A developer who worked on Microsoft’s original 2001 Xbox console, who wishes to remain anonymous, informed Kotaku of a hidden “Easter egg” in the Xbox Dashboard that’s remained undiscovered for nearly 20 years. They told us how to trigger the secret, which displays a previously unknown credits screen. Sure enough, it works.
“I didn’t really expect it to be found, not unless the source code leaked or somebody reverse-engineered the Dashboard,” said the source. “Its trigger was the same as the ‘main’ Easter egg so I knew it was possible. I figured somebody would have to leak it for it to be known.”
The “main” Easter egg they refer to, known for many years, is triggered by going into the audio CD ripping screen and naming a new rip “>”. As soon as you hit “done” this immediately triggers a hidden credit roll, after which the console reboots. The Easter egg we’re revealing today starts in a similar manner — by entering a magic string before ripping a CD — but instead of triggering immediately, it requires waiting for the CD rip to complete. You’ll then find that the System Info screen has changed to something new.
How To Perform The “New” Xbox Easter Egg
Before starting, go to “Settings” and then “System Info” to remind yourself what that screen looks like. Good? OK, the trick is…
- Go into “Music” and insert an audio CD. (A short album will take less time.)
- From the Audio CD screen choose “Copy,” “Copy” again, then “New Soundtrack.”
- Delete the default soundtrack title and replace it with (no quotes) “Timmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!” (That’s the letter “y” 26 times. No need to count; just fill the entire field and replace the last one with a “!”.)
- Sit a spell. Enjoy the sounds of the hard drive stealing the disc’s essence.
- When ripping completes, back out to the main menu.
- Choose “Settings” and then “System Info.”
- You should now see a new screen listing members of the “Xbox Dashboard Team.”
How about that? This little credit screen’s been lurking below the surface of some 24 million Xbox consoles for almost two decades now.
Naturally we had questions about the leaker’s bona fides, but they produced sufficient evidence to back up their claims about being part of the original Xbox development team. They also, upon request, produced the raw footage we used to make the above video.
Sadly, efforts to test the Easter egg in-house were thwarted, as all of Kotaku’s original Xbox consoles have either been lost, hidden somewhere in offsite storage (Fahey), or died in boxes within the last year (mine, RIP). Thankfully, stalwart Konami PC game archivist Ray Barnholt agreed to test it on his own working console, and gave us the all-clear: This trick is legit. Thank you, Ray.
Speakin’ About Leakin’
So why spill the beans now, I asked the former Xbox developer.
“I decided to share now as it’s been 20 years, and I thought it would be cool if people knew this actually existed. I know many sites like to track these types of things and all the people on that list no longer work for Microsoft,” they said. “I also thought if I didn’t do it now it would never likely happen. It had been so long I couldn’t even remember the trigger! I had to connect the Xbox up and try out several things to be sure.”
Given how thoroughly hacked, probed, and generally torn apart Microsoft’s first console was, I felt surprised that no other parties had extracted this secret already. From what I can tell — scene folks, tell me if I have it wrong — some version of the Xbox Dashboard source was included in at least one leak, many years ago. So one way or another, why didn’t anyone find this trick by now?
“I can’t really answer that,” the source replied. “You might have thought somebody would have found it, and I do think the source code was out there, but it’s possible the Dashboard source wasn’t leaked and [it’s just] the main OS/libraries that are out there. Hackers are pretty amazing, so I guess I should be surprised it wasn’t known.”
But the anonymous developer, if they were going to reveal this secret, wanted to avoid a scenario they saw play out around the release of the prior “>” Easter egg.
“When we shipped [the Xbox], there was no real plan on how to leak [the ‘>’ trick], but somebody on the team did an interview and hinted that there was something ‘cool’ in there,” the developer said. “It was a terrible way to do it. People went crazy thinking there was a free game, or something to that effect, stuffed away in the Dashboard/console. After a day or two he had to just leak the trigger due to all the speculation that was spinning out of control. Due to the way he leaked it, when it was ‘found,’ people were so disappointed.”
Well, hopefully folks won’t be too disappointed about this one’s debut. It’s “just” a secret credit screen, albeit one that’s managed to evade detection long enough to drive a car and vote. (It will still get carded for beer, however.)
At Least One More Secret Yet Remains
We can also confirm that today’s previously unknown trick is not the final secret hidden within the original Xbox. In September 2017 Seamus Blackley, who’s often referred to as the “father of the Xbox,” made waves in the small community of OG Xbox enthusiasts when he tweeted that there was another Xbox Easter egg yet to be found.
Yes. An there's an Easter egg than nobody has noticed as far as I can tell.
— Seamus Blackley (@SeamusBlackley) September 26, 2017
Going off of Blackley’s somewhat cryptic tweets, original Xbox enthusiasts believed that the Easter egg he spoke of was hidden in the system’s procedurally generated boot animation (pictured atop this article), and could be triggered with certain input from the controller. Blackley also noted that the Easter egg he referred to was “obvious”; like, you wouldn’t overlook it if you happened to trigger it.
If the secret Blackley’s referring to really does occur during the Xbox startup animation, then one can assume today’s “Timmy” reveal counts as an additional OG Xbox Easter egg beyond the one he had in mind.
Thankfully, Blackley was kind enough to respond to a few queries about all of this. He confirmed that yes, the Xbox Easter egg he has in mind does in fact revolve around the Xbox’s boot animation, and is not the “Timmy” secret we’re revealing today — which he actually didn’t know about.
When asked whether his Xbox startup Easter egg involves entering certain controller inputs during the animation, he replied, “Nope, it doesn’t. But I’m tempted to say it does. But no it doesn’t really. At all. For sure. I’m pretty sure at least.”
Glad to clear that up!
Between subreddits like r/originalxbox and forums like Obscure Gamer, Xbox die-hards seem to be on a never-ending hunt to discover the final secrets hidden within Microsoft’s first dedicated TV games hardware. While today’s reveal may surprise them, I suspect it will scarcely satiate their curiosity, as the hunt for what secrets remain must continue until all lie revealed.
Unfortunately for the hunters, Mr. Blackley appears to be having too much fun to let his particular cat out of the bag anytime soon. And as our anonymous former Xbox developer proved, there may even be additional secrets Blackley himself is unaware of. Quite the bundle of mysteries, this Xbox.
Regardless, one more has now been revealed. Many thanks to the former Xbox developer for reaching out to finally share their secret with the world. And in case you were wondering, yes, they confirmed that “Timmy” is in fact a South Park reference. Seems like developers were very fond of those back then.