This week marks the tenth anniversary of the release of the original Microsoft Xbox. Plenty of video game enthusiasts are celebrating the occasion and sharing fond memories of the big black and green box with its massive controllers, and Game Informer is joining the fun with a list of innovations that the Xbox brought to the home video game console world. Some are major contributions, some are minor aspects that are no longer relevant, and others were further refined by the Xbox 360 and its competition. Consider, for instance, the importance of a built-in hard drive, breakaway cables, and custom soundtracks. Oh, and a little service called Xbox Live.
The biggest innovation of the original Xbox, and the one that has probably had the most influence on today’s generation of games, was online play. Xbox was not the first to do it on a console, but it was the first to do it in a well organized manner that made online play easy. Hooking up with friends to play Halo 2 or Splinter Cell was relatively headache free, and didn’t require any additional hardware. It was the first time we had a dedicated friends list that could be used across all games, and the first time we could see what other people were playing without calling them up and asking them. Who wants to go through all that?
I still remember walking through the mall and seeing the Xbox for the first time. I was in college at the time and was out on a Saturday just browsing the stores and getting some air when I saw a demo kiosk in the doorway of GameStop. The kiosk was running an early demo disc, and Fuzion Frenzy was the title on display. I thought it was underwhelming and that not launching with a strong emphasis on a fun mascot such as Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog was a mistake. In the end, Microsoft found Master Chief and the Gears of War team and didn't really need colorful mascots to find success in its own way.