Around the turn of the 21st century, the idea of an American-made console standing a chance in the Japanese-dominated gaming industry could only be seen as delusional. But here we are 12 years later, and "Xbox" now exists as a household name thanks to Microsoft's ingenuity, stable of developers, and, perhaps most importantly, their unfathomably deep pockets. Bill Gates dream has come true!
A lot's happened in the decade-and-change since Microsoft dropped their first console, which is more than enough time to amass some lesser known facts. Thats why we've uncovered 20 bits of trivia you might have forgotten in the launch between Xbox one and... Xbox One--boy, were still not used to that.
The person with the highest GamerScore was given a lifetime Live membership
Some are more invested in Achievements than others, but likely no one Earth is more committed to them than user Stallion83 (real name Ray Cox), the Xbox Live player that currently has over 950,000 GamerScore. Hes been working for years to be the first person to hit one million points, mainly by playing every single game there is, including international releases of the same game that count as separate releases. Seemingly as a way of thanking his dedication, Microsoft gave Ray an Xbox Live membership that was literally gold, one that granted him Xbox Live free for the rest of his life. Maybe now hell stick with it until hes the first person to hit two million.
The Halo 4 Ghost is the best-selling Avatar item of all time
The Kinect launch brought about Microsofts Avatars, digital representations of the player that had more than a little in common with Nintendos Miis. Avatars brought with them a whole new digital market for the 360 in the form of Avatar clothing and items sold for a few bucks apiece to outfit your character with nonexistent clothes. Gamers spent real money on this stuff, and the current bestseller of all time is Halo 4s Ghost item, with wearable Modern Warfare 2 night vision goggles not far behind. Because these purchases are the rare case of content carrying over from 360 to Xbox One, itll be interesting to see if these will get replaced any time soon by next-gen franchises like Titanfall.
Ms. Pac-Man was the first ever XBLA game
Xbox Live Arcade is basically over--Microsoft now places all games in the same storefront--but many gamers may have forgotten the downloadable shop got its start before the 360 even existed. The relatively primitive early edition of XBLA came via a disc for the original Xbox and it took players to a simple digital storefront that sold a handful of arcade classics. The first of those titles, Ms. Pac-Man, was offered free to early adopters, which was a nice treat, but the purchase didnt carry over to the next system--a situation 360 owners are now adapting to with the Xbox One.
Halo was originally unveiled as a Mac exclusive
"Halo" is nearly synonymous with "Xbox," but this wasn't always the case. 1999 saw the legendary FPS revealed at Macworld as a third-person shooter for Bungie's then-preferred platform of choice. The late, turtleneck-clad Steve Jobs introduced Halo as one of the coolest games he'd ever seen, but you have to wonder how much his tune changed when Microsoft swooped in, acquired Bungie in 2000, and transformed Halo into the first-person experience that eventually moved millions of Xboxes.
Microsoft briefly considered buying Sega and Nintendo
If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. That nearly stood as Microsoft's Xbox business strategy, as the company briefly considered buying Sega as a quick-and-dirty way to enter the console war, but decided against it after realizing the House of Sonic didn't have the power to help them bring Sony down. Microsoft also thought about buying Nintendo, but presumably reconsidered after realizing such a feat would've probably involved fighting notoriously feisty Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi to the death in some sort of cage match scenario.
The Xbox controller was redesigned to appeal to Japanese gamers
Microsoft had an uphill battle to fight with their attempt to sell the Xbox to a Japanese audience. After all, the system was big, bold, and distinctly American, and didn't mesh well with cultures who didn't necessarily share these ideals. Strangely enough, one of the Xbox's major improvements came in the form of the Controller S, which crammed all the functionality of the original Xbox controller into a form much more compact and attractive to the Japanese demographic. This design would eventually be adopted in America as well, and a decade later, this size has become the standard, leaving the oversized original controller as a forgotten relics.
Pro wrestler The Rock helped reveal the original Xbox
Who better for the launch of your huge, American console than a huge, American wrestler? At the Xbox's unveiling at CES 2001, The Rock joined Bill Gates on stage where the former compared his "know your role" and "shut your mouth" catchphrases with the latter's "writing hardcore C to create slick, tight code." Thankfully, this exchange did not end with Dwayne Johnson crushing the billionaire's body with a Rock Bottom followed by a People's Elbow.
Multiple XBLA games are now MIA from the marketplace
Quick, check your XBox Live Arcade game library: do you happen to own Double Dragon, Doom, Yaris, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled? Well, if you don't now, you never will; due to a litany of reasons ranging from out of business publishers to lost licenses, you won't be seeing any of these titles again soon. While these absences only make for a tiny percentage of the platform's total available games, the complete disappearance of content definitely counts as one of digital distribution's few shortcomings.
"Xbox" could have been known as the "Eleven-X"
The name "Xbox" might have seemed a little clunky when the system first launched--though it certainly was boxy--but things could have been much worse. For reasons still unknown, Microsoft's "naming guys" were dead-set on calling the console 11-X or Eleven-X, until Xbox visionary Seamus Blackley insisted on the name we all know and love. Other notable alternatives? FACE, MARZ, M-PAC, and MIND. Yeesh.
Psychonauts was originally an Xbox exclusive
To this day, Tim Schafer's Psychonauts stands as one of gaming's most beloved flops--but it once had a much higher profile. Double Fine's first game was originally pegged as an Xbox exclusive, shepherded into creation by Microsoft's Ed Fries, who wanted the console's library to have an artistic flair. But, as is the case with many creative projects, when Psychonauts' guardian angel left Microsoft in 2004, the company lost interest, causing Double Fine's first game to go multi-platform with the help of Majesco.
Epic forced Microsoft to give the 360 more RAM
Many regard the original Gears of War as the first true game that felt "next-gen"--as of 2006, anyway. But it wouldn't have looked nearly as stunning if the 360 didn't ship with 512 megs of RAM. Microsoft originally intended their system to have half this amount, until Epic forced their hand by showing how much better Gears could look with double the RAM. This decision came at the cost of the 360's hard drive not being standard, but we can assume everyone who bought the Arcade Edition eventually upgraded.
Peter Moore used the medium of tattoo to announce release dates
One-time Xbox bigwig Peter Moore mightve been just another executive, but he tried to shake that stuffed shirt image by any means possible. One of his most famous stunts involved branding his right arm with the Halo 2 logo and the phrase "November 9," which he showed off for the first time at E3 2004. Even though Halo 2 stands as one of the more divisive entries in the series, this fact didn't stop Moore from getting a much less authentic tattoo--this time without a release date--to announce Grand Theft Auto IV coming to the 360.
One gamer stayed active on original Xbox Live nearly a month after its shutdown
April 15th, 2010 marked the end of Microsoft's original Xbox Live service, but that didn't stop one gamer from staying online long after the expiration date. Live user N4SIR kept his connection active by staying logged on to Halo 2's multiplayer mode, and managed to hang in there until May 10, when he found himself booted from the service once and for all. Maybe someone down at Microsoft forgot to literally pull the plug?
Resident Evil's Shinji Mikami didn't like Microsoft's lack of "philosophy"
Two gaming generations ago, Resident Evil made a surprising jump to the GameCube, and an equally unexpected move by completely changing the series' survival horror trappings. But if not for a disastrous meeting between Microsoft reps and Shinji Mikami, Resident Evil 4 could have ended up on Xbox. Microsoft made an attempt to court the Resident Evil director, but Mikami questioned their overall philosophy in comparison to Sony and Nintendo's mission statements. When a flustered rep had no answer to this question--not instantly, anyway--Mikami stood, bowed, and exited the room.
A Dawn of the Dead producer tried to sue Capcom over Dead Rising
2006's Dead Rising would never have come into being without the 1978 George Romero zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, which featured survivors battling the undead in a very familiar setting. The rights-holder for Dawn of the Dead didn't care much for the similarities between Dead Rising and Romero's film, and set out to sue Capcom over what he viewed as plagiarism. The suit was later dismissed in court, and we as a people learned the valuable lesson that no one truly "owns" the concept of humans fighting zombies in a shopping mall.
Gears of War's innovative cover-based mechanics came from an obscure source
In 2006, the original Gears of War wrote the book on how to do cover-based shooters right. But before a flash of inspiration, Gears wasn't the genre-defining legend it would later become. While its behind-the-shoulder perspective comes straight from Resident Evil 4, Gears' cover mechanics can be traced to the obscure 2003 Namco shooter Kill.Switch, which received average review scores and little-to-no fanfare during its release. When a senior designer at Epic showed Kill Switch's cover system to Cliff Bleszinski, the latter loved it so much he brought Kill.Switch's lead designer onto the Gears team, and history was made.
Microsoft pulled the name "Xbox" from a very obvious source
While you've already read about the many different names the Xbox could've had, the story behind its extant one isn't nearly as complicated. Microsoft's first console went through several revisions, but the X-shaped silver version we never saw was given the codename Direct-Xbox, due to its Windows-based architecture and reliance on the DirectX collection of APIs. While the final Xbox would ditch Windows entirely, its all-too-obvious name still managed to stick around.
Madden NFL 09 was the last original Xbox game
The Madden NFL series tends to stick around long, long after a console's natural death, and the original Xbox certainly saw its share of Maddens long after everyone else had moved on to the 360. Madden NFL 09's release date of August 12, 2008 marks the final time an Xbox game shipped, and almost three years after the launch of its successor, at that. If this tradition continues, expect to see Madden '18 pound the final nail into the 360's coffin in a few years.
360 gamers flocked to a lousy Avatar game for an easy 1000 Achievement points
The original appeal of Achievement points might have faded a bit since the 360's launch, but you don't have to go too far back in time to witness how far people would go to increase their Gamerscore. 2007's Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Burning Earth stands as one of the more notable examples, as it offered an easy 1000 achievement points for anyone brave enough to rent or buy this lukewarm kids' game and play it for three minutes. But maybe that's what THQ had planned all along?
The most American Xbox game ever only came out in Japan
If you'd like to play a game where the current President of the United States pilots a mech to fight against a military coup staged by his Vice President, look no further than Metal Wolf Chaos--which, unfortunately, only saw a release in Japan. This 2004 From Software production (published by Microsoft, mind you) might have fallen a little too close to September 11, 2001 for Americans to have a sense of humor about uber-patriotism and attacks on their homeland. Now, nearly a decade later, Metal Wolf Chaos remains one of the most inspired (and hilarious) games to hit the original Xbox.
In its first four years, the Xbox 360 had a 23.7% failure rate
The infamous "red ring of death" made an astounding amount of Xbox 360s completely inoperable, presenting a monumental PR issue for Microsoft to overcome. But just how prevalent was this problem? According to an August 2009 report by warranty service provider SquareTrade, nearly a quarter of all 360s shipped by that point in time eventually failed to function. Thankfully, Microsoft's three-year warranty kept their customers happy, even if their mea culpa came with a one-billion dollar price tag attached.
Too Human took $60 million and nearly a decade to come together
Silicon Knights' Too Human looked to be the studio's magnum opus, but after nine years of platform switches--PlayStation to GameCube to 360--and $60 million down the hole, the game limped into retail in summer 2008 and received a bounty of negative reviews. Obviously that helped sink any possible future for this "planned trilogy." And, believe it or not, Too Human's colossal failure wasn't even the worst thing to happen to Silicon Knights.
An insane amount of Rare games never saw the light of day
Microsoft purchased Rare from Nintendo in 2002 for the princely sum of $375 million, and it was right at the time the developer seemed to be an unstoppable force of nature. While Rare produced the lamentable Grabbed by the Ghoulies and the strangely censored Conker's Bad Fur Day remake, the studio originally had much more ambitious plans, though nearly 20 of these planned projects never fully materialized. These cancelled games include a sequel to Kameo, a full-fledged MMORPG, and a survival horror game called Ordinary Joe.