Microsoft Has Now Spent Over Ten Years In The Console Business

Time flies, doesn't it? One day, you're thinking only Sega and Nintendo are capable of building quality, successful gaming hardware. The next, you wake up to find that Microsoft is building a video games console.

Yet it's been eleven years to the day that the world awoke to such a scenario, as it was at the Game Developers Conference in 2000 that Microsoft boss Bill Gates took to the stage to introduce the company's first ever video games console: the Xbox.

Learning from the company's supposed success in the PC gaming arena (and failures with the Sega Dreamcast), the Xbox promised the world from the very beginning.

"Building on our strengths as a software company, Xbox will offer game developers a powerful platform and game enthusiasts an incredible experience," said Gates. "We want Xbox to be the platform of choice for the best and most creative game developers in the world."

"We're taking the best of the PC and putting it into a console"

We're not going to look back at the machine itself here, which while never challenging Sony's PS2 for market dominance did enough to warrant development of a second console. Or its games, like Halo, as both are more fitting for a retrospective on the anniversary of the console's release. What's interesting about this date is looking at the promise of the Xbox. What Microsoft hoped it should have been and we hoped it could have been.

A statement released by Microsoft on the day of its reveal - March 10, 2000 - gave the world its first look at what the Xbox would be capable of.

Though Xbox is first and foremost a superior gaming machine, and like traditional game consoles will run through a TV set, it will have additional capabilities for a consumer's convenience. Out of the box, the console will come standard with four game controller ports, a DVD player, a hard drive, and broadband Internet access (it will be able to support a modem as an add-on), with a keyboard and mouse as optional peripherals.

The four ports, DVD player and HDD were greatly appreciated! The keyboard and mouse, though, never happened.

As a dedicated, locked-down games system, it is not an all-purpose machine. It is designed specifically to provide the best console game experience available, and its add-on features support that goal. Broadband access will enable users to play with thousands of other gamers on the Internet, and will provide the ability to download the latest updates to games. In a basketball video game, for example, a user will be able to download the most current status of teams in the NBA, so the game will accurately reflect that information.

Xbox's first director of marketing, Don Coyner, said this was "taking the best of the PC and putting it into a console". He was half right. While things like roster updates are great, that ability has also led to a very unwelcome part of PC gaming - constant patches and updates - becoming commonplace in console gaming, an advantage those machines once had over their home computer siblings.

A final interesting proclamation again comes from Coyner, who said "There has been a generation change, and Microsoft recognises that. People are expecting more from their devices, and that's as true for entertainment as anything else. And we at Microsoft have the experience to help by innovating with new technologies."

It's interesting because the Xbox is about the only example of MIcrosoft getting any of that right, having been trumped in the mobile and music player businesses over the past decade by not just Apple, but companies like Google as well.

Closing out Microsoft's big announcement was something that, more than anything else, makes it feel like a lifetime ago: a third-party offer of support. In 2011, that support would be expected from companies like Activision, EA and Capcom. In 2000, it came from...the CEO of Acclaim, Gregory Fischbach, who said "We are very impressed with the technology and are looking forward to creating games that will leverage the power of the system. We view the advent of the next generation consoles — such as Xbox — as a tremendous opportunity to grow our business."

Acclaim went bust in 2004. Thankfully, Microsoft's side of the deal has lasted a little longer.


Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


    "quality, successful gaming hardware" yer that's got xbox written all over it with its amazing added feature of rrod

      Couldnt have said it better myself. im still pissed at them for what they've turned the once mighty Rare into

        Sony has its YLOD. Windows has its BSOD.

        If thats the only fault you can find, thats pretty good. Where would junkies be now without achievement addiction support groups? People might play games for fun - now that just sounds ridiculous....

        I, for one, accept our new achievement masters and the rewarding unlock they bring.

          Agreed - if that's the worst thing, then MS've done pretty well. Barring the actual inconvenience, MS did a pretty good job of accommodating any consumers affected by the RROD (well compared to Sony's YLOD support, which is a very similar issue, at least)

          They've done some good things and they've done some silly things, but overall I'd say we're much better off for having MS in the console game.

    Whilst Sony has done more for gaming in the last 20 years than just about anyone else (brought it to the masses, introduced extra features non-game related e.g. DVD, backwards compatability), would it be fair to say Microsoft has refined it?

    (note - Sega did extra features and backwards compatability first but you needed add-ons such as the Game Gear TV tuner, Master System add-on for Megadrive etc)

    I don't know - it seems that, whilst Sony did a lot of the initial work, Microsoft have taken that and improved on it with features Sony's still trying to catch up with (mainly Live, though Live and PSN are inherently different beasts).

      I think nintendo might have something to say about that...

    The Xbox 360 controller is the best thing that happened to console gaming.

      In all honesty I beg to differ, the PS-series controllers have much better symmetry which is better for lefties in general :3

        Interesting. I've always preferred the Playstation controllers to the Xbox ones and am left handed...never put the two together! I suppose it does make sense...if there was an Xbox controller with the reverse placement - the right thumbstick up high and the left down low - it'd make for an interesting comparison.

    Lol, all I can see from the last 10 years is faceless fpss and rrods

    What the hell is YLOD? I've had my PS3 since launch,and it that time have gone through 3 Xbox 360's. The only thing I can agree with is that I like the 360 controller a bit better.

    I personaly think that MS has barsterdised the game industry. The xbox 1 was so good the 360 has become like MS early PC hardware, cheap and unreliable.
    The also have turned games into generic cash cows. I think Nintendo, Sega and Sony have the true gamer spirit. I feel Microsoft has the throw money at it to win with junk spirit. In other words they are the GM of videogames.
    p.s. I idolise Bill Gates - i'm not biased. Xbox 1 was fantastic machine that was canned early by cruddy MS to beat the ps3 with the 360. If they didn't have unlimited money the 360 would cripple the company before it turned profitable...

      Well of course you are biased, how can you not accuse Sony and Nintendo of NOT cash cowing... they're just as guilty, if not more guilty of it as Microsoft. In fact Nintendo takes the cake with some of those Wii games.

      At the end of the day, I think people need to disregard the term "cash cow" if there is a demand, and you are a business, then you bloody well supply said demand. Its really not rocket science.

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