With the Xbox 360 celebrating its 5th birthday this month, now is a good time to look back over the highs and lows of the console’s history.
Having been the last of the big three companies in the gaming war to enter the market during the sixth generation era (consisting of Sony’s PlayStation 2, Nintendo’s GameCube and Microsoft’s Xbox), Microsoft were very quick off the mark to release their next console, the Xbox 360.
Over the pond in the United States and Canada, it was on Tuesday 22nd November, days before the US Thanksgiving holiday, when the Xbox 360 games console was first available to purchase in shops, with the official launch date for Europe being the 2nd December. The console was available in two packages: Xbox 360 “Premium” (including a 20G hard drive, priced at £279.99) and Xbox 360 “Core” (priced at £209.99), both of which sold out completely upon release worldwide, with the exception of Japan which, even today, hasn’t been a big supporter of the console.
Nevertheless, despite the console being a sell-out, there wasn’t much to choose from in terms of games, with the launch titles including Call of Duty 2, Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3 and (everyone’s favourite) Peter Jackson’s King Kong. However, many of the titles were rushed during development in order to meet the launch date and, as a result, most of them did not fully utilise the graphical power of the Xbox 360.
It wasn’t long after the release of the console that reports of technical problems and failures with the console occurred. The major issue appeared to arise with the three flashing red lights (also known as the “Red Ring of Death”) that signified a hardware failure. Despite many claiming that the error could be fixed by wrapping the console in towels, this only proved to be a temporary fix and after many lawsuits and investigations, Microsoft extended the warranty of the console in winter 2006, offering some gamers replacement consoles for the problem.
In August 2007, Microsoft released the Xbox 360 Elite, a new model console that included a 120GB hard drive, a HDMI slot and a matte black finish. The introduction of a HDMI slot was a big step for the Xbox 360 in terms of technological development, allowing games to be displayed indigital high-definition. The console retailed at £299.99 though, like the previous models, was still a regular victim to the Red Ring of Death.
Having made very few changes to the Xbox 360 dashboard’s design and features, Microsoft released an update on the 19th November 2008 which saw a number of changes including a redesigned version of the blades interface, new sound effects and Avatar support (the gamer’s representation of themselves). This was the first of many big updates that Microsoft would release annually.
Following on from the Sony PlayStation 3’s slim version, Microsoft announced and released the Xbox 360 S console, which came with a 250GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi and a new glossy design. Priced at £199.99, the console proved popular as it was also a lot quieter than previous models and was a lot less likely to suffer from the Red Ring of Death. However, it was Microsoft’s next hardware release that would revolutionise gaming.
Available as an add-on for the Xbox 360 console (via USB), Kinect released in November 2010. Originally titled by its code name, Project Natal, Kinect is “a controller-free gaming and entertainment experience” that tracks the user’s body gestures and spoken commands to control and interact with the Xbox 360, without the need for a controller. Aimed at the casual market and having just got off the ground, the hardware is set to become a big seller in the run up to Christmas.
But where will the Xbox 360 go from here? How long has the console got before gamers are screaming out for the next console? Will there be a new console? If so, when? All these questions, that only time will answer.