Microsoft made a foray into the gaming world in 2001 with its first system, Xbox. Even more than the PlayStation, the Xbox was touted as an adult gaming machine. Most of the system’s notable titles were rated Mature and even the box’s bulky shape, rough patterns, and stark green and black color contrast contributed to its edgy persona. Released just three days before Nintendo’s Gamecube, Microsoft aggressively assailed Nintendo as a “kiddie” console and looked to cut in to Sony’s reputation as the mature alternative.
The Xbox was released alongside a (at the time) little known title called Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which the player interacts with the world through the point of view of the character and the game play revolves around fast paced, tense shootouts. There had been first-person shooters before, notably Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, but Halo would go on to be a revolution in mainstream gaming and an entertainment juggernaut.
Xbox was one of the first game consoles to feature online capabilities and it indisputably did more to advance this trend than anyone else with its Xbox Live service. Xbox Live is a subscription service through which users can play any of the system’s games online as well as download new content for those games after their initial release. It also operates as a virtual hub with access to nearly limitless digital media including movies, music, and games. In subsequent years, Xbox Live has evolved into a a sort of home media mothership with possible connectivity to other media services like Netflix and YouTube. Streaming services, movie rentals, apps, social networking, and even exclusive, independently produced games are just part of what Xbox Live offers today. Back in 2002, Xbox Live’s ability for players to easily and smoothly play competitive games such as first person shooters and sports titles, with convenient features like voice chat and friend lists, alone produced a new standard for online gaming.
The Xbox would outperform the Gamecube but never come close to reaching the Playstation 2 in total sales. Still, the system was considered a success and powerfully established Microsoft as a force in the video game market.. With a successful first system and the company’s bottomless coffers behind it, the Xbox brand was just getting started.
The Xbox 360 released in 2005 and cemented Microsoft as a top dog in the industry. While its success was partially eclipsed by Nintendo’s phenomenon the Wii, the 360 would claim the mature gaming crown from Sony’s PlayStation 3 and, largely through the evolution of Xbox Live, present the brand as the leader in gaming trends and culture. The Xbox 360 was received especially well in North America and with titles like Halo 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, and Gears of War, coupled with the system’s advanced online capability, the Box endeared itself to “hardcore” and competitive gamers like no other system.
Even while the Xbox 360 is still alive and well (and will be until at least 2016 according to Microsoft), its newer, more powerful predecessor, the Xbox One, is now the flagship system for Microsoft. The Xbox One, in addition to standard enhancements such as improving graphical capabilities, expands upon the 360’s focus on the Live service and the motion sensing technology known as Kinect. The Xbox One took a nasty beating in its nearly concurrent release against its most direct competition the PlayStation 4 but it is not yet even a year old and is consistently gaining ground on Nintendo’s Wii U. Compared to Sony and Nintendo Microsoft might still be the new kid on the block but Xbox is already a proven rival peer and certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk