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What Xbox Can Learn From The Console’s Golden Age

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To build the Xbox’s anticipated software library, Microsoft expanded its gaming division significantly to develop titles for both the PC and Xbox. Microsoft also reached licensing agreements with Bethesda SoftWorks and Tecmo to make their respective releases The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and Dead or Alive 3 Xbox-exclusive titles; the latter game would be available at Xbox’s launch. Microsoft’s biggest boon was acquiring Bungie and Halo: Combat Evolved, which would become another launch title and the defining franchise for the Xbox overall.

The Original Xbox’s Legacy and Innovations

While the Dreamcast had previously offered online Gameplay, utilized by many of its Sports and fighting Games, along with Phantasy Star Online, the Xbox cemented the importance of online gaming for the home console market. Though not available until February 2002, three months after the console’s launch, the burgeoning Xbox Live service was a major success, improving significantly from the dialup internet modems that the Dreamcast relied on, with the Xbox using a broadband internet connection instead to improve latency and stability. Several Sports and racing Games would help launch Xbox Live as a viable online gaming platform, while 2004’s Halo 2 became the most popular title on the service during the original Xbox era.

The original Xbox was also the first console to have a sizable internal hard drive – not counting 1976’s Fairchild Channel F, which could store game high scores in its internal memory – preceding consoles either saved data directly to game cartridges or relied on memory card accessories to store data. Though players could purchase 32 MB memory cards to supplement the Xbox’s internal storage or transfer saves to other Xbox consoles, the Xbox itself had an internal storage capacity of eight to ten GB, depending on the model. The idea of internal console storage became an industry staple, with Xbox’s competitors, Sony and Nintendo, adding the component to the PlayStation 3 and Wii, following suit with subsequent console generations.

True to its origins, the original Xbox helped bridge the gap between conventional PC-oriented releases and the console gaming space. Apart from the first two Halo Games, with the original having initially been planned as a PC-specific release, RPGs like Morrowind and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic received acclaimed ports to the Xbox at a time when the major console entries in the genre were dominated by Japanese publishers. Tom Clancy-branded tactical Games, including Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon, flourished on Xbox while Electronic Arts-published Sports titles, which had avoided the Dreamcast, became a major part of Xbox’s Game library.

Though the Xbox was strongly supported by Western developers, it began to make numerous licensing deals with Japanese publishers. As Sega left the console market, sequels to Shenmue and Jet Set Radio would arrive on the Xbox while, following Dead or Alive 3’s successful Xbox launch, Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden became a major hack-and-slash title on the console. With everything from original IP like Fable to ports of PC classics like Counter-Strike, Microsoft came out the gate swinging to ensure its inaugural console had a robust library.

Launched just three days before the GameCube, the original Xbox went on to sell over 24 million units worldwide, with 16 million of those sales being in North America. Though it outperformed sales for both the GameCube and Dreamcast, it was well below the expected 50 million lifetime unit sales Microsoft had hoped for its inaugural home gaming console, which, because of high manufacturing costs, meant a loss of over $4 billion during its lifetime. And though Sony’s PS2 helped inspire Microsoft to enter console gaming, the PS2 far outsold the Xbox, selling over 106 million units within the same period.

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