It’s been 15 years since Microsoft unleashed the original Xbox on UK gamers on 14th March 2002, and it’s easy to forget what a monumental event that was. It was the first console from an American manufacturer since the days of the Atari Jaguar, and the company served as a replacement for Sega, which had bowed out of the console hardware race in 2001.
When the Xbox arrived on the market, it was definitely the most powerful machine around and packed many features we now take for granted, including integrated broadband support and a hard disk (just 8GB in size!) for saving games and updates. The launch line-up was highlighted by the impressive fighting game Dead Or Alive 3, the graphically beautiful Project Gotham Racing and a little something called Halo. The brand new first-person shooter from Bungie was one of the strongest launch games of all time, and the first truly essential console-exclusive game of its genre since GoldenEye 007.
Despite all this, the Xbox tale is one of ups and downs. While it’s safe to say that early predictions of 3DO-style catastrophe for the American manufacturer never came to pass, the original Xbox got off to a bad start. At a launch price of £299.99, the system was £100 more expensive than the already-established PlayStation 2, and the forthcoming Nintendo Gamecube was set to be even cheaper. Within a month the system was struggling, and Microsoft slashed the system to £199.99 to kickstart sales.
This decision and subsequent game bundles (including an excellent Jet Set Radio Future/Sega GT 2002 pack) helped to establish the machine, and while it could never hope to challenge the PlayStation 2’s sales dominance, it served as a great alternative for Western gamers who were interested in top graphical performance and online play (in Japan, the system was received with the warmth of an Antarctic breeze). However, the system never actually turned a profit and was replaced in late 2005 by the Xbox 360, an altogether more successful attempt at moving Microsoft into the living room.
We’ve not yet covered the Xbox in much detail, but here’s a piece by Darran on why he loves the machine.