As the second console released by Microsoft, the Xbox 360 had a huge amount riding on it. It was the follow-up to a brand new entry to the market, and had to go up against two very fearsome competitors in the form of the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3. With a lifespan of over ten years, there’s no denying just how much of a triumph the Xbox 360 was. On the anniversary of its retirement, let’s have a look back over the life of one of history’s most successful game consoles.
It’s safe to say that the era of the Xbox 360 saw the evolution and realisation of online gaming. Beforehand, it had been very much in its infancy and a right faff to get up and running. Unless you had a lengthy LAN cable and a phone line nearby, you had pretty much had it.
Xbox Live really came into its own on the 360, reinventing itself as an intuitive, slick, matchmaking network for online players. To use it, you needed to pay a subscription fee – Xbox Gold. Back in the day you needed this even to use apps like catch-up TV. For online functionality, it was all or nothing.
Of course, once you were an Xbox Gold member you could play with your mates online and easily meet up thanks to friends lists and online profiles. Arguably, the hallmark of gaming online on your Xbox was (and still is) your Gamerscore. This is earned by completing achievements in games so you can brag to anyone who will listen about how mad your “skillz” are.
Possibly the most memorable element of the original Xbox was the chunky controllers, before their crash diet a few years later. The dial swung right to the other side when the Xbox 360 was released, as the game controllers were universally adored. They even became the PC gamer’s choice thanks to a handy cable which allowed them to be used to play instead of a keyboard and mouse.
Way back when you could play your game straight off the disc instantly (technology has gone backwards here, in my humble opinion) hard drive space wasn’t so much of an issue. The original Xbox 360 had a chunky HDD which clipped into the top of it, providing a paltry 20GB of storage by today’s standards, but at the time was more than enough for what was needed.
Overall, the Xbox 360 put in a very strong performance against the PS3 and Wii, possibly marking the high point of the Xbox family of consoles so far (in a commercial sense anyway). However, if all goes to plan and with a fair wind we could be heading to that place again very soon.
As I’m sure you’re thinking, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 360. In fact, far from it as the words “Red Rings of Death” very much suggest. This was a known critical issue at the start of the console’s life, which would result in it refusing to start up and ultimately needing a repair. Microsoft extended the warranty to try and deal with this, and I remember my Dad sending his Xbox 360 Premium back twice. In the end, we were convinced he was just sent a new one to save on further hassle. Who knows how much the issue cost Microsoft in the end?
The Xbox 360 dabbled in the world of peripherals too, the most well-known one being Xbox Kinect. This was a motion sensor which sat near the console, and allowed you to play games using gestures. Despite being well-received upon release, and the technology being very much on trend after the Wii’s huge success, Kinect soon lost momentum. An initially exciting lineup of games weakened quickly, and without the software players started to remove the Xbox Kinect from their collective wish lists.
Away from games, the home cinema scene was also taking significant strides forward, with DVDs quickly being superseded by newer technologies. Microsoft backed HD DVD and Sony sided with Blu-Ray, in a very short-lived battle for the successor to the DVD. The format war raged for a couple of years, but much like Betamax, HD DVD lost out as the big players chose the opposing side, causing the format to die out shortly afterwards as new releases quickly ceased.
But, of course, games are the most important element of any console and there were some all time greats on the Xbox 360. Thanks to its commercial success, many games went multi-platform, meaning players were presented with a vast library to choose from by the time the console was retired.
I cherish so many great gaming experiences on the Xbox 360, from Gears of War and Halo 3, to The Orange Box, BioShock and Red Dead Redemption. There was an incredibly strong lineup for the console, despite some concerns from players around the lack of exclusive titles which still dogs the family of consoles to this day.
The Xbox 360 represents a largely successful and hugely important part of Microsoft’s history in the gaming market. Without it, we would not be enjoying the new games and technologies that we have access to today, and back in 2016 the Xbox 360 most certainly earned it’s right to retire.
And if you never picked up an Xbox 360 but fancy one for your collection, Amazon is by far your best bet.