Monday, July 6, 2015

The History of the Xbox

Xbox, what does it mean to you? To some it may mean nothing but to some it is much more than that. Xbox is a gaming console which Microsoft introduced to the world. This is the epic saga on how Xbox would go from a small team in Microsoft to a billion dollar product.  
            DirectX, the software that runs PC gaming has laid down the ground work for todays gaming and is still being developed to this day. Microsoft game studio was only really known for Microsoft Train Stimulator and Age of Empires during the 1990’s.  Ed Fries, the head of video game publishing at Microsoft, wanted to get into the console market, but one day in 1999, the DirectX guys drop by with the idea of a DirectX box idea. The DirectX guys and Fries did eventually build a “PC” that is the shape of an “X”. The main idea of the DirectX box was that all of the developers, Capcom and Activision, were making games for different operating systems and hardware that were not developed for PC. This meant that Microsoft was losing developers for Windows and other Microsoft based products. When Microsoft saw opportunity, they had the technology and the means to build a PC based console and dominate the market by getting all of the PC developers on board. Before the Direct X team ran off into the sunset, they actually had internally completion. There was another Microsoft console, well sort of, there was the Dreamcast team. It ran of Windows CE (Crossley).
Now the faceoff, Microsoft Dreamcast team versus the DirectX team. It all came down to the richest guy in the world, Bill Gates. He would approve of DirectX team, but he would also move along with licensing Windows C.E. to Sega. One of key reason Bill Gates approved of the DirectX team was because they were going to keep Windows but hide it in the background. With Windows being the base of the operating system, it made Xbox have a surplus of games from the get go. The design of the original Xbox console was going to be a big, white X, but it ended up with a hybrid of the DirectX and the Dreamcast console designs. At this point, they were working together. Todays gaming would not be the same without a hard drive; this is where players saved games are stored and games themselves. In the early 2000’s, it was a common place to have a memory card. The original Xbox was ahead of its time by including a hard drive, but most developers really did not take advantage of it (Crossley).
The Xbox was very successful in North America but had a very hard time in Japan.  I like to compare the Xbox so called “success” in Japan to a soldier on D-day, at least in Japan, where Xbox got shot before the console even got off the boat. The letter “X” means death in Japan and along with the fact that the Xbox is black that also means death. So one could say they probably could have asked someone in Japan before launching the Xbox in Japan. The marketing departments at Microsoft were weirdoes when it came to the name Xbox. The team was very upset on the name Xbox because they personally found it unattractive. They did many surveys about the name and they kept finding out that the name “Xbox” kept winning overwhelmingly with focus groups (Crossley).
The crowing jewel of Xbox was Xbox Live. Putting a modem in the original Xbox was a controversial move.  The DirectX team eventually looked back at the concept of Xbox. The idea of having a gaming PC that was  simplified so that everyone could enjoy good graphics and play online with other people, The console needs to have a modem for that. So the team thought towards the future with that idea that including a modem was a good idea (Crossley).
Exclusives are the most important feature to a gaming console. Without exclusives the console will fall in sales. Exclusives are when a game is exclusively on a console and is not on a another platform. The original Xbox needed a game that could sell hardware and that game was called Halo. Halo was a highly anticipated game for Apple and it was so much so that when Steve Jobs heard that Microsoft had bought out Bungie, the top of the line developer for the Mac, at the eleventh hour. He called furiously and yelled at CEO, Steve Ballmer, and later Ballmer called his buddy at Xbox division to “calm down” Jobs. They ended jokingly laughing. The Halo franchise would end up being the two bestselling games on original Xbox (Crossley).
The next big acquisition for Microsoft exclusivity would be Rare, a British videogame developer. If one has ever played a Nintendo 64, then there is a good chance you played a game developed by Rare because they were the cream and butter for Nintendo. Personally Rare is one of my favorite developers because they developed every genre of games to excellency. They developed the games Killer Instinct, which was a fighting game, Golden Eye, which was a first person shooter game, and Banjo Kanzooie, which was a platformer. Rare was the Nintendo golden child of making games like how Bungie was with Apple.

The buying out of Rare was a lot more complicated than it was with Bungie. There were more players involved including Activsion and Nintendo. Nintendo owned half of Rare at the time of the bidding war had started. This was seen as a shoe in for Nintendo to easily claim their golden child. They even had their own specific deal with Nintendo which gave them rights to be the only bidder, but Nintendo never got around to pulling the trigger. So the other bidders (Activsion, Microsoft,) got to bidding. Activsion really pushed it to a really high price point and Nintendo dropped out .It was down to Microsoft and Activsion. Rare wanted to be on all platforms, Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo, but the deal with Activsion fell through. So the last guy, by default, was Microsoft and they picked up Rare.
I feel Rare has been a wasted studio. This deal was 12 years ago so I understand that not all same people work at Rare, but at the same time, there are better games they can make than Kinect sports. I feel that Microsoft forces them to make Kinect sports. If one were to look at Rares highest critic rated game before Microsoft, 007 Golden Eye, it had a Metacrtic score of 96 After Microsoft acquisition, the highest game has been Viva la Piñata with a Metacrtic score of 84. But going from making A+ games to B is a big change (Metacrtic). Do not get me wrong, I own a copy of Viva la Piñata and everything I have seen of  it does not look terrible; but, at the same time the hours I spent in Golden Eye playing with Alexzander, my older brother, Rare is  just not the same company as it used to be.
 Credit can finally be given to Microsoft when the Xbox One launched in 2013. The game Killer Instinct came out with its faithful remake of the original game. But at the same time, it was not made by Rare. It was made by Double Helix which was bought out by Amazon, the online store, which was a similar deal to the Rare buy out.
            The months leading to Xbox launch were stressful for not only the developers who had to demo their games to the press but the Xbox division who had their jobs on the line. After the press called Halo “mediocre” it did not deter Bungie or Microsoft who had high hopes for the first person shooter. A couple of months later they had to determine what they were going to throw all their resources at and ended up being Bungie’s Halo (Crossley).
       Arguably the “Halo” for the Xbox 360 is Gears of War. (Gears of War was developed by Epic Studios, the guys behind the Unreal engine, the foundation of the games graphics).  Who would be better to show off the new consoles graphics than Epic. Epic had input on how powerful the Xbox 360 would end up being because when they were developing Gears of War they noticed how bad the graphics were with only 256MB of ram. So, they doubled it to 512MB which caused several issues such as Red Ring of Death causing it to overheat. The reason it over heated was because the fan was too small to support the amount ram in the console this simply caused it to over heat after playing on it too long  especially during the summer or it would melt important chips and not work anymore. The early Xbox 360 consoles had a death rate of 68 %(Meta). That is insane that Xbox was able to get away with that. The problem for the most part has been solved but an owner of the console will still get those rare instances where a new black Xbox will red ring (Crossley).
The controller was made by the peripheral section of Microsoft. They ended up making the controller for the original Xbox.  The original controller is refereed to as “old duke” because of it size is ridiculously big. The Xbox controllers are really ironic because the original Xbox controller is considered one of worst in gaming history but the Xbox 360 controller is widely considered by the gaming community as the best. Xbox has spent a considerable amount of money. There are estimates that they spent a hundred million dollars on the Xbox One controller. This is mind blowing, to say at least, that the Xbox 360 Controller is widely considered the best (Arndt, Crossley).
The original Xbox was a hard fought battle for Microsoft and everyone who was involved. It was only in development for few years. It took risks that game console companies did not take back but greatly improved the gaming world. This showed how Microsoft could enter the hardware business and be successfully.

                                                                                  Works cited
Arndt, Rachel Z. "The Best (and Worst) Video Game Controllers." Popular Mechanics, n.d. Web.
Crossley, Rob. "Develop." Inside Story: The Birth of Xbox. Develop, 28 Oct. 2010. Web.
D'mello, Jon. "Titanfall Devs Ask to Tweak Xbox One Controller Input, Microsoft Delivers." Game Guru. N.p., 13 Feb. 2014. Web.
Mejia, Ozzie. "Seeing Red: A History of the Xbox 360's Red Ring of Death." Shack News, 20 May 2013. Web.
Metacrtic - Movie Reviews, TV Reviews, Game Reviews, and Music Reviews." Metacrtic. CBS Interactive, n.d. Web.


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