Red Rings and a Killer Lineup: The Xbox 360 Turns 10
After 84 million consoles sold, it's time we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Xbox 360 and take a look back its red-ringed history, its extensive lineup and how Xbox Live helped redefine online gameplay for the modern era. Microsoft's second major gaming console was a big success for the company, nearly quadrupling the sales of the original Xbox. It effectively went neck and neck against the PlayStation 3 in the North American market. Now, the two companies are still vying for market supremacy with their current-gen systems. Even though the video game scene has started to move on towards the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, millions of gamers are still holding onto their Xbox 360 as their go-to system of choice.
Microsoft's original Xbox console was released in 2001 and was met with a surprising level of positive reception amidst a giant console war going on between the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo GameCube. Much of the original Xbox's successes can be attributed to the first two Halo games, which pretty much put Microsoft on the map as a viable competitor to the likes of Sega, Sony and Nintendo. Throughout its development, a bunch of rumored codenames were floating around online for the second big Xbox console, including the Xbox 2, Xbox Next and NextBox. Many believe Microsoft skipped out on the Xbox 2 moniker in order to avoid direct comparisons to the PlayStation 3 and Sony's method of naming its consoles.
The Xbox 360's initial launch was plagued by an array of technical issues. Within the first few years of its release, the Xbox 360's hardware problems resulted in millions of gamers encountering a general, system-crashing error that caused the lights around the Xbox 360's power button to start flashing red. This became widely known as the Red Ring of Death. Microsoft had to extend the system's manufacturer warranty by three years because of how widespread this issue was. On a personal note, I was skeptical by these initial claims when I first heard about them. I thought to myself that if you kept your console area clean and dust-free that you'd be fine, until my first Xbox 360 randomly get the Red Ring of Death. After shipping it out to Microsoft, I was given a replacement, which also red-ringed six months later. After that, I caved and purchased a PlayStation 3. Microsoft released a new version of the console, dubbed the Xbox 360 S (the thinner, black console), that was given a variety of hardware and software changes to prevent these cataclysmic errors from happening.
While the Wii was in the lead of the last-gen console wars at first, its sales started to trickle as the fad of motion controls waned and third-party developer support plummeted. The debut of the Kinect in late 2010 helped introduce camera-based gaming to the Xbox 360, including a variety of dance and other gimmicky titles. The Xbox 360 did incredibly well throughout North America and parts of Europe, but Microsoft was unable to establish a secure foothold for the console in the Japanese market, which is predominantly PlayStation and Nintendo territory when it comes to gaming. This trend continued even into the extremely underwhelming Eastern releases of the Xbox One.
The Xbox Live service allowed players to utilize the online capabilities of the 360's library. Players were able to locate their friends by username, group together and participate in multiplayer or online games together. They also had the capability to just play with other random people online. Microsoft put a major focus on the Xbox Live Marketplace, which allowed players to purchase and download movies, games and premium content. They were also able to download trailers and game demos for free. On top of this, Microsoft started to push indie games and digital downloads of classic games from previous console generations, including titles that were last seen on the Super Nintendo and Sony PlayStation. Xbox also invested in trying to secure Xbox 360 releases for games that were previously PlayStation-exclusive, such as games from the Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear and Devil May Cry franchises. The 360 had an array of excellent exclusives, including the Halo and Gears of War titles, which helped secure its legitimacy on the market. One of the biggest factors in the 360's success would have to be the widespread popularity of first-person shooters that had online multiplayer gameplay, including the Halo and Call of Duty series.
A decade later, we'd like to remember the Xbox 360 for its ginormous controller, a stellar lineup, a variety of awesome experiences on Xbox Live (where we were continuously being called derogatory words and slurs by preteens) and its overall contributions to the video game scene. The market is always better when there's competition, and the Xbox 360 remains one of our favorite video game consoles of all time.