has continued to be the console’s flagship title, creating spin-off games, one-off titles and a library of limited edition games, consoles and peripherals.
With the library of compelling games at its disposal, the Xbox took a once stagnant gaming community and turned it into a loyal following. With manufacturers and game designers once again excited to create something truly fresh and unique.
Other titles were spawned and equally as fantastic. The Fable series is an Xbox exclusive made by Lionhead Studios, owned by Microsoft. However, the rebirth of genres is only the start of what the original Xbox was able to do for home gaming.
Better Performance Leads to Better Games
When the Xbox was released to the public, many players were skeptical because they were so used to what gaming was at the time. It didn’t seem possible to improve much on what was already working.
The Xbox changed what games could do. Using their knowledge of computers and turning their game console into a computer that played games, the limits began to lift. Frame rates increased, memory made games faster and high-grade computer components meant games could be processed with better graphics and better depth.
What the players didn’t know at the time was that the game manufacturers were excited at the new possibilities and began building games that not only met the consoles high capabilities but exceeded them.
This forced the Xbox to continue to improve the console’s capabilities, continuing the cycle today.
Debut Not Without Setbacks
When the Xbox was released, there was some ridicule and concerns over the actual usefulness of the box. The overall dimensions of the console itself were not only scrutinized but so were the size of the old Xbox controllers.
The console was huge. People would make comics and take images of them using it as a booster seat, a step stool or other non-gaming uses. The box was heavy, cumbersome and loud. The fans and cooling system along with the high-speed disc drive cause many to complain about the noise from the box.
One of the largest concerns though was the size of the console’s controllers. The old Xbox controllers were thick, weighted and over double the size of those of their competitors.
However, the controllers ended up being a hit, even if slightly too big. They actually fit in all sized hands with the buttons in easy reach for those with smaller hands as well as larger. The ergonomic controllers were large, but they fought hand fatigue and increased the length of time players could sit and control a game.
Several companies, including MadCatz, produced controllers for the console that was smaller. Xbox even admitted they might have gone too far and released a new controller a year later: The S Controller. It had a new button layout and was noticeably thinner, lighter and smaller.
Nintendo and Sony were forced into early production to keep up with the Xbox abilities. However, Microsoft was already working well ahead of the curve. The Xbox 360 was being produced and ready to go on sale in mid-2005. It was the first console to be released in the 7th generation of console gaming followed by the Sony PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii.
Sony pushed production of the PS3 and was released to underwhelming standards. The Xbox, however, continued to raise the bar of home consoles. Only the Wii sold more units. Nintendo had introduced a novelty of a gaming system to get players up and moving to interact with their games.
Microsoft soon caught up and released peripherals that included the Kinect, a camera-based controller that mapped the player using their body movements as the controller. The original Xbox continued to have sales and support and many gamers kept the Xbox, with online players increasing deep into 2006.
Now that the 8th generation consoles have been released, Xbox is stronger than ever. Still, in major competition with Sony and Nintendo, the Xbox One competes with the PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. However, with the release of Project Scorpio, the Xbox One X has become the most powerful gaming console ever made.
That’s A Wrap
When Microsoft released the Xbox original in 2001, there were skeptics and adversities abound. Those doubts were quickly hushed backed by high performance and attention to details. Microsoft was able to create a home gaming console that could do more than compete with the big names in the industry; it could take over.
No longer were gamers stuck with limited options and dying titles. With Xbox pushing through the pack, attempting to take the crown, new titles, new publishers and new gamers found a reason to find joy in a home console again.
Not only did Xbox make a name for itself, but it also forced the industry to create better games, bigger and better systems and give more to the players. Online activities and extra content downloads that were unheard of were suddenly a high priority.
Because of Xbox Live, game creators could push games out faster and update any issues, add content and keep the games playable for longer periods of time.
Microsoft didn’t settle. Constantly pushing the market for more and demanding better, Xbox keeps pushing the envelope if what is possible for home game consoles. As we eagerly enjoy what we have now, we also keep an eye on what tomorrow brings, hoping for the impossible. If Xbox has its way, that is exactly what we will receive.