Remembering the Classics: Xbox

luke kalamar is in a glass box of emotion …

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As the seventh generation of video game systems is coming to a close, the big three companies are all gearing up for the eighth generation. Nintendo had already kicked off the next era with the Wii U last November and ever since then people have been eager to learn more about what Sony and Microsoft had up their sleeves. A few months down the line, Sony unveiled their PlayStation 4 and it received a lot of positive response. The system is set for a Holiday 2013 release, which meant that a new Xbox announcement from Microsoft was almost guaranteed. Waiting until next year to bring out the new system would leave the company at a huge disadvantage against their competitors. This is why when Microsoft announced they had a “big event” planned on May 21st, everyone knew it had to be about the new Xbox. Sure enough, it was, and now the world is fully aware of Xbox One, the third in the family of Xbox consoles. A lot of information was given about the console, to both very positive and very negative response, and it’s all any gamer can talk about now. With all of this coverage, I can’t help but take a look back to the very beginning of the Xbox franchise, the youngest main system franchise on the market.

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Compared to Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft came into the home console market pretty late. The Xbox first came out in November 2001 as part of the sixth generation of consoles. Its direct competitors were Nintendo’s GameCube, Sony’s PlayStation 2, and Sega’s incredibly short lived Dreamcast. Both Nintendo and Sega had already made a huge name for themselves over the years, and Sony broke ground in 1994 with their first PlayStation console. The Xbox was the first console created by an American company since the Atari Jaguar, and despite being a bit “late” to the party so to speak, it made a huge impact. The graphics were on par with the already hugely successful PlayStation 2, and the online service Xbox Live became a huge hit. Plus, the four Xbox controller ports made the fact that the PlayStation 2 could only support two controllers (without the multi-tap) laughable. It also helped that Xbox only titles Halo: Combat Evolved, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Ninja Gaiden, and Fable became massive successes.

Since the Xbox was very similar to a regular computer created by Microsoft, the system became very popular with those who enjoyed modding. For those who aren’t aware, modding is when someone takes the original hardware or software of a piece of technology and changes it to perform a function not originally intended by the designer. Modding in any manner voided the Xbox’s warranty but no one really cared. A classic example of modding is known as “hot swapping” where the gamer alters the system hard drive to give them an extra edge in online play. This is obviously cheating and is widely frowned upon. Other systems are highly modable, but the Xbox is really the one that attracted the widest audience.

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Despite the immense popularity of the Xbox, it took me quite a while to actually get a system of my own. This had nothing to do with lack of quality and more to do with lack of interest. I already had the Dreamcast, which ushered in the sixth generation in 1998, the PlayStation 2, and had my sights on the GameCube. The GameCube technically came out before the Xbox with its September 2001 release in Japan, but came out in North America three days later than the Xbox in November 2001. I loved the PlayStation and every past Nintendo system, so getting the next installments was a must. I never got into the Sega Saturn, but my past enjoyment of Sega systems was enough for my brothers and I to receive the Dreamcast as a very enjoyable gift. With all three of these already, I didn’t have much of a desire to get a fourth. The games looked great but I was already very happy with what I had. It was for this reason that the Xbox became a system that I would play at my friends house only and not at my own.

As the gaming landscape shifted and the Dreamcast became a thing of the past, my interest in the Xbox grew. This eventually led me to buy my own Xbox system and a few games with it, including Knights of the Old Republic, Halo, and Star Wars: Battlefront. I quickly fell in love with the system and my initial lack of interest immediately became a thing of the past. The games were a lot of fun, the controller was comfortable, and I began to see what everyone loved about the system. It didn’t take long for me to pre-order Halo 2 and put KotOR 2, Battlefront 2, and Fable on my radar as must have games. I would even take my Xbox on trips with me so I could play multiplayer with my friends. The four player possibility was perfect and it made the Xbox the obvious choice for local multiplayer on something non-Nintendo focused. Needless to say, my experience with the Xbox was only positive, despite it being shorter than every other console.

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Alas, despite my enjoyment of the Xbox, I ended up not buying its successor, the Xbox 360. My love of the PlayStation line of consoles was too strong and the PlayStation 3 was my natural system of choice. I received that as a gift from a very generous group of friends and still play it on a regular basis. The ever present plague of the Red Ring of Death made me even less interested in the Xbox 360 and not even some incredibly high quality games could sway me to get my own console. As of this writing, I am still more interested in getting the PlayStation 4 or Wii U over the Xbox One, but that could very possibly change, like with the original Xbox. There is no denying that the Xbox One will be an incredible system and I’m sure many people will rush to the store in droves to pick it up this Holiday Season. I mean, the Xbox 360 is the most popular video game console in North America for a reason.

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