We now bring you back to the thrilling conclusion of the ‘Console Retrospective of Historical Proportions…part 3’.
Xbox 360, what a fascinating piece of hardware that not only brought you such entertaining delights like Netflix or the Zune marketplace, but it also brought you a large number of racist 13-year olds and adults right to your living room through Xbox Live. Indeed, while the PS3 was focusing on software, the Xbox 360 was focusing on kidnapping your home entertainment system then probably taking it and burying it in the backyard to make sure it was never heard from again. Ruthless sure, but it was a necessary way of living for the Xbox 360. So how did it grow to become this multimedia leviathan in your home?
When it first began its development through concept blueprints back in 2003, the next Xbox at the time went through several names. Some of these range from cool names such as Xenon, to simple names like Xbox 2, and lastly the most ludicrous name of them all the ‘NextBox’. Good god, did someone get inspiration for that name by reading nothing but ‘Dr. Seuss’ books? As you can imagine trying to gain support for this system to become reality took some time, luckily not only did they gain help from over 400 developers that year in Washington, but they also managed to attain the former president of Sega, Peter Moore, to come on board as well. The original Xbox 360 unit came with a triple-core IBM designed Xenon, an ATI Xenos graphics card, 10 MB of eDRAM, and was able to play HD-DVD movies at the time (remember that last part kids).
The Xbox 360 was released on November 22 2005 in the US, while being released a month later in Europe and Japan. This was huge, considering that Microsoft already had a head-start of the competition over the Wii and PS3 being released in 2006. Surprisingly the console sold out for pre-launch, while causing a fuss among consumers, showed great demand for the piece of gaming hardware over in the US. According to the NPD it sold over 326,000 units in November, and continued to gain more momentum in the states. Where it didn’t gain a lot of ground in was overseas, specifically Japan where the market was dominated by handhelds and not by big chinned action heroes who wielded large chainsaw guns.
One of the interesting things to note about the launch titles for the Xbox 360 was the strong emphasis on sports titles, which was probably due to Peter Moore’s influence Aside from your Madden’s and NBA’s, the launch list consisted of third-party titles along with a few Rare exclusives. Some of the most stood-out examples here are Call of Duty 2, King Kong, Quake 4, Project Gotham Racing 3, Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, and the biggest one being Ridge Racer 6 (who can forget). What was interesting here that you don’t see with Microsoft nowadays (aside from the marketing for the Kinect) is that they were not only marketing toward sports fans and hardcore PC fans, but they were also trying to market towards kids. Hence one of the reasons why they bought Rare.
Believe it or not, there was a point very early on in the Xbox 360’s life-cycle where Rare was actually putting out games. Maybe not the best, certainly there was no Banjo Kazooie or Goldeneye to be gained from the new crop, however they were good titles nonetheless. Kameo was a decent platformer that didn’t sell that well, Perfect Dark Zero was a mediocre game with a mediocre financial gain, and Viva Pinata, while pretty solid for what it was, did not make as much back as they expected. Sure they didn’t have the remarkable cast & crew they had back in the Super NES or N64 days, but what they were putting out at the time wasn’t forgettable (Perfect Dark Zero and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts to be excluded from this).
But there was nothing to be fearful of, for there was still Bungie and their large green man, the studio that made the Unreal engine along with a young man named ‘Cliff Blezinski’, oh and that other RPG series that was headed up by a British dude who seemed to have a thing for chickens and fart jokes. This was the team that Microsoft put into the forefront, this was the team that made Sony and Nintendo tremble at their feet!
“Behold, the image of a proud army ready to go to war.“
Oh what a time that was, where all these studios and gaming icons would gather together and muster all their strength against the two empires. One that had a ‘black coat’, and would spoil their people by giving them free ‘internet’, while subjecting them to the wit of an explorer with a half tucked-in shirt and a bobcat thing…with the small robot thing-y. Then there was the other empire with the ‘white coat’, they cloned their people and turned those clones into small cute versions of themselves, while putting them under the dictatorship of an Italian plumber who fights giant gorillas with red ties. This was the sickness that Microsoft wanted to purge, unfortunately just like there must always be allies, there will always be backstabbers.
Bioware was the first one to twist the knife, as they signed on with EA so they can spend more money on space whores and pre-DLC content. However there was still not much to worry about until Bungie left and decided to align themselves with those treacherous Activision bastards, Peter Molyneux then abandoned Lionhead, and Cliff Blezinski became a deserter in order to start-up his own studio. All that was left in the end was the leftovers from Bungie, Epic who decided to continue making ‘Gears of War‘ games, Lionhead, and for some reason Rare was still there. What was worse was that the fight over Blu-ray versus HD-DVD did not last long as it was declared that Blu-ray was the winner. Tragedy was abound in the castle of Microsoft, however they had a little ‘gimmick’ in store as well.
Around the time, the Wii was selling amazingly well not only in its home territory, but overseas as well. Sony and Microsoft took note and decided to concoct their own plans as to how they should rip-off, erm, rival the Wii’s amazing power. Sony had created the ‘Move’, a black dildo remote with a blue orb on the end, and Microsoft had the Kinect. What Kinect allowed you to do was not simply play a game through some remote, but allowed you to play games through your body! As if you were going into the Tron universe, except the exact opposite and with a lot more flailing around like a fish out of water. In the most sincere way of saying it, it was bad, however it sold well and even became bundled with the latest versions of the Xbox 360.
Another element that saved the Xbox 360 was the Xbox Live Marketplace. Through the Xbox Live Marketplace you could check out DLC, download movies, music, and other neat things. If you want to gain exclusive accesses, you would have to subscribe through getting an Xbox Live gold membership. This brings up not only one of the consoles problems which is having to pay a yearly subscription just to have access to the internet, but also another key problem with console since its release: the ‘red ring of death’.
Essentially the ‘red ring of death’ was the result of the three-year warranty you were given or warned about the moment you bought an Xbox. Some say this was Microsoft’s way of being greedy, by allowing more consumers to pick up more of these consoles. However in due time with the new slimmer models, instead of having a red ring it would just automatically shutdown in order for the system to cool down.
As for revisions, the Xbox 360 received several of them and even had unique advantages to them. Originally the Xbox 360 came in two packages, the premium package that was about $400, and the core package that was about $300. As you can imagine one package contained every accessory and some gift awards, while the other was a stripped down version of the superior one. Later there were several smaller sized editions, but the important one that would stick around for quite a while was the ‘elite edition’ along with the ‘arcade edition’. Both of these kept going, but were ultimately replaced once the newer slicker model came in with the 4 GB (Kinect) and 250 GB edition.
The Xbox 360 has had a hard life, being betrayed by its closest allies, and constantly adjusting as the years progressed. Even to a point where Peter Moore went to join up with EA. Later the third-party exclusives were no longer there, Kinect became a bigger focus, and once again nobody paid any attention to Rare. Sure Microsoft has said that they do get exclusive deals when it comes to DLC and indie games, yet the only unique DLC you get is mostly Call of Duty map packs and the indie arcade has become a mess. Sure there were a few gems to be seen in the arcade section (Braid, Fez), but even some of those developers are starting to rebel against Microsoft.
I don’t know what future lies for the Xbox…720, god that sounds stupid, however if it wants to regain its glory it has to remember how it got there in the first place. Though at this point, when your biggest weapon is a clunky motion control device that’s only good for minigames and continues to sell well, it looses memory of its greatness.
Anyway that is the end for the ‘Console Retrospective’, I sure hope we learned something today. No matter how many problems you have with these systems, you may just end up buying the new ones. Because that is how the cycle continues, now if you excuse me, I got a DS that I need to dip in gold paint. The museum must keep expanding!