The Interesting History of Xbox and Its Impact on Pop Culture

There have been numerous brands that have become popular within the video game industry. A lot of these brands came and went as the industry rapidly evolved over the years, and the reason is that they are unable to keep up with the evolution and advancements. However, there are a few names that are considered to be timeless and long-lasting. One of these brands is Xbox, which was owned and created by Microsoft in 2001.

Microsoft is already a powerhouse brand within the tech industry, although it didn’t have a firm grasp of the video game world during the 90s. So, in order to capitalize on the video game craze of the late 90s and early 2000s, Microsoft launched a separate brand called Xbox, which is focused on developing and providing home video game consoles for customers around the world. To learn more about this brand and its consoles, here is the interesting history of Xbox and its impact on pop culture.

The Creation of the Xbox Brand

The Xbox brand was created as a rival for the PlayStation 2, the second home video game console released by Sony Computer Entertainment. When the second PlayStation was announced in 1999, Sony Computer Entertainment stated that the console would not only be a gadget for video games but for home entertainment as a whole, as the console can also play video DVDs and audio CDs.

Microsoft became threatened by the increasing popularity of the PlayStation 2 even if the console hasn’t even come out yet, as the PS2 is seen as a threat to the personal computer or PC, which is also able to do the same things that the PS2 can do, although the price ranges for the PC can be quite high compared to the PS2.

Within the DirectX team of Microsoft, which is responsible for creating APIs or application programming interfaces, there are four engineers that envisioned what a Microsoft console would have in terms of appearance and features. These engineers are Seamus Blackley, Kevin Bachus, Ted Hase, and Otto Berkes (who was also the DirectX team leader during that time), and they designed a system that has many components that are often seen in gaming PCs. By using the same components found on the PC, games developers that are used to making games for personal computers will have a very easy time developing games for the Microsoft console.

Various names were suggested for the proposed Microsoft console, including the “Windows Entertainment Project and the “DirectX Box.” Another that they came up with was a shorter version of the DirectX Box called “Xbox,” which they believed to be the least popular name within the team and the company. However, in several tests, the name actually had the highest preference, so they officially called the console “Xbox.”

The Original Xbox

The very first Xbox console was released in North America on November 15, 2001. However, it was only in February and March of the following year that the console was released in Japan, Australia, and Europe. The first Xbox was part of the sixth generation of video game consoles and was a rival of the Sony PlayStation 2, the Nintendo GameCube, and the Sega Dreamcast. 

Interestingly, the Xbox was the only console for the sixth generation that was offered by an American company, as Atari officially stopped producing video game consoles after the failure of the Atari Jaguar in 1996. The best-selling Xbox-exclusive video game was Halo 2, which was released in 2004 and is considered by many fans to be the best game in the Halo franchise. Halo would eventually become a pop culture phenomenon and would inspire many sci-fi video games throughout the years.

The Xbox 360

white Xbox 360 console

Following the success of the original Xbox, Microsoft then released the Xbox 360 in November 2005. It served as Microsoft’s entry in the seventh generation of video game consoles and competed with the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3 by Sony. 

Unlike the previous generation, where the PlayStation 2 was the clear winner in terms of sales and reception, the seventh generation saw the massive popularity of the Xbox brand, as the Xbox 360 was able to sell more than 85 million units, while the PS3 sold 88 million units. So, the console wars during that generation were pretty close, and many would say that there was no clear winner. However, it is evident during that period that the Xbox brand would become a mainstay in the video game industry.

In order to compete with the Nintendo Wi, which has a different demographic or consumer base, Microsoft launched an add-on to the Xbox 360 called Kinect in 2010. The Kinect was a motion control system that used RGB cameras and infrared detectors and projects. The Nintendo Wii has motion controls already built into the console and controllers, and this feature is often enjoyed by kids and the elderly. 

So, in order to capitalize on the motion controls trend of that period, the Kinect was launched as a rival to the Wii. However, the Kinect has been deemed a failure due to the faulty controls and the lack of good games. The Kinect was discontinued in 2015.

The Xbox One

Xbox one console

The successor of the Xbox 360, the Xbox One, was released on November 22, 2013, in North America and serves as the competitor for the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Wii U, which would later be replaced by the Nintendo Switch. The Xbox One focuses on the online features of video games. These online features include streaming gameplay, recording and sharing gameplay footage, and having a better network for playing games with friends or with strangers.

The Xbox One became controversial months before its launch, as Microsoft announced that used games wouldn’t be playable on other consoles. So, people that often like to buy secondhand games began criticizing the said feature. After months of overwhelming criticism, Microsoft stated that the “locking” feature wouldn’t be added to all Xbox One consoles. 

The official sales figures of the Xbox One weren’t revealed by Microsoft, although reports stated that the console sold about 51 million units, which is quite disappointing since the PlayStation 4 sold more than 117 million units.

The Xbox Series X

As of 2022, the latest Xbox console is the Xbox Series X, which was released on November 10, 2020. The Xbox Series X is a rival to the Sony PlayStation 5 and features better hardware than the Xbox One and 8K resolution. The Xbox Series X is also backward compatible with Xbox One games, as well as a few original Xbox and Xbox 360 games.

Even though it hasn’t beaten the Sony PlayStation in terms of sales for two generations already, the Xbox brand would continue to survive more generations of video game consoles because of its popularity in North America and other regions in the world where the PlayStation is either too expensive or unpopular.

Now that you have knowledge on the history of the Xbox, you may also want to know more about the Sony PlayStation and how it actually came to be. For more information on Sony’s popular video game console brand, read The Interesting History of the Sony PlayStation.