100 Moments That Defined Xbox
To celebrate X360’s milestone 100th issue we’re taking you on a journey through time and space as we chart the Xbox’s back room beginnings at Microsoft, the battles with Sony’s PlayStation 2 and its eventual transformation from games console to all in one entertainment system with the Xbox One.
Xbox In 1999
100) Are You Talking To Me?
March 1999, Sony boss Ken Kutaragi announces the PlayStation 2 to the world’s press, and in the process claims that the company was on a mission to kill PC gaming. Bad idea. Why? Microsoft took notice. And so it begins…
99) The X-Men
Ted Hase, Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley and Otto Berkes begin a project known as DirectX Box on paper. According to console lore, the foursome are believed to be the original founders of what would eventually turn out to be Microsoft’s black box, the Xbox.
98) There Can Only Be One
The team discover that DirectX Box is under threat from another internal console project, WebTV. What sealed the deal and inched DirectX Box forward was the promise of introducing Windows to the living room. Months later Windows was shelved.
Xbox In 2000
97) Name Change
DirectX Box is shorted to Xbox during development for convenience. Microsoft’s marketing team desperately try to convince the team to alter it, carrying out multiple marketing surveys to find alternative names. Xbox wins every time.
96) Let Me Show You Something
Bill Gates leads the way by taking to the stage and announcing the console’s existence to the public at the Game Developer’s Conference 2000 in March.
95) Looks Familiar
At E3 in the City of Angels that same year Microsoft peels back the curtain on a brand new title in development for PC – Halo: Combat Evolved. Interestingly, at this point the game is actually a third person shooter. Wait, what?
Xbox In 2001
94) Vegas, Baby!
January 2001, Bill Gates takes to the stage once more at the Consumer Electronics Show to unveil the final console design to the world, only this time he had a partner in tow: The Rock. It was horrible. Rubbish double act aside the Xbox was now out for everyone to see.
93) Hey, Fatty
Remember the original Xbox Controller, or Fatty, or The Duke, or whatever the hell it was called? We do, that’s why we’re dropping into our 100 Moments The Defined Xbox. It was ugly, and awkward to boot.
92) Launch Plans
E3 time again and Microsoft finally unveiled the machine’s launch details. The US would get it first for the tidy sum of $299, followed by Japan and Europe in early 2002. Cue much excitement in the land of videogames.
91) We Have Lift Off
Hooray! Xbox launches on US soil on 15 November 2001, shifting over one million consoles in just three weeks and firmly establishing Microsoft’ presence in this, the sixth generation, console race.
Alongside the US launch of the console, another milestone in Microsoft history is reached with the arrival of Master Chief in Halo: Combat Evolved. A gaming icon is born. Oh, and it was now a first person shooter.
89) Moral Support
With the Xbox now out, game publishers and developers around the world rally together to congratulate Microsoft for becoming the best-selling videogame console launch on record at the time after just two weeks.
Xbox In 2002
88) Live In Three, Two, One
Xbox Live launches and over 150,000 Xbox owners sign up in the first week to take advantage of Microsoft’s online gaming service. What Microsoft didn’t know was that Xbox Live would inadvertently give every annoying person the world over the chance to be even more annoying – practically anonymously.
87) Tough Crowd
February 2002, Xbox launches in Japan and with it the Controller S. Unfortunately the machine failed to have much of an impact on the Japanese market considering the staggering popularity of Sony’s PlayStation 2. Boo.
86) Xbox in the UK
Xbox launches in the UK and the rest of Europe. The machine is far too overpriced according to consumers. Microsoft responds in record time by slashing the RRP and offering early adopters free games. Awesome.
85) Hello, Sexy
With the launch of the Controller S in Japan, European and US gamers soon began importing the nifty (and more comfortable) controller, which forced Microsoft to release the pad outside of Japan. It would eventually replace the original fat controller.
84) Expensive, But Worth It
So, Xbox finally landed and Microsoft somehow managed to get its foot in the door of the lucrative console business without losing it. But at an estimated cost of $2 billion it wasn’t cheap.
83) Rare Deal
$375 million – that’s a lot of money and the figure for which Microsoft paid to acquire Brit developer Rare, who had conquered the gaming world with classic titles such as Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct and the mighty GoldenEye 007.
82) Hoorah For Halo
Look, it’s Master Chief again. He’ll be popping up a lot in our countdown. In April of 2002 Microsoft announced to the world Bungie’s legendary sci-fishooter had shipped a sizeable 1 million units, the fastest of its generation (for a short time, anyway).
81) Get Connected
Microsoft knew that it needed something else to truly differentiate its machine from Sony’s behemoth and connectivity was its answer. Revealed at E3 2002 by Ed Fries, Microsoft announced the existence of a little something called Xbox Live.
80) Something’s Afoot
Plans were now underway for a successor to the Xbox. Yes, really. J Allard, who played a major hand in developing Xbox Live, formed a small team that began crafting an outline for the Trinity Project, which would later be renamed Xenon and eventually Xbox 360.
79) E is for Eric
Eric Neustadter to be exact. He also happens to be the owner of the world’s first registered gamertag. Who is Eric Neustadter? Why he’s the Xbox Live operations manager, of course and co-host of the Major Nelson Radio podcast.
78) Hello Again
The world goes bananas when Halo 2 is officially showcased to the masses complete with kickass trailer. You know, the one where Masterchief skydives from space? That one. Cue feverish speculation.
Xbox In 2003
77) Dragons And Stuff
As part of deal with Sega, 2003 saw the release of the awesome Panzer Dragoon: Orta. It looked beautiful, played even better and is probably one of the best shooters on the original Xbox.
76) Moore Is More
At the outset of 2003 development on Xbox 360 was in full swing with former Dreamcast America boss man, Peter Moore, joining the team to help push forward its plans for the machine.
75) Happy Birthday
Xbox celebrates its first birthday in the halls of Microsoft with a cake, party poppers and a lone candle. At least that’s what we suspect happened when the machine turned one. We feel old thinking about that now.
74) Green Machine
Do you remember the green translucent Xbox? We do, because we bought it. We didn’t need to, but we did. It was released to celebrate Xbox’s first birthday and identical to debug in the hands of developers.
73) Feel The Force
Arguably the greatest Star Wars game of all time, Knights Of The Old Republic launched on the machine during the summer of 2003, cementing BioWare’s reputation as the finest RPG developer out there.
72) What Do We Call It?
While the tech bods were beavering away on Microsoft’s new machine, the company was reaching out to the public in search of a suitable moniker for its Xbox successor. Bandied names included Xbox 247, Xbox 2, Xbox E and Xbox HD.
71) New Suit
In 2003 Microsoft hired industrial designer, Jonathan Hayes. His job was to cook up a brand new look for the Xenon because the company felt that the original machine was too ugly. It was, but we didn’t tell it that because we didn’t want to hurt its feelings.
70) Double Team
Hayes began sourcing designs from all over the world, eventually settling on two companies, one from San Francisco, and another from Japan. The companies were paired up and tasked with creating the final shell design.
69) Be Kind, Rewind
Another gaming classic arrives on Xbox, the amazing Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time, a reboot of the landmark videogame from Jordan Mechner. It also featured the brilliantly inventive rewind game mechanic.
68) Big Numbers
Microsoft wrapped up the year by announcing that Xbox had shipped well over 13 million units to all corners of the world since launch. Not a bad start, but it was still trailing behind Nintendo and Sony.
Xbox In 2004
67) Let’s All Play
The start of 2004 was a landmark moment for Xbox Live because it launched globally and was now available in over 14 European countries with 750,000 members under its belt.
66) Sliced And Diced
March 2004 was a good month for Xbox when it heralded the arrival of Ryu Hayabusa in the tough as nails Ninja Gaiden. After five years in development, the hack-n’-slash belter was solidly received and ushered in a series of online contests that wracked up record breaking numbers across Xbox Live.
65) Arcade Games
In May of 2004 at Microsoft’s E3 press conference the company officially announced the Xbox Live Arcade service. Its purpose would be to deliver smaller, downloadable games from both major and indie publishers.
64) It’s In The Game
Another big announcement at E3 – and a defining moment for Xbox Live – came when EA made the decision to bring all of its games online for Xbox. It was done in style too, with Muhammad Ali and a line-up of superstar athletes taking to the stage to make it official.
63) 1 Million Members
That’s how many gamers had signed up to Xbox Live by September 2004. The service, a gamble of sorts for Microsoft, was taking the world by storm. In fact, it was seen as the fastest growing online service of any kind at the time.
62) Pitch Black
Do you remember the first time you clapped eyes on Starbreeze’s Pitch Black tie-in, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay? We do, and we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Butcher Bay was a film tie-in that didn’t suck and plays well even by today’s standards.
61) Number Two
By now Xbox was really gaining traction and thanks to the success of Xbox Live and a series of astonishing games it snatched second place in the console race from under Nintendo’s nose.
60) Birth Of The Blockbuster
Halo 2 launched on 9 November 2004 becoming the highest grossing release in entertainment history, pulling in a staggering $125 million in first day sales. It was also the most played game on Xbox Live for the next two years.
59) Merry Xmas
December saw Xbox Live Arcade launch on the original Xbox. Publishers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, releasing a slew of classic games including Ms. Pac-Man, Gauntlet and Smash TV.
Xbox In 2005
…Million! That’s how many Xbox’s had shipped in Europe at the outset of 2005. The console was now firmly established in the homes of gamers on this side of the pond.
57) Epic News
In 2005 Microsoft signed a deal with developers for two Gears Of War games. Details of the deal are still under wraps but this would be the birthing of one of the biggest and bloodiest gaming franchises in Xbox history.
56) Vroom, Vroom
3 May 2005 was the day the very first Forza Motorsport arrived on Xbox complete with lashing of praise, loads of cars, eye-popping visuals and bombastic online race battles.
55) We Got Wood
Elijah Wood to be exact, on the telly, showing off the Xbox 360 to the world for the very first time. It was an interesting move for Microsoft because it was right before E3. Sadly there were no Hobbits in sight.
54) Grubbed Up
Remember that deal we said Microsoft struck with Epic? Well it was time for Gears Of War to show its face and E3 was the chosen venue to do just that. Remember how good it looked back then?
53) E3 Madness
Xbox 360 was now in full swing, unveiled to the public for the first time in person. At the event Microsoft promised a next generation experience and a lofty line-up of launch games.
52) Shut It Down
Production on Xbox 360 was in full swing at factories in China, but according to numerous sources an employee at one of the locations called for building of the machines to be ceased when he found a serious flaw that was affecting a large number of machines. What was it? Keep reading.
51) It’s Here
November saw the launch of Xbox 360 in the US and Canada. UK and European gamers would get it in December just in time for the big red guy’s arrival. The launch line-up included Condemned: Criminal Origins, Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark Zero and Project Gotham Racing 3.
50) Let’s Go To The Market
The Xbox Live Marketplace to be exact. It launched at the same time as the console, offering up a stack of demos, game and movie trailers as well as lots of other downloadable goodies.
Xbox In 2006
49) Download, Then Download Some More
Microsoft proved that great things do come in small packages by revealing how many downloads have been made across Xbox Live Arcade. The answer? Three million. We like to think we contributed a little to that in our time.
48) Into Oblivion
How many hours did you sink into Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion? We lost count, but we’re pretty sure it began in March when Bethesda launched its powerhouse RPG. About a month later we lost count. Hooray for elves and magic spells.
47) Reveal Me
It’s E3 time again in our 100 Moments That Defined Xbox. That means another massive announcement in the form of Master Chief’s Xbox 360 debut, Halo 3. Remember the trailer? Go check it out on YouTube if you don’t.
46) Red Ring Of Death
There were tales of Microsoft’s console overheating and shutting down on some users, but it wasn’t until May of 2006 that the Red Ring Of Death issue was brought to the public’s attention when Massachusetts man, Chris Szarek, revealed that he had gone through four different machines in six months.
45) I See You
On a lighter note September 2006 also saw the launch of the Xbox Live Vision camera, which allowed gamers to conduct video chat across Xbox Live. We also suspect they were doing other things but we can’t print that here. We’re not that kind of magazine, see?
44) Movie Time
Xbox Live marketplace video store launched this year and with it a meaty selection of flicks to chew on in between playing games and insulting gamers to their face via Xbox Live Vision camera.
43) Here Come The Gears
Gears of War launches across the world. Epic’s first foray into the realm of Marcus Fenix and his team of muscle bound troopers proved to be a hit. It also knocked Halo 2 off the top spot as the most played online game on Xbox 360.
42) Unwelcome Return
The Red Ring of Death continued to rear its ugly head when it was reported that over nine per cent of Xbox 360 consoles had been returned. The issue was becoming a serious problem and in fewer than twelve months it would explode in Microsoft’s face.
Xbox In 2007
41) Crime Wars
2007 was a fantastic year for games on Xbox 360 and Realtime Worlds kicked it off with the legendary Crackdown. Hands up who took the time to climb to the tallest point in Pacific City and hurl a car from it?
Microsoft felt the Xbox 360 needed an upgrade and this is what we got: Xbox 360 Elite. It looked better under our TV than the original machine and packed plenty of storage space thanks to a 120GB hard drive.
39) War Is Hell
Call Of Duty was already a heavy hitter in the FPS genre, but when Infinity Ward decided to reboot the series for Modern Warfare it set the genre on fire with its bombastic set pieces and benchmark setting multiplayer. Things have never been the same.
38) We Give Up
In 2007 Microsoft finally threw its hands up and admitted defeat at the hands of the Red Ring of Death at a cost of $1.2 billion. All warranties were extended up to three years, while money was reimbursed to anyone who paid for repairs. All was well in the world again.
37) Making Holes
While Valve’s The Orange Box may have placed Half-Life 2 front and centre it was the short but simply remarkable Portal that stole the show. It also introduced the world to one of gaming’s finest villains: GLaDOS.
36) Hollywood Move Over
Halo 3 launched and it was a whopper, sucking up over $170 million on day one before adding another $130 million by the end of the week. At the time it surpassed the takings of any other Hollywood entertainment property.
35) Welcome To Rapture
It would be impossible not to include BioShock on this list. It introduced Xbox gamers to Big Daddies, featured one of the most captivating game worlds to date and completely clobbered us with that jaw-dropping ending.
34) Space Opera
2007 was the year that Commander Shepard introduced himself to Xbox 360 owners in the sprawling sci-fiopus, Mass Effect. And once again it proved that BioWare was un-paralleled when it came to conjuring RPGs.
Xbox In 2008
33) Bye, Bye
Did you know that Madden NFL 09 was the last ever game released on the original Xbox? Well, now you do. In fact, it was the only game released on the Xbox in 2008.
32) Big Deal
Grand Theft Auto IV shipped in 2008 on Xbox 360, kicking off a year of heavy hitters. Alongside the gong-grabbing full game, there were the GTA IV Episodes, timed exclusives that Microsoft reportedly paid up to $75 million to snare.
31) Natal Is Born
It was during a meeting in 2008 that an internally developed piece of hardware known as Natal, would be green lit. This particular piece of kit would eventually go on to become Kinect.
30) Blown Away
In 2008 Jonathan Blow released Braid. It blindsided everyone, delivering an innovative and absorbing experience that would transform the enigmatic Blow into a bit of star on the indie gaming scene.
Or the New Xbox Experience transformed the old blades interface into something glossier and easier to get to grips with if you were new to the system. Microsoft was taking steps to transform the machine into something more akin to an entertainment system than a games machine.
28) It’s Me!
The New Xbox Experience also heralded the arrival of the Avatar, developed by the team at Rare Studios, and could be customised to the hilt with all kinds of costumes and gear.
27) Another Bug Hunt
Gears of War 2 launches and quickly smashes Xbox Live records by harnessing one million concurrent players during the game’s first weekend on sale. Were you one of them? We were.
Xbox In 2009
26) Motion Madness
E3 2009 saw Microsoft finally unveil Project Natal to the masses. Natal, a motion-sensing camera was a bold move for the company and billed as a direct competitor to Nintendo’s family friendly juggernaut, the Wii.
25) Meet Milo
Alongside lifting the curtain on Natal, E3 2009 also saw Lionhead demonstrate a tech demo for Project Milo. Despite the fact it began life as a testing ground for emotional AI, Milo was mooted as a full game, but never saw the light of day. Good. It freaked us out.
24) What’s On?
For the first time in console history live TV became available to Xbox 360 users courtesy of Sky Player. The nifty app streamed an entire roster of channels directly to the machine including its movie and sports channel packages. The world got lazier.
23) We Are Social
Social networking is going to play a huge part in the next console race, but in November of 2009 Microsoft took the first steps to ensure that with the integration of Twitter, Facebook and last.fm into the dashboard. Consoles would never be the same.
22) Modern Warfare Takes Over
When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 smashed its way onto shelves it signalled the arrival of Activision’s now annual mega-launch. Shifting 4.7 million copies on its first day, Infinity Ward’s super shooter became the second highest selling videogame of all time.
21) I’m Batman
Nobody expected Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum to be as good as it was, but with its brilliant blend of storytelling, combat, sleuthing and super villains, Arkham Asylum proved that Batman could finally carry a game.
Xbox In 2010
20) No Longer Live
Remember Live on the original Xbox? Some of us here in the office didn’t even realise it was still up and running in 2010. Apparently it was, and it was during this year that Microsoft finally pulled the plug on it. An era ends.
19) Natal Renamed
It was a ballsy move on Microsoft’s behalf to rename Project Natal as Kinect so late in the game, but it worked and at E3 2010 the world bore witness to the arrival of the future of game control according to the publisher.
18) The S Series
The S series shipped on the same day as the E3 press conference with a chunky 250 GB hard drive and built-in Wi-Fi. It was very pretty indeed and we all bought one. Well, this writer did.
17) Going Mobile
Xbox Live launched on Windows Mobile in 2010, allowing gamers to keep track of friends’ Achievements, see what they were playing and dabble in a little gaming on the move too.
16) It’s A Transformer
The D-Pad has always been a sticking point for Xbox 360 owners. Microsoft finally addressed that in 2010 with a brand new controller that was also a Transformer. Well, not quite but it did have a D-Pad that combined the disc and cross-shaped designs.
Microsoft turned gamers into controllers with the launch of Kinect. The nifty piece of kit went on to sell over ten million units and became the ‘fastest selling consumer electronics device ever’ according to the boffins at the Guinness Book of Records.
Xbox In 2011
14) Goodbye, Marcus
Gears of War 3 was far and away the most tightly scripted of the trilogy delivering a finale that offered some genuine closure into Marcus’ sweeping narrative that began back in 2005.
13) Love Letter
2011 saw Halo: Combat Evolved celebrate its tenth anniversary. What better way to do that than with a masterfully reworked version of the original Xbox blockbuster from 2001? 343 Industries was at the helm, flexing its muscles before the arrival of Halo 4 in 2012.
12) Another Makeover
The dashboard got the makeover treatment yet again, and with it came a slew of TV content providers, full Kinect integration, Bing voice search and, shortly after, YouTube. At this point there was very little difference between a set top box and the Xbox 360.
11) Giving Thanks
In November of 2011 – after seven years on shelves – the Xbox 360 experienced its best ever week of sales. The console shipped a staggering 960,000 units during the week of Black Friday in the US.
Xbox In 2012
10) This Is The End
The end of Commander Shepard’s saga that is, and what a bang he went out with in Mass Effect 3. BioWare not only delivered an extraordinary final chapter in its space saga, it also enraged an entire fan base and was forced to modify the ending post release – Internet 1 BioWare 0.
9) We’re Leaking
In 2012 rumours ran rampant about Xbox 360’s successor. First it was the GPU processor, then documents found their way on the web in the middle of June and a development kit sold for $20,000 on eBay. The world knew it was in development, but Microsoft continued to deny its existence.
8) A Disturbance In The Force
Kinect Star Wars destroyed a million childhood memories with its bizarre dancing mini-games that saw a handful of Stormtroopers, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian boogie to a myriad of modern pop tracks. No need.
7) Subsidise Me
In a bid to get as many Xbox 360s into living rooms across America Microsoft launched the $99 Xbox 360 and Kinect, which came bundled with a two-year Xbox Live Gold contract. The move appeared to have paid off with the company launching additional bundles containing 250GB models with or without Kinect.
6) Halo Again
The Master Chief returned to Xbox 360 in Halo 4 with 343 Industries at the helm after Bungie’s decision to concentrate on bringing Destiny to the multiplatform masses. The results were nothing short of spectacular and a new trilogy was born.
5) Being A SmartGlass
Microsoft’s SmartGlass application was announced at E3 2012, cleverly encroaching on Nintendo’s Wii U territory. Simply put it enabled users with mobile devices to interact with their consoles and games like never before.
Xbox In 2013
4) Illuminate Your Room
Illumiroom is a staggeringly brilliant slice of tech that uses Kinect and a projector to take what’s happening on your TV and extend onto any surface in your living room. Honestly, it’s quite astonishing but it’s still in its early days. That said, we expect it to play a major role in the future of Xbox.
First it was the Xbox 720, then word leaked that internally the project was working under the moniker, Durango, before the International Business Times claimed the machine was now called Xbox Infinity. The name game was a fun one to play.
2) Join Us
‘A New Generation Revealed’ is what the invite read and it sets tongues wagging across the world. After what felt like an eternity of rumour, speculation and leaks, Don Mattrick and the Xbox team were finally ready to show us what they had been tinkering away on.
1) Xbox One
On 21 May 2012 at a packed venue on the Microsoft campus in Washington Don Mattrick, president of the company’s Interactive Entertainment Business revealed to the gaming press the firm’s third console, the Xbox One.
Billed as “the ultimate, all in one home entertainment system” the Xbox One doesn’t require an always-online connection as has been wildly rumoured on the Internet for months now, and packs in an astonishing amount of horsepower that, according to Mattrick, is “built to amaze on day one”. It did, and despite some confusion surrounding the idea of used games and fees, as well as an overabundance of TV related content and lack of actual games, the Xbox One still managed to impress.
Under its hood, the machine packs in an AMD processor eight times faster than Xbox 360, 8GB of RAM, a chunky 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray player with 4K output, gigabit Ethernet and a proprietary wireless protocol crafted specifically to reduce latency. Confused by all the tech talk? Don’t be. Essentially, the Xbox One is a Super PC, a technological monster that’s going to stay nestled in your living room or bedroom for a long time according to Microsoft, who claims to have built a future proof machine that can adapt with the shifting sands of time in the game world.
Alongside the particularly chunkier new box (ten per cent lager in size than the original Xbox 360), Xbox One also comes packing a revamped HD Kinect, which runs at 1080p and a speedy 60 frames per second. Mix in a redesigned controller complete with rumbling triggers and an HDMI port on the back of the box that lets you plug in your existing set-top box and you’ve got yourself a big black box that does just about everything.
A new generation is born. Get in line.