updated 03:10 pm EST, Tue November 15, 2011
Xbox hits 10 years old and gets bonuses
Microsoft kicked off the tenth anniversary of the Xbox with a celebration page and bonuses. Everyone gets access to a free avatar prop for Xbox Live that provides a gift box that opens to reveal fireworks. Some downloadable games will also be on sale as part of the anniversary.
The console was launched November 15, 2001 as Microsoft's then biggest gamble to date as it developed a complete hardware and software ecosystem, not just peripherals and keyboards. Some of the credit went to leaving exec J Allard, who helped convince the company for a time that it couldn't rely solely on Windows-related products.
The initial system was counting on Internet access and raw speed to succeed. It required broadband Internet access to get online in a time of dial-up systems like the Sega Dreamcast and had an 8GB hard drive when most considered it too expensive. Inside, it had a then-quick 733MHz Pentium III variant, 233MHz NVIDIA graphics based loosely around the GeForce 3, and 64MB of RAM. The system sold for a more common $299 at the time.
Microsoft had trouble taking any ground from Nintendo and Sony during the Xbox's early history, although it did get to second place in 2002. While most support came from launch games that were originally supposed to be Mac- or PC-only titles, such as Halo or Oddworld, it was Xbox Live's arrival in 2002 that was considered by some to be the real catapult for the platform, giving it true, always available online multiplayer at a time when it was sporadic at best on the GameCube and PlayStation 2.
Most of the console line's real success came with the Xbox 360, which saw sellouts quickly and grew through bankable game rosters such as the Call of Duty, Gears of War, and Halo series. Helped in part by Kinect widening its audience, the Xbox 360 is now regularly the top-selling console in the US, beating a once-unassailable Nintendo and now third-place Sony.
A black mark exists from the Xbox 360 era through Microsoft's decision to rush the hardware to beat Nintendo and Sony. Every system from the 2005 launch through to mid-to-late 2008 was guaranteed to fail prematurely through the "red ring of death," a symptom of the processor array overheating so regularly that the chip in some cases dislodged itself. Future hardware revisions eliminated the problem, but not before Microsoft was forced to absorb hundreds of millions of dollars through extended warranties from users replacing systems, in some cases several times.
The Xbox is still indirectly credited with spurring on persistent game services, such as Apple's Game Center or Sony's PlayStation Network, as well as making online access an important feature for consoles. Microsoft has also had rare success in turning it into a media hub and not only serves services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and its own Zune Video Marketplace but is about to offer live TV with its imminent Xbox 360 Dashboard fall update.