The Xbox is a home video game console and the first installment in the Xbox series of consoles manufactured by Microsoft. It was released as Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console market on November 15, 2001, in North America, followed by Australia, Europe and Japan in 2002. It is classified as a sixth generation console, competing with Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube. It was also the first console produced by an American company since the Atari Jaguar ceased production in 1996.
Xbox console with "Controller S"
|Type||Home video game console|
|Units sold||24+ million (as of May 10, 2006)|
|Media||DVD, CD, digital distribution|
|CPU||Custom 733 MHz Intel Pentium III "Coppermine-based" processor|
|Memory||64 MB of DDR SDRAM @ 200 MHz|
|Storage||8 or 10 GB internal hard drive (formatted to 8 GB with allotted system reserve and MS Dash), 8 MB memory card|
|Graphics||233 MHz nVidia NV2A|
|Controller input||4× Xbox controller ports (proprietary USB interface), (Wireless controllers not supported directly - third-party wireless controllers require a wired base unit)|
|Connectivity||100 Mbit Ethernet|
|Online services||Xbox Live|
|Best-selling game||Halo 2, 8.46 million (as of November 2008)|
Announced in 2000, the Xbox was graphically powerful compared to its rivals, featuring a 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, a processor that could be found on a standard PC. It was also noted for its PC-like size and weight, and was the first console to feature a built-in hard disk. In November 2002, Microsoft launched Xbox Live, a fee-based online gaming service that enabled subscribers to download new content and connect with other players through a broadband connection. Unlike online services from Sega and Sony, Xbox Live had support in the original console design through an integrated Ethernet port. The service gave Microsoft an early foothold in online gaming and would help the Xbox become a competitor in the sixth-generation of consoles. The popularity of blockbuster titles such as Bungie's Halo 2 contributed to the popularity of online console gaming, and in particular first-person shooters. Despite this, and being in second position by the sales numbers—ahead of Nintendo's GameCube and Sega's Dreamcast—sales of the Xbox were always well behind Sony's PlayStation 2.
Xbox's successor and the next console in the series, the Xbox 360, was launched in November 2005 as part of the seventh generation. The Xbox was discontinued soon after, beginning with Japan, Microsoft's worst-performing market, in 2005. Other countries followed suit in 2006. The last Xbox game in Europe was Xiaolin Showdown, released in June 2007, and the last game in North America was Madden NFL 09 from EA Sports, released in August 2008. Support for out-of-warranty Xbox consoles was discontinued on March 2, 2009. Support for Xbox Live on the console ended on April 15, 2010.
In 1998, four engineers from Microsoft's DirectX team, Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley, Ted Hase and DirectX team leader Otto Berkes, disassembled some Dell laptop computers to construct a prototype Microsoft Windows-based video game console. The team hoped to create a console using a standardized set of hardware to compete with Sony's upcoming PlayStation 2, which was luring game developers away from the Windows platform. The team approached Ed Fries, the leader of Microsoft's game publishing business at the time, and pitched their "DirectX Box" console based on the DirectX graphics technology developed by Berkes's team. Fries decided to support the team's idea of creating a Windows DirectX based console.
During development, the original DirectXbox name was shortened to Xbox. Microsoft's marketing department did not like the Xbox name, and suggested many alternatives. During focus testing, the Xbox name was left on the list of possible names to demonstrate how unpopular the Xbox name would be with consumers. However, consumer testing revealed that Xbox was preferred by far over the other suggested names and "Xbox" became the official name of the product.
It was Microsoft's first video game console after collaborating with Sega to port Windows CE to the Dreamcast console. Microsoft repeatedly delayed the console, which was first mentioned publicly in late 1999 during interviews with Microsoft's then-CEO Bill Gates. Gates stated: "we want Xbox to be the platform of choice for the best and most creative game developers in the world".
The Xbox was officially announced at the Game Developers Conference on March 10, 2000. Audiences were impressed by the console's technology. At the time of Gates's announcement, Sega's Dreamcast sales were diminishing and Sony's PlayStation 2 was just going on sale in Japan. Gates was in talks with Sega's late chairman Isao Okawa about the possibility of Xbox compatibility with Dreamcast games, but negotiations fell apart over whether or not the Dreamcast's SegaNet online service should be implemented.
The Xbox was officially unveiled to the public by Gates and guest professional wrestler The Rock at CES 2001 in Las Vegas on January 3, 2001. Microsoft announced Xbox's release dates and prices at E3 2001 in May. Most Xbox launch titles were unveiled at E3, most notably Halo: Combat Evolved and Dead or Alive 3.
Due to the immense popularity of gaming consoles in Japan, Microsoft delayed the release of the Xbox in Europe to focus on the Japanese video game market. Although delayed, the European release proved to be more successful than the launch of the Xbox in Japan.
Some of Microsoft's plans proved effective. In preparation for its launch, Microsoft acquired Bungie and used Halo: Combat Evolved as its launch title. At the time, GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 had been one of the few hit FPS games to appear on a console, as well as titles such as Perfect Dark and Medal of Honor. Halo: Combat Evolved proved a good application to drive the Xbox's sales. In 2002, Microsoft made the second place slot in consoles sold in North America. The Xbox Live service gave Microsoft an early foothold in online gaming and would help the Xbox become a relevant competitor to other sixth-generation consoles.
In 2002, the Independent Television Commission (ITC) banned a television advertisement for the Xbox in the United Kingdom after complaints that it was "offensive, shocking and in bad taste". It depicted a mother giving birth to a baby boy, who is fired like a projectile through a window aging rapidly as he flies through the air. The advertisement ends with an old man crash-landing into his own grave and the slogan, "Life is short. Play more."
Discontinuation and successors
The Xbox's successor, the Xbox 360, was officially announced on May 12, 2005 on MTV. It was the first next generation system to be announced. It was released in North America on November 22, 2005. Nvidia ceased production of the Xbox's GPU in August 2005, which marked the end of brand-new Xbox production. The last Xbox game in Europe was Xiaolin Showdown released in June 2007, and the last game in North America was Madden NFL 09 released in August 2008. Support for out-of-warranty Xbox consoles was discontinued on March 2, 2009. Support for Xbox Live on the console ended on April 15, 2010.
The Xbox 360 supports a limited number of the Xbox's game library if the player has an official Xbox 360 Hard Drive. Xbox games were added up until November 2007. Xbox game saves cannot be transferred to Xbox 360, and the ability to play Xbox games through Xbox LIVE has been discontinued since April 15, 2010. It is still possible to play Xbox games with System Link functionality online via both the original console and the Xbox 360 with tunneling software such as XLink Kai. It was announced at E3 2017 that the Xbox One would be gaining support for a limited number of the Xbox's game library.
The Xbox was the first video game console to feature a built-in hard disk drive, used primarily for storing game saves and content downloaded from Xbox Live. This eliminated the need for separate memory cards (although some older consoles, such as the Amiga CD32, used internal flash memory, and others, like the TurboGrafx-CD, Sega CD, and Sega Saturn, had featured built-in battery backup memory prior to 2001). An Xbox user could rip music from standard audio CDs to the hard drive, and these songs were used for the custom soundtracks in some games.
Unlike the PlayStation 2, which could play movie DVDs without the need for a remote control (although an optional remote was available), the Xbox required an external IR adapter to be plugged into a controller port in order to play movie DVDs. If DVD playback is attempted without the IR sensor plugged in, an error screen will pop up informing the user of the need for the Xbox DVD Playback Kit. Said kit included the IR sensor and a remote control (unlike the PS2 the Xbox controller could not be used to control DVD playback). Said remote was manufactured by Thomson (which also manufactured optical drives for the console), which meant a modified version of the remote design used by the RCA, GE and ProScan consumer electronics of the era was used for the Xbox remote, and therefore users wishing to use a universal remote were instructed to utilize RCA DVD remote codes.
The Xbox was the first gaming product to feature Dolby Interactive Content-Encoding Technology, which allows real-time Dolby Digital encoding in game consoles. Previous game consoles could only use Dolby Digital 5.1 during non-interactive "cut scene" playback.
The Xbox is based on commodity PC hardware and is much larger and heavier than its contemporaries. This is largely due to a bulky tray-loading DVD-ROM drive and the standard-size 3.5 inch hard drive. The Xbox has also pioneered safety features, such as breakaway cables for the controllers to prevent the console from being pulled from the surface upon which it rests.
Several internal hardware revisions have been made in an ongoing battle to discourage modding (hackers continually updated modchip designs in an attempt to defeat them), to cut manufacturing costs, and to make the DVD-ROM drive more reliable (some of the early units' drives gave Disc Reading Errors due to the unreliable Thomson DVD-ROM drives used). Later generation units that used the Thomson TGM-600 DVD-ROM drives and the Philips VAD6011 DVD-ROM drives were still vulnerable to failure that rendered the consoles either unable to read newer discs or caused them to halt the console with an error code usually indicating a PIO/DMA identification failure, respectively. These units were not covered under the extended warranty.
In 2002 Microsoft and Nvidia entered arbitration over a dispute on the pricing of Nvidia's chips for the Xbox. Nvidia's filing with the SEC indicated that Microsoft was seeking a $13 million discount on shipments for NVIDIA's fiscal year 2002. Microsoft alleged violations of the agreement the two companies entered, sought reduced chipset pricing, and sought to ensure that Nvidia fulfill Microsoft's chipset orders without limits on quantity. The matter was privately settled on February 6, 2003.
The Xbox includes a standard AV cable which provides composite video and monaural or stereo audio to TVs equipped with RCA inputs. European Xboxes also included an RCA jack to SCART converter block as well as the standard AV cable.
An 8 MB removable solid state memory card can be plugged into the controllers, onto which game saves can either be copied from the hard drive when in the Xbox dashboard's memory manager or saved during a game. Most Xbox game saves can be copied to the memory unit and moved to another console but some Xbox saves are digitally signed. It is also possible to save an Xbox Live account on a memory unit, to simplify its use on more than one Xbox. The ports at the top of the controllers could also be used for other accessories, primarily headsets for voice chat via Xbox Live.
Its CPU is a 32-bit 733 MHz, custom Intel Pentium III Coppermine-based processor. It has a 133 MHz 64-bit GTL+ front-side bus (FSB) with a 1.06 GB/s bandwidth. The system has 64 MB unified DDR SDRAM, with a 6.4 GB/s bandwidth, of which 1.06 GB/s is used by the CPU and 5.34 GB/s is shared by the rest of the system.
Its GPU is Nvidia's 233 MHz NV2A. It has a floating-point performance of 7.3 GFLOPS, capable of geometry calculations for up to a theoretical 115 million vertices/second. It has a peak fillrate of 932 megapixels/second, capable of rendering a theoretical 29 million 32-pixel triangles/second. With bandwidth limitations, it has a realistic fillrate of 250–700 megapixels/second, with Z-buffering, fogging, alpha blending, and texture mapping, giving it a real-world performance of 7.8–21 million 32-pixel triangles/second.
The Xbox controller features two analog sticks, a pressure-sensitive directional pad, two analog triggers, a Back button, a Start button, two accessory slots and six 8-bit analog action buttons (A/Green, B/Red, X/Blue, Y/Yellow, and Black and White buttons). The standard Xbox controller (also nicknamed the "Fatty" and later, the "Duke") was originally the controller bundled with Xbox systems for all territories except Japan. The controller has been criticized for being bulky compared to other video game controllers; it was awarded "Blunder of the Year" by Game Informer in 2001, a Guinness World Record for the biggest controller in Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition 2008, and was ranked the second-worst video game controller ever by IGN editor Craig Harris.
The "Controller S" (codenamed "Akebono"), a smaller, lighter Xbox controller, was originally the standard Xbox controller only in Japan, designed for users with smaller hands. The "Controller S" was later released in other territories by popular demand and by 2002 replaced the standard controller in the Xbox's retail package, with the larger original controller remaining available as an accessory.
The Xbox runs a custom operating system which is based on the Windows architecture kernel. It exposes APIs similar to APIs found in Microsoft Windows, such as Direct3D 8.1. The system software may have been partially based on the Windows NT kernel, but it has modified log files.
The user interface for the Xbox is called the Xbox Dashboard. It features a media player that can be used to play music CDs, rip CDs to the Xbox's built-in hard drive and play music that has been ripped to the hard drive; it also lets users manage game saves, music, and downloaded content from Xbox Live, and lets Xbox Live users sign in, customize, and manage their account. The dashboard is only available when the user is not watching a movie or playing a game. It uses many shades of green and black for the user interface, to be consistent with the physical Xbox color scheme. When the Xbox was released in 2001, the Live service was not online yet so the dashboard's Live section, as well as the network settings sub-menu, were not present.
Xbox Live was released in November 2002, but in order to access it, users had to buy the Xbox Live starter kit containing a headset, a subscription, and supplemental.[clarification needed] While the Xbox was still being supported by Microsoft, the Xbox Dashboard was updated via Live several times to reduce cheating and add features.
The Xbox launched in North America on November 15, 2001. Popular launch games included Halo: Combat Evolved, Project Gotham Racing, and Dead or Alive 3. All three of these games would go on to sell over a million copies in the US.
Although the console gained strong third party support from its inception, many early Xbox games did not fully use its powerful hardware until a full year after its release. Xbox versions of cross-platform games sometimes came with a few additional features and/or graphical improvements to distinguish them from the PS2 and GameCube versions of the same game, thus negating one of the Xbox's main selling points. Sony countered the Xbox for a short time by temporarily securing PlayStation 2 exclusives for highly anticipated games such as the Grand Theft Auto series and the Metal Gear Solid series as well as Nintendo for the Resident Evil series. Notable 3rd party support came from Sega, who announced an 11-game exclusivity deal at Tokyo Game Show. Sega released exclusives such as Panzer Dragoon Orta and Jet Set Radio Future, which met with a strong reception among critics.
In 2002 and 2003, several high-profile releases helped the Xbox gain momentum and distinguish itself from the PS2. Microsoft purchased Rare, responsible for many Nintendo 64 hit games, to expand their 1st party portfolio. The Xbox Live online service was launched in late 2002 alongside pilot titles MotoGP, MechAssault and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon. Several best-selling and critically acclaimed titles for the Xbox soon followed, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Take-Two Interactive's exclusivity deal with Sony was amended to allow Grand Theft Auto III and its sequels to be published for the Xbox. Many other publishers got into the trend of releasing the Xbox version alongside the PS2 version, instead of delaying it for months.
2004 saw the release of highly rated exclusives Fable and Ninja Gaiden, both of these games would become big hits for the Xbox. Later that year, Halo 2 was released and became the highest-grossing release in entertainment history, making over $125 million in its first day and became the best-selling Xbox game worldwide. Halo 2 became Xbox Live's third killer app after MechAssault & Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3. That year Microsoft made a deal to put Electronic Arts's popular titles on Xbox Live to boost the popularity of their service.
By 2005, despite notable first party releases in Conker: Live & Reloaded and Forza Motorsport, Microsoft began phasing out the Xbox in favor of their next console, the Xbox 360. Games such as Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero, which were originally to be developed for the Xbox, became Xbox 360 launch titles instead. The last game released on the Xbox was Madden NFL 09, on August 12, 2008.
On November 15, 2002, Microsoft launched its Xbox Live online gaming service, allowing subscribers to play online Xbox games with other subscribers around the world and download new content directly to the system's hard drive. The online service works only with a broadband Internet connection. Approximately 250,000 subscribers signed up within two months of Xbox Live's launch. In July 2004, Microsoft announced that Xbox Live had reached 1 million subscribers; in July 2005, membership reached two million, and by July 2007 there were more than 3 million subscribers. By May 2009, the number had ballooned to 20 million current subscribers. On February 5, 2010, it was reported that Xbox Live support for the original Xbox games would be discontinued as of April 14, 2010. Services were discontinued on schedule, but a group of 20 gamers continued to play for almost a month afterwards by simply leaving their consoles on connected to Halo 2.
(as of May 10, 2006)
|North America||16 million||November 15, 2001|
|Europe||6 million||March 14, 2002|
|Asia & Pacific||2 million||February 22, 2002|
On November 15, 2001, Xbox launched in North America and quickly sold out. Its launch in that region was successful, selling 1.53 million units three months after launch, which is higher than its successor Xbox 360, as well as the GameCube, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and even the PlayStation 2 and Wii.
The Xbox has sold 24 million units worldwide as of May 10, 2006, according to Microsoft. This is divided out to 16 million units sold in North America, six million units in Europe, and just two million units sold in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Xbox was almost always behind the PlayStation 2 in terms of sales, although in April 2004, the Xbox outsold the PS2 in the U.S. Despite lagging far behind the PlayStation 2's sales, the Xbox was overall a success (especially in North America), keeping a steady second place in the generation sales.
Despite a strong promotion in Japan, the country saw very poor sales (450,000 as of November 2011). Some analysts already believed that the Xbox would have trouble competing with Sony and Nintendo before its Japanese launch, claiming that the Xbox would be competing against its local counterparts and that the console does not fit well with Japanese society (e.g., console size), as well as the lack of Japanese-appealing launch titles, such as role-playing games. For the week ending April 14, 2002, the Xbox was by far outsold by its Sony and Nintendo rivals, as well as the WonderSwan and even the PSone. In November 2002, the Xbox chief in Japan stepped down, leading to further consultations about Xbox's future, which had by then sold just 278,860 units in the country since its February launch. For the week ending July 18, 2004, the Xbox sold just 272 units, which was so poor that even the PSone outsold it by four. The Xbox did, however, outsell the GameCube for the week ending May 26, 2002. Despite Microsoft's struggles, some Japanese-appealing games were released exclusively for the Xbox, such as Dead or Alive 3 or Ninja Gaiden, which hugely contributed to the sales of Xbox in Japan. Its successor Xbox 360 sold 1.6 million units as of February 2014.
The popularity of the Xbox, as well as (in the United States) its comparatively short 90-day warranty, inspired efforts to circumvent the built-in hardware and software security mechanisms, a practice informally known as modding.
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