We all know – and have a love-hate relationship with – Microsoft as one of the biggest names in PC operating systems, but in 1998 they decided to branch out a bit. A group of employees pitched an idea to Bill Gates, and subsequently formed Microsoft’s first console team. Their plan was to design a console that would be built like a PC and run on Windows 2000, making the console powerful, flexible, and friendly toward PC game developers. They dubbed their creation the “DirectX Box”, but after testing with focus groups they decided to shorten the name to Xbox.
After announcing their new console at the Game Developers Conference in March of 2000, Microsoft proceeded to bring demonstrations to the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and there they connected with Bungie Studios, creatures of ‘Halo: Combat Evolved’. Soon Microsoft purchased Bungie, and Bungie redesigned Halo from a third-person shooter into a first-person shooter. The Xbox’s most successful exclusive game franchise was born.
At the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show the final design of the Xbox was revealed, and that November the console was finally released. Over 1 million Xbox systems were sold over the following three weeks.
My high school boyfriend was the first person I knew to pick up an Xbox, and I remember the first impression of the console was that it was enormous. The console itself was bigger – and significantly heavier – than any video game console any of us had ever seen, and it quickly became a joke that you could seriously hurt yourself if you knocked it over onto yourself. Apparently we weren’t the only ones to think this, because Xbox controllers were designed with a breakaway cable that would detach if pulled too hard.
To match the ridiculously large console, the Xbox also had ridiculously larger controllers. I can remember wondering what they’d been thinking when they designed it, because if a teenager had a hard time wrapping her hands around this monster, there was no way that any kids were going to be able to reach half the buttons.
But despite the fact that it seems like I’m ragging on the Xbox, it was definitely a huge deal when it was released. I mentioned in a previous “A-to-Z” post that my friends and I used to play tons of ‘Halo’ matches back in the day, piled in the aforementioned boyfriend’s basement. Later, when my future husband and I moved in together with two of our friends, I ordered a used Xbox on Ebay and it became a staple of our gaming lives.
Microsoft went on, of course, to design and release the Xbox 360 in November of 2005, and we ended up picking up this console as well. Over time the hubby and I gravitated more toward the Sony consoles because Microsoft’s model seemed to begin leaning toward dude-bro gaming (i.e. nothing but multiplayer first-person-shooters), but we had lots of good times with the 360 as well. In particular I fondly recall playing the Gears of War games together, with only a minimal amount of kicking and screaming at each other.
This past Christmas I also picked up the newest Microsoft console, the unfortunately named Xbox One (seriously, how many unaware parents and grandparents do you think are going to be screwed up by the third system being named the ‘One’?). Thus far we are not terribly impressed (what is with the online store? You can’t actually search for what you’re looking for!) but I suppose that’s not really fair since we haven’t actually played much on the system yet. Maybe it will turn out to be awesome, but right now I’m going to keep memories of ‘Halo’ and ‘Gears of War’ in my mind and pretend that Microsoft didn’t try to make their most powerful game console yet look like it runs on a tablet OS.
What is your history with Microsoft’s gaming consoles? Did you have an original XBox? Have you picked up a One? What do you think of them? What are your favorite Microsoft-exclusive games? Please share!
Enjoying the A to Z Challenge? Why not check out some of these other participating blogs?