The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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22 Years of the Xbox: A Retrospective of the Original Microsoft Console

Xbox print advertisement, copyright Microsoft.

On November 15, 2023, various social media websites were filled with birthday wishes. “Who were these wishes for?” you may be asking. These wishes were for Microsoft’s original Xbox console, which was released on the same day in the year 2001, making it a twenty-two year old console. The original Xbox, a bulky, rectangular, black box adorned with a large “x” consisting of a green circle showcasing its name, is a sixth-generation console. 

The sixth generation of gaming consoles began at the turn of the 21st century, beginning with the release of the Sega Dreamcast in Japan in 1998, and ending with the aforementioned Xbox in 2001. This era of gaming and gaming consoles is sometimes referred to as the 128-bit era, which refers to the CPU (central processing unit) word of the consoles.

An easily understood and noticeable facet of this generation is the incorporation of the internet into the gaming experience. The release of Xbox Network, formerly known as Xbox Live, utilized the capability to connect to the internet, offering the opportunity to game online with others for a fee. The original Xbox console broke records at launch, selling 1.5 million consoles before the end of the year 2001, outselling the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube.

Xbox print advertisement, copyright Microsoft and Toys R Us.

The Xbox did not, however, outsell Sony’s Playstation 2, which sold 100 million consoles by the end of its market life. The Xbox’s financial inferiority compared to the Playstation 2 partially stems from Microsoft’s inability to effectively market to a Japanese audience. A 2003 article from the New York Times, Business; Who’s Blocking the Xbox? Sony and Its Games, by Matt Richtel states that, “Microsoft [was] particularly struggling in Japan, where it has been virtually shut out of the market, selling a mere 300,000 consoles, according to the company.”

Japan has a rich history of gaming innovation, and technology as a whole, and Microsoft experienced difficulty breaking into that particular market, partially stemming from its focus on American, English-language games. “Microsoft’s game console [was] released in Japan with 12 game titles, a less competitive array than Sony’s selection of about 400 Japanese titles,” highlights Kristie Lu Stout in 2002’s Xbox plugs into Japan for CNN. Sony’s Playstation 2 possessed the positive public opinion and buying power of the Japanese public, making the Xbox fall flat sales-wise in Japan, and the world as a whole. 

Despite the lackluster financials of Microsoft’s console, the cultural impact of the Xbox cannot be underestimated. Today, the Xbox and all its iterations are considered one of the “essential” consoles, along with the Playstation. At this point, Xbox is synonymous with gaming, and a black and neon green color scheme invokes the console’s branding and aesthetics.

French Xbox print advertisement, copyright Microsoft and Thrustmaster.

The Xbox 360, released in November of 2005, expanded on what the original console already offered, adding facets such as Kinect. Like the original Nintendo Wii, the Kinect aimed to make gaming a more active hobby, utilizing motion sensors to recognize movement and gestures, in addition to containing hardware for speech recognition. Unlike the Wii, Xbox’s Kinect did not require any sort of tangible controller to sense movement. This software was updated for Microsoft’s next console, Xbox One, in 2013. 

It cannot be denied that the original Xbox has its own merits, however. The Xbox was the only console to offer Halo 2, the second installment in the Halo franchise, which went on to become the best-selling title for the Xbox, selling 8.46 million copies in addition to gaining a large amount of popularity in the sphere of Xbox Live.

The game Forza Motorsport, a game in the long-running Forza series, was released in 2005 for the Xbox. Forza is a series of extensive racing games featuring realistic vehicles, which has always been exclusive to the Xbox, and has released games for all of Microsoft’s consoles. 

In addition to the exclusive games Microsoft acquired for the original Xbox, the console was also unique in its design and aesthetics. When a player of the console has not inserted a disk, the dashboard appears, showcasing a very green and 2000s-esque menu prompting the user to select Memory, Music, Xbox Live, or Settings.

Original Xbox dashboard, credit to Microsoft.

If the console is left unattended while on the dashboard for an extended period of time, the console will begin to play unsettling noises. These noises, according to Xbox Live Director of Programming, Larry Hyrb, are partially composed of, “public domain audio from NASA transmissions from the Apollo days that [were] tweaked for that sound.” This idle background noise is enough to frighten any kid of the 2000s alone in a dark room with just the Xbox on.  

The world of gaming, quite frankly, would not be the same without the contributions of Microsoft and the sheer creativity and innovation of the original Xbox. The Xbox has helped define the definition of gaming and all its unique possibilities. 

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Angelina Clark, Web Editor

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