Asking if the Xbox 1 was a success or failure is actually a relative question. How could a console that sold over 22 million units worldwide be a failure? I don’t think the entire system was a failure, but aspects of it were. The system spurred the console wars even more with a third competitor. Sony, of course, had the advantage since it was on it’s second console release. And Sony’s system had been a huge success for home gamers, as a CD unit. Nintendo had an advantage as well, even though the GameCube was their first CD style unit, since Nintendo has made gaming systems for years even before Sony arrived. The biggest problem Microsoft faced was how did the Xbox compare to the PlayStation2? Sony knew what its gamers wanted and that it had a market for a new system with the PS2. Microsoft couldn’t be completely positive their system would do as well. It didn’t help that several people grumbled about Microsoft not sticking to what they knew, computers.
The Xbox launched on November 15, 2001, shortly before the GameCube, and sold well. The sales were due to hard core gamers who have to have any and every game systems available. It was the first console that had a built in hard drive. Something that made gamers happy because they didn’t need to buy a memory card to save their progress through games right away. This helped spur more game sales, as well as consoles, themselves since gamers didn’t have to spend the $40 for a memory card, and could find ways to come up with the extra $10 for another game.
Of course the console was ugly, boxy, and very heavy. Being much bigger than the PS2, it couldn’t be sat on its side for consumers with limited space. According to a G4 Xbox 360 special, this big, boxy size was a hindrance in Japan, another big video game market. The Japanese didn’t like the size and look either so, the G4 special said, it hurt the sale of units. This could be considered the failure of the Xbox. Since the system failed in Japan, was it really a success to Microsoft? From my knowledge, game console manufacturers have considered success if a system does well in the United States and Japan.
The other big problem with the Xbox was the original controller. It was big and bulky, like the console. This made them uncomfortable to hold for extended periods of time. It didn’t take long before Microsoft fixed this by coming out with the smaller, S type, controller. Of course, everyone who owned Xboxes had to rebuy their controllers if they wanted to play comfortably. This could be extremely expensive since there were owners who had at least two, and possibly all four, controllers to play multi-person games.
The final note of failure for the Xbox comes in the DVD capability of it. Being a DVD played was one of the options that Microsoft boasted about before its release. It was disappointing that the consumer had to buy the remote, instead of being able to either use a controller or purchase the remote if they were so inclined. The remote cost $29.99 from most places, and really seems to be just another way for Microsoft to bilk more money from the consumers.
One really good concept that Microsoft came out with for the controllers, were the detachable cord connection. There are people who didn’t, and probably still don’t, understand what the purpose of such a cable is. Besides using it to connect the cord to extensions, it was for people who had their consoles on a table and played away from the system. The cord would be stretched across the room and if someone tried to step over it and missed, that person wouldn’t pull the system off the table, possibly breaking it. Instead the cord would disconnect at this spot, saving the system from damage. This could very well have been part of the success of the Xbox. If you never had it happen to a system, it can not only ruin the console, but also scratch the discs and bend controller cords.
As with the PS2, when the Xbox launched, it had the capability of online play, although the program was not set up yet. Once Xbox Live launched, and Sony didn’t have online yet, the Xbox took off, gaining more than 1.4 million subscribers in the first year. Now instead of playing against the computer or family member, the player could challenge someone around the world. Many games gained better replayability due to this, which again made the Xbox more successful.
Games themselves both were a curse and blessing for the Xbox system. Some games were only available for PS2, which Xbox only owners complained about. The biggest hit was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Release November 5, 2002 it took the video game world by storm. For several months the games was boasted as a PS2 only game, but then news came out that it would be released on the Xbox in a dual set of Vice City and GTA 3. There were even some features that PS2 players didn’t get. Xbox’s exclusive titles blew away its competition in console games. Halo, was a game that utilized the Xbox graphics well, the controls were well laid out, and it exceeded everyone’s expectations of it. Because of this, when a delay came about with Halo 2, gamers didn’t grumble as loudly. And when it was released, the graphics capabilities really showed. Both games were, and still are, Xbox only, and last I have heard Bungee plans to keep it that way, even releasing Halo 3 for the Xbox 360 only.
Project Gotham Racing and Fable also showed off the superior graphics of the system. Cars looked real enough to touch in PGA and the background for Fable gave the game so much depth, sometimes a gamer didn’t know what really was the edge of the playing screen. Both games spawned sequels for which fans were grateful and flocked to buy as well. Even though these games were released for the PC, since not everyone plays computer games that does console games, they were both considered Xbox only games.
There are also games that didn’t do as well but had their charm. Cell Damage, a cartoon based smack’em up in vehicles game, the gamer could be a foul mouth duck or Goth girl in a tank. The premise, hit your opponents more than anyone else up to 500 whacks. It had several levels of skill and different settings, which also gave different main characters for those settings. Fusion Frenzy could be played by up to four people, for a party gaming session. It was a bunch of mini games to see who had the best eye to hand coordination. It did get repetitive quickly, but people stilled played it to see who was better.
The Xbox also utilized the use of High Definition television, touting games that were compatible with it. This made the games come even more alive. Games that aren’t listed as HD compatible look better on an HD television with an Xbox than PS2 or GameCube. Since HD TV’s are becoming more popular in homes, this might have spurred even more sales of Xboxes to new consumers in the last two years, just to take advantage of better graphics. And of course there were several places that sold packages that included an HD TV when the new Xbox 360 was released.
All in all it seems that the Xbox was both a success and failure. Truthfully, any system is both. Console developers use the current system to see what consumers like and dislike. They try to keep what works, and improve what didn’t. The Xbox was no exception. Developers even followed in Sony’s footsteps, making sure the new system was backward compatible. Other than a few minor annoyances, I’m going to say the Xbox was a success. Of course I could be cutting Microsoft some slack because it was their first venture into the console wars.