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Xbox is a popular brand of video game platforms owned, created, and designed by Microsoft Corporation; it was first launched in November 2001. To date, three Xbox consoles have been released: (1) Xbox (2001), (2) Xbox 360 (2005), and (3) Xbox One (2013). These consoles correspond with the sixth, seventh, and eighth generations of video game consoles, respectively. At present, Xbox’s main competitors are Sony’s Playstation and, to a much lesser degree, Nintendo Wii. Over its relatively brief history, Xbox has revolutionized home video gaming through innovations such as enhancing online gameplay capabilities (provided through an Internet-based service called Xbox Live), providing users with downloadable gaming content (e.g., expansion packs that provide gamers with additional missions, playable characters, items and novelties, etc.), and allowing gamers to save their game progress to the console’s internal hard drive, as opposed to an external memory card/stick or battery. Additionally, Xbox consoles allow users to watch television programs, movies, and music videos through a membership to Xbox Live’s “Gold” service.
Microsoft has reaped tremendous profits from its Xbox brand. Xbox 360 has sold more than 84 million units worldwide, 3 million more units than its primary competition, Playstation 3, has sold. Xbox 360 is the sixth-biggest-selling video game console in history, trailing behind only Playstation 2, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Game Boy, the original Playstation, and Nintendo Wii. More than 700 games were produced for Xbox 360, and the average Xbox owner purchased 7 games for his or her console. The original Xbox system sold 24 million copies worldwide; Xbox One has been launched only recently, and its long-term success is yet to be determined. The most popular games among Xbox gamers include the Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto series.
History And Development
In 1998, a group of Microsoft multimedia engineers (Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley, Otto Berkes, and Ted Hase) proposed to Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates that the company develop its own video game console in addition to simply producing video game software for personal computers (PCs). Designers developed Xbox to operate on Windows 2000 and to function as a de facto PC, thereby exhibiting more than double the processing power of Sony’s Playstation console. The new console would also feature vastly more memory storage capacity than that available on Sony’s Playstation and Playstation 2, each of which required gamers to save their progress on costly memory cards sold separately from the console and its games. Originally naming the console DirectX Box during its early stages of development, Microsoft shortened the name later to simply “Xbox” after initial consumer focus group trials revealed the popularity of the shortened name. Microsoft officially released Xbox to its North American market on November 15, 2001, to great fanfare; video game enthusiasts had purchased more than 1 million units by early December, despite the console’s hefty $299 price tag. The instant popularity of Halo: Combat Evolved (an Xboxexclusive game released simultaneously with the console’s launch) further fueled sales.
The popularity of Xbox continued to grow throughout 2002 as a result of two unrelated factors. Sony’s Playstation 2, the industry-leading console at the time, experienced a shortage in supply of memory cards throughout the late winter and early spring of 2002–2003; this dilemma only served to highlight Xbox’s internal memory storage capabilities to frustrated gamers. In November 2002, on the first anniversary of Xbox’s release, Microsoft launched its online gaming network, Xbox Live, which enabled gamers to play against opponents online, communicate with one another, and download gaming content. More than 150,000 gamers subscribed to Xbox Live within a week of its launch. This online gaming feature proved so popular that it induced Sony to develop a network adapter for its Playstation 2 console.
While Microsoft was in the process of developing its next-generation console, Xbox 360, in late 2004, the company released Halo 2. The game proved an instant hit, with 2.5 million copies sold within its first 24 hours on November 9, 2004, generating more than $124 million in total revenue. Halo 2 remains the biggest-selling game for the original Xbox, with more than 6 million copies sold in the United States alone.
Xbox 360 And Xbox One
Microsoft released Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005, while gradually phasing out the original Xbox console between 2005 and 2008. Although the original console sold more than 24 million units globally, these sales were less than half of what Microsoft executives had predicted at the time of Xbox’s launch. More than 1.5 million units of the new console were sold by the end of 2005, while Xbox 360 sales approached 40 million by 2010. The Xbox 360 featured a sleek, cordless controller that provided gamers with newfound freedom and comfort, and the 360 dominated the video game market over a 2½-year period from January 2011 to June 2013, when it reigned as the nation’s best-selling console. That the 360 has remained relevant for more than 8 years (from its release in November 2005 until the middle of 2014, the time of this writing) is extremely impressive, as consoles typically feature a shelf life of only a few years. The development and release of Kinnect, a motion-sensing device, for Xbox 360 in 2010 is credited largely with extending the console’s life.
Nevertheless, Microsoft released Xbox One— its eighth-generation video game console—on November 22, 2013, in North America. Despite Microsoft’s success with its previous two consoles, sales for Xbox One have only been approximately half of those for Sony Playstation 4 (also released in the fall of 2013). As of August 2014, more than 9 million Playstation 4 units have been sold, compared with 5 million units of Xbox One.
Xbox 360 generated a large volume of consumer complaints and criticism regarding its infamous “red ring of death,” which signified a dead console that was unable to be revived. In its haste to release the 360 for the 2005 holiday season, Microsoft shipped a large volume of consoles to retailers that featured defective hardware. Internal mechanical problems could lead the console to encounter a fatal “general hardware failure” that manifested itself in the form of a red glow that covered three-quarters of the system’s circular power button. A series of urban legends and myths on how to overcome the “red ring of death,” generated by gamers, appeared in online forums and YouTube, although the appearance of the dreaded red ring almost always meant that the console was useless, thus obliging gamers to shell out an additional $399 for another system.
- Marshall, Rick. “The History of the Xbox.” Digital Trends (May 12, 2013). http://www.digitaltrends.com/ gaming/the-history-of-the-xbox/#!bH9vSA
- Russell, Jamie. Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded East Sussex, UK: Yellow Ant, 2012.
- Takahashi, Dean. Xbox: The Making of a Bad-Ass Machine. San Francisco: Venture Beat, 2011.