Today marks an important milestone for Microsoft, as its second gaming console, the Xbox 360, turns ten years old. The current successor, the Xbox One, also launched exactly two years ago as of today. The gaming industry has massively changed over this ten-year period, with technology becoming a core part of our lives, and shaping around society. We take a brief look at the console's launch, and the events that made the device unique.
The Xbox 360 is regarded as one of the most influential consoles to date, and has undoubtedly left its mark on the gaming industry. The Xbox brand has moved on from this period since, but trails of Microsoft’s iconic best-selling console are still present in their upcoming projects.
The Xbox 360 was revealed in early 2005, and was scheduled to release to the public later that year. The console shipped in two different SKUs, with the option of a 256MB base model, or a upgraded unit boasting a 20GB hard drive. Both models shipped with a single wireless controller, which became the norm for subsequent releases. The console was built for the growing popularity of online services, and after the positive reception of Xbox Live’s launch in 2002, online functionality became a primary feature of the console. While a SKU with an in-built network adapter didn’t arrive until 2010, an external networking adapter was sold separately, and could be fitted to a pre-determined notch on the console's outer-casing.
The console saw great reception, and soon sold out across all markets (except for Japan). The console also gained a high re-sale value online, and become a scarce unit to get ahold of.
A vast collection of games
The console released alongside eighteen launch titles, and while many of these are not seen as revolutionary projects, classics such as Perfect Dark: Zero and Call of Duty 2 were among the bestsellers at launch. It wasn’t until 2007 where the game’s library drastically expanded, and we saw hit classics such as Halo 3, Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed hit shelves. Currently there are almost 1,200 Xbox 360 games out in the wild.
The red plague
While the Xbox 360 was a global success, major hardware issues plagued the early years of the platform. Various technical problems were signaled by a combination of light codes, displayed around the console’s power indicator. While in everyday use, these LEDs would be used to display the number of connected controllers, the ‘Red Ring of Death’ would appear when a hardware error occurred. These technical issues sometimes rendered Xbox 360 consoles unusable, and resulted in a large consumer outcry. Despite an extended manufacturers warranty and a fix issued to all future units, this still became an infamous issue with the Xbox 360.
In the midst of the 21st century, the debate over physical high definition video media was underway, with Blu-ray and HD DVD looking to take the crown. While Blu-ray is now the preferred medium, the Xbox 360 attempted to legitimize the use of HD DVD, via an external tray released one year after the console's launch. The tray followed the similar stylized look of the Xbox 360 consoles made available at launch.
A world of motion
While the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 captured the hearts of ‘hardcore’ gamers, the Nintendo Wii saw massive sales figures around the same period, providing unmatched motion controls in the home, at a relatively low price point. Microsoft introduced their Kinect motion device, which used nothing but a camera and various sensors as an input. This eliminated the need for a physical controller, and while it had its downsides, was a great proof of concept, that would be developed later down the line. Both Microsoft and Sony attempted the Wii's success through later implementations, which soon fell flat and lost a majority of support.
A new look
Over the Xbox 360's lifetime, three vastly different user interfaces were offered, eventually converging to a cleaner, modern look. The console shipped with the classic 'blades' operating system, which featured various colored tabs, cycled to display different content. The Next Xbox Experience was a later successor, and replaced the dated blades system with an Xbox 'Guide', giving fast access to common features in a dedicated overlay. This brought massive improvements in speed, efficiency and overall stability of the console. When Microsoft's Kinect motion sensor landed on the console, a Metro-style interface was put into place, mimicking the tiles of the Windows 8 PC operating system. This style of user interface was later used by the Xbox One.
It's amazing to think that a whole ten years have passed since I picked up an Xbox 360, and to look back at the memories I have formed over the ten year period. After growing up alongside the console, the platform means a lot more to me than average folk. The past years have left their mark, and hopefully its successor shall follow in its footsteps.