The Xbox. Who could’ve predicted that after the rise and fall of so many gaming systems in the 80s and 90s that Xbox would remain a stalwart at the top of the sales charts after its release in 01?
In fact, the future of this console still looks bright, despite coming in third in forecast worldwide sales for 2019, behind the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation, according to the most recent Global Game Console Market Forecast.
While ‘true’ gamers are those that sit behind mighty powerful PCs into the small hours of the morning, Xbox opened up the console market both to hardcore LAN gamers, quick to jump onto the console’s networking capabilities, as well as casual gamers who wanted a bit of action or adventure in their lives.
Today we take a look back to Xbox’s not so humble beginnings, to see just how far this seemingly unstoppable gaming console has become.
2001: An Xbox odyssey
It’s been close to 20 years since the release of the original Xbox console. Back then, it was a significantly different time in gaming console history. PlayStation, a Sony console, now considered the neck-and-neck competitor to Xbox, had been around for a staggering 7 years, after a 1994 release of the very first model. A couple of short years after the Playstation’s release, it was already outstripping sales of its main competitor at the time, the Sega Saturn.
Playstation was a pioneer in the market, opening up the ecosystem to third-party developers, instead of the closed systems that proliferated at the time, like the Saturn and the Nintendo 64.
By the time 2001 rolled around, Playstation had already launched a new backward compatible model, the PS2, which proved to be the dominant console of the year. However, a new entrant had come to market: Microsoft’s Xbox.
The idea behind the original Xbox was to build a sixth-generation gaming console similar in power and graphical ability to the PC. Built on Microsoft’s DirectX, it was the company’s first try at a video game console. With a mammoth market lead on the personal computing front, it seemed a logical step f to be able to bring an excellent console to the game, regardless of the relative saturation of the market.
One of the most important pre-launch moves made by Xbox was securing Halo for the console’s flagship game, a game that goes down in the annals of history, with the franchise not only continuing on to this day but breaking records and winning a boatload of awards along the way. It’s worth noting that only the best games that are developed become franchise opportunities (see examples).
The original Xbox was also one of the first gaming consoles with built-in online playability, and although the feature-set was too advanced for most users at the time, it showed the company’s dedication to being on the bleeding edge of video game console technology.
Despite strong sales, PlayStation was winning out in the console wars, with a lower price point, even though it was a less powerful platform. Xbox’s solution was to drop the price and sell at a loss for a time. Surprisingly the move paid off, although, without the financial support of a huge company like Microsoft, it would have meant the death of other competitors.
We’ve now been through three further flagship iterations of the Xbox; Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S and now the Xbox One X, first released in the summer of 2017. While the Xbox 360 was a 7th generation console, the full Xbox One family are 8th generation gaming consoles, while a 9th generation, codenamed Project Scarlett, is in the works for a 2020 release, apparently with AI features to boot.
But let’s check in on the Xbox One X for a minute. The console supports 4K gaming and sells itself on 40% more power than any other console on the market, with an octocore custom AMD CPU and significantly more graphic memory to boot. What this means is that you can play the world’s most advanced games smoothly on the Xbox One X, whereas they will probably struggle on the Xbox One.
It’s clear that consoles are looking to strip PCs of their heavyweight gaming title, and Xbox is really leading the pack. Considering PC gaming needs an actual desktop computer to play, whereas Xbox requires a TV that you’ll use for other purposes, it’s clear to see they’re looking to the future – even if that is a Microsoft v. Microsoft battle!
As we eagerly await the release of the new Xbox console next year, it’s fun to reflect on the past and see just how far the Xbox has come, and that they’ve stuck to their mission overtime to produce the best gaming experience. Although many casual players would be happy enough with a Switch, Xbox really hits the mark for a first-class gaming experience.