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Ten years ago today, Microsoft released the original Xbox in North America. While it was far from the best-selling console of all time, moving a relatively meager 25 million consoles, the system was still groundbreaking in a number of ways. It also set up Microsoft to release their next system, the Xbox 360, which would beat the competition to retail by nearly a year. But how did Microsoft, a company that had never even dabbled in game consoles, go from nothing to great success in so little time?
We, naturally, have the answers. While some might argue that the PlayStation 2 (check out Six reasons the PS2 is the best console of all time) or the GameCube were the greatest consoles ever, there's definitely grounds to make that argument for the original Xbox as well, and we have compiled six reasons the original Xbox is, indeed, the best console of all time.
PCs owned the first-person shooter genre until the last generation. Thanks to the one-two punch of mouse and keyboard controls mixed with online play, games like Counter-Strike, Battlefield, and Rainbow Six flourished while consoles got stuck with half-baked ports and infrequent successes. Sure, there was Perfect Dark and GoldenEye, but be honest: those ended up being seen as party games, not game-changing shooters.
Above: Hate on Chief if you will, but he was the first real console FPS hero
Once Halo was released, that all changed. It truly perfected FPS controls with a controller in a way that none have before, making it feel comfortable to use joysticks, even for those who grew up with a mouse and keyboard. Once Halo 2 came out it really kicked the shift into high-gear, and set the stage for FPS on consoles becoming more commonplace in the coming generations
Speaking of Xbox Live – the original Xbox’s addition of Live service completely changed the industry. Even though the Dreamcast tried to do the same thing, the ability to add friends online and play games with them seamlessly hadn’t been perfected on consoles until the Xbox.
Above: Limited, ugly, and revolutionary
This was partially because of Microsoft’s relatively ballsy decision to disallow dial-up connections – something that was still relatively common when the Xbox launched. By refusing to allow slow connections, Microsoft was able to build the framework for fast, competent online multiplayer that would change the industry forever.
The inclusion of hard drives has undoubtedly changed the industry forever. Beyond making it possible to save games without needless peripherals (see: memory cards), it also gave way to one of the most important additions to this console generation: downloadable games. It opened up consoles to smaller, more inventive games that wouldn’t be worthy of a full disc, but also wouldn’t have been developed if not for the console crowd. Games like Stacking, Journey, and Shadow Complex likely wouldn’t exist if not for consoles having hard drives, and consoles may not have hard drives if not for the Xbox.
Above: Like this, except inside the system and smaller
More importantly, it didn’t abuse the hard drive. This generation’s games come with mandatory installs, or optional installs that might as well be mandatory. The Xbox didn’t dabble in such things, and made sure game developers kept their full, disc-based games on the disc where they belong. Microsoft was (rightfully) strict when it came to handling the hard drive space, a stance it should likely have stood behind moving into the 360.