Xbox: the love child of Seamus Blackley, Kevin Bachus, and a small team at Microsoft, the console fought to even be released. Internally, the Xbox team had to convince Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer that their solution was better than that coming from the WebTV team. Both wanted to be the center of all entertainment in your living room, in an attempt to prevent Sony from completely taking over the marketplace.
The Xbox team would win out, and the Xbox would go on to be released on November 15th, 2001 in North America, with other territories not far behind. The specs were unmatched, as they should have been for a box weighing in at 8.5 pounds (3.86 kg). Not only did the console support 480p for the largest percentage of games during that console generation, it also had limited support for High Definition gaming, at both 720p and 1080i.
The console became the home to many franchises that have gone on to define Xbox gaming in the years to come, from Bungie’s first person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved, to Lionhead’s role-playing game Fable, and with racing titles like Project Gotham Racing from Bizarre Creations. Sega found a second home on the platform following the demise of the Dreamcast, releasing titles like Panzer Dragoon Orta, Jet Set Radio Future, and Gun Valkyrie. Microsoft even showed that they were willing to support something a bit new, with the 40-button controller featured in Capcom’s Steel Battalion and the Japanese-only N.U.D.E.@ Natural Ultimate Digital Experiment developed by Red Entertainment, which had players issuing commands to their robot using the Xbox Communicator headset.
Microsoft wanted quality to be at the forefront of their Xbox online experience. When development first started to ramp up on the Xbox, the service was first pitched as being a part of Microsoft’s Zone portal, which had been used as an interface for some of Microsoft’s own PC titles after being acquired from Electric Gravity. The earliest design documents for the Xbox included support for a dial-up modem, but this was quickly dropped as Microsoft wanted to focus solely on broadband support.
Xbox Zone morphed into Xbox Online, and, eventually, into Xbox Live, launching on November 15, 2001 with all titles requiring voice chat capabilities. While the lack of dial up support angered some, and the yearly service costs didn’t help any, the service grew quickly, and continues to grow every year.
Of course, Xbox wasn’t perfect. While Microsoft quickly found an audience with gamers in North America and Europe, their efforts in Japan haven’t gone quite as smoothly. Beyond Sega, Microsoft forged relationships with Tecmo, who developed titles like the stellar Ninja Gaiden and new entries in the Dead or Alive franchise, and Level-5, who were developing the massively multiplayer game True Fantasy Live Online, which met an unfortunate cancellation. Microsoft’s Japanese Team even supported a webcam that connected through the controller port on the Xbox with their Video Chat bundle, allowing for gamers in Japan to do live video chat over Xbox Live. They offered multiple limited edition bundles, like the Panzer Dragoon Orta and the White Anniversary bundle that allowed for those ordering to have the console engraved with their name or a short message. But the Xbox could never quite crack the Japanese market.
The console was noted for its ability to be modified. While not simply an off-the-shelf computer, Xbox did share many similarities with its x86 brother. Andrew Huang, also known as bunnie, helped to crack open the Xbox, exposing its flaws for others who jumped in. Modified Xbox consoles could have their hard disk drives replaced with larger capacity drives, allowing users to install games for faster load times, and Kodi has its roots as the Xbox Media Player successor Xbox Media Center, allowing Xbox to become a fully-fledged media console. Emulators and other homebrew helped enhance the lineup, with emulators still being developed for the console to this very day. Of course, developers of the modifications eventually had help from someone inside Microsoft who had leaked the complete Xbox source code tree to allow further development of features beyond what Microsoft had ever imagined, some of which would find their way into the consoles that have since followed from Microsoft.
Microsoft even provided backwards compatibility with many titles on their follow-up platform, the Xbox 360, no small feat with the vast architecture differences between the two platforms. That effort has been renewed, with Microsoft continuing to honor the legacy of the original Xbox with backwards compatibility now available on the Xbox One. Xbox lives on, allowing for crossplay over your local area network through three console generations, so whether you have an original Xbox, or an Xbox 360, or even an Xbox One (S/X), go fire up some Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge.
Life is short, play more!
Halo: Combat Evolved
Project Gotham Racing 1 & 2
MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf
Ninja Gaiden (Black)
Dead or Alive 3
Dead or Alive Ultimate
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Jet Set Radio Future
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2
Rallisport Challenge 1 & 2
This list will grow with pictures and more games as I have time.
Notable Canceled Titles:
Perfect Dark Zero
Kameo: Elements of Power
True Fantasy Live Online
The Red Star