Xbox Turns 10
10 years ago the Xbox launched. I wanted to take a moment to just talk about how the console started, and what it became.
10 years ago the Microsoft entered the console gaming market with the X-Box (remember when it had a dash and a capitol B?). It launched with very few games, a giant controller, and no online service. What it did have was promise.
I said at the time (and continue to say) that the smartest thing that Microsoft did with the Xbox (I’m not calling it the X-Box) was build in Direct X. It made porting games from the PC easy and it was more likely that companies would develop games for the new platform.
The other smart thing they did was include an ethernet port. In 2001 high speed interent was nowhere near as wide spread as today. Most people had dialup modems. My house had only recently upgraded to 56k and installed a dedicated phone line for the internet. That was a big deal. And the thought broadband internet was one that we didn’t dwell on for long.
The Xbox didn’t launch with Live (that happened later) but the potential was there. Microsoft knew what they wanted, they knew what the shelf life of their product was going to be (5 years), and they knew how fast technology moved. By including an ethernet port they were saying that they were serious about bringing online gaming to consoles… it was just going to have to wait a bit.
(Last paragraph about the ethernet port, promise.) The other thing the ethernet port did was allow developers to include multiplayer. A 50 dollar ethernet switch was all you needed to hook up multiple consoles and play Halo (their premier launch title). In college often had multiple Xbox’s and TV’s in my dorm room (a 3 bedroom suite). We soon discovered that the whole building (wired with a T1 line) was one giant local network and we could play Halo against people on other floors. This was only a year after launch, and it blew our minds.
Microsoft caught a lot of flack for the size of the system and controllers. And really the controllers were giant (so giant. I can’t really stress how large and uncomfortable to use they were). For those who don’t remember Penny Arcade serves as a great time capsule:
The Rest Of The Story is particularly brilliant because main point the comic isn’t about the size of the Xbox, it’s just in the peripheral, always present. They’re sitting on the Xbox… using it as a couch. That speaks volumes.
But they got over it. The first Xbox saw the introduction of a music player, HDD’s, Xbox Live and the Arcade. The last two ideas that have become synonymous with the Xbox brand. They were perfectly positioned to launch their followup console, the 360. All of the ideas that we come to love in the 360 started with the first Xbox.
Happy Birthday, Xbox.
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