Thirteen years of Xbox hardware (pictures)

Join us for a potentially exciting, possibly emotional stroll down video gaming memory lane, Microsoft-style.

Eric Franklin
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The prototype

Remember this thing? Not many do. I'm of course referring to the large chrome X in the middle of Microsoft's Xbox division, circa 2000.

When Microsoft first announced it was getting into the console biz, this is the monstrosity it showed off. While it was striking and probably successful at getting people's attention, I think we're all thankful we never had to find space for such a beast in our entertainment centers/bedrooms.

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The behemoth

Ah, now that's better, if still gigantic. I remember when the original Xbox debuted at E3 2001 to low-frame-rate games and lots of "it's just a PC in a box!" talk. When it was released later that year, many of the critiques it had earned were thrown by the wayside when players got a chance to play the final version of Halo.<="" p=""/>
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The familiar

The first Xbox controller took some obvious inspiration from one of the best controllers of the time, the Sega Dreamcast's stock controller. By today’s standards it's way too bulky and way too wired, but it (with the help of the first Halo) proved just how viable the first-person-shooter genre could be on a console.
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The champ

Not only was the Xbox 360 a powerful piece of kit at the time of its release, it was arguably the first console to truly become that living room device that could confidently sit next to your cable box and DVD player.

The black box of entertainment (despite also being available in white and other colorful face plates) that transcended video games while not alienating gamers. It delivered the first persisting video game community on a console while also providing a viable way to experience music, movies, sports, and TV shows.

The 360 is the example the the PlayStation 4 and next Xbox (whatever it ends up being called) will need to live up to.

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The refinement

The 360's controller isn't perfect; it drains batteries something quick, and you’ll have little luck excelling at most fighting games with it. However, it successfully takes nearly everything good about every controller that preceded it, refining it into arguably the most comfortable and capable stock controller yet.

If Microsoft can offer better energy efficiency while also delivering a better experience for fighting-game fans, while retaining everything that makes this one a success in the first place, my next Xbox anticipation will reach uncontainable levels of fervor.

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The failure

Fail early, fail often. Microsoft took a gamble going with HD-DVD over Blu-ray and ended up paying for it. Kind of. Since the advent of streaming media, you’ve probably not heard that many complaints about the 360’s lack of physical HD media compatibility.

Looking to the next Xbox, I’m not convinced Microsoft even needs to support Blu-ray. I mean, it probably will just to cover its bases, but the world has become increasingly digital and cloud-based in the last seven years. What may have been important even only a few years ago has lost its appeal as of late.

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The possibility

Kinect is that device we’ve all been promised since the '80s. Or at least since first seeing the holodeck on "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Finally, you are the controller. Almost. Kinect didn’t fully live up to its potential to truly immerse the gamer into the gaming world, and it’s not for everyone (especially if you’d rather just chill on the couch while saving the world), but it is completely different than anything we’ve seen before.

Rumors are pointing to a more advanced version of Kinect to ship with the next Xbox. Here’s hoping developers are ready for it this time.

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The silencer

The original Xbox 360 (on the left) had a problem of dying at the most inopportune of times, and its internal fan was loud enough to drown out sound from the actual games. Also, it wasn’t designed with Kinect in mind.


Version 2.0 (on the right) was Microsoft’s answer to those problems and it went a step further, making the overall package smaller and selling it for cheaper. Version 2.0 of the Xbox 360 is also the most tangible clue yet as to which direction Microsoft is heading for the next Xbox’s design. Hopefully, we’ll find out just how close it is on Tuesday at 10 a.m.

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