With the 20th anniversary of Xbox at the end of 2021, the folks at Microsoft decided to really embrace the brand’s history in a number of interesting ways. I figured this thread could function as a way to not only catalogue the official Xbox history celebrations, but also showcase other interesting pieces of Xbox history or related content.
On November 22nd, the Microsoft Alumni Network posted a roundtable about the history of Xbox and other interesting related topics. The discussion was lead by Reggie Fils-Aimé of former Nintendo-fame, and aside from him it features Ed Fries, Robbie Bach, Peter Moore, and Bonnie Ross:
On November 23rd, Microsoft launched the Xbox Museum website. When you visit the museum, you get a (slightly) customizable avatar and can walk through various wings with exhibits that celebrate or inform visitors about the history of Xbox. There is also a personal section, where information about your own Xbox activity is displayed. We have a thread here on Xboxera about it, but to check out the museum yourself, just click below or go to museum.xbox.com:
On December 13th, Xbox launched an excellent 6-part documentary series called Power On: The Story of Xbox. Each episode is about 40 minutes in length, for a total runtime of four hours. It’s available in 30 languages on five different streaming platforms. Visit the link above for more info and a trailer.
On December 22nd, Xbox shared what amounts to a commercial, but which leans heavily into the history of the console, so I think it belongs here. My favourite part isn’t actually seeing the evolution of the consoles and controllers, but how the TVs are growing ever larger.
For deeper dives into the history of Xbox, there are some books available. Below you’ll find four of them. If you know of any other ones, please post in this thread and I’ll update this post accordingly.
Tech journalist Dean Takahashi has written two so far:
Both of the above book links are to Archive.org, where you can either read them directly in your browser, or get a free account and download PDF copies. They’re also available on Amazon and other places, but are out of print and can be pricey.
Videogame focused author Rusel DeMaria has two books with almost the same title: Game of X. Only volume 1 (Game of X v.1) is directly related to Xbox and its history. The second book in this series (Game of X v.2) is only tangentially related to Xbox, in that it focuses on technological developments in the time leading up to the Xbox, including DOS and DirectX.
Nice to hear. I’ve had 360 Uncloaked in my virtual to-read pile for a while, but have been holding off until I could get my hands on Opening. Now that I finally have it, I expect I’ll read them both back-to-back.
I don’t yet know what you mean by this, but I imagine I’ll find out.
So, I was listening to a couple of podcasts featuring Seamus Blackley (one of the founders of Xbox) and he talks about how Next Generation magazine broke the story of Microsoft working on a videogame console before the company was willing to say so publicly. The podcasts in question are Podcast Unlocked and Kinda Funny Xcast and are well worth a listen, but Blackley’s anecdotes about Next Generation magazine and Tom Russo (who is also on the Xcast episode) made me curious to read the issue of NG that had the initial Xbox story.
After some Googling around I found many issues on archive.org, and I wanted to share some pages that I thought interesting. Aside from what I’m sharing below, there’s plenty more fun stuff. Like them stating that Halo was coming out on PS2.
Oh, and I found this Flickr set to be helpful in deciding which issues might be interesting to look through.
Anyway, starting with the original scoop from issue 58, from October 1999, here are the pages I thought I’d pass along:
I used to LOVE Next Generation magazine, when EGM and GamePro seemed to be run by horny teenagers half the time I could always look to NG for some great adult perspective. I was very interested in Microsoft joining the console wars as I am old enough to remember when it was Atari, Mattel and Coleco running the industry and still thought about video games as an “American” industry. Hard to explain now but it was exciting that a US company was bringing out a console again after seeing nothing but Japanese consoles. Those were the days when the Senate would get worked up that Nintendo bought the Mariners, Japanese were buying up huge amounts of property and they were ruling the electronics world.
The wireless video streaming was so ambitious that it took another fifteen years to even get remote streaming too be somewhat useable. The initial third party list is a blast from the past with names of companies that once ruled the gaming world; Infograms, Acclaim, Eidos, Midway…
I was an NES kid growing up, and went into PC gaming for a while, before kinda falling out of the hobby right around the end of the SNES era. Which is to say, I didn’t read Next Generation, or indeed follow the gaming industry at all for the entirety of the N64/PS1 era.
It was seeing that beautiful big, black Xbox box on a shelf in Future Shop (Canadian equivalent of Best Buy) that brought me back into the fold. I wasn’t even aware Microsoft was getting into the game until then. Come to think of it, I probably wasn’t even aware Xbox was a Microsoft product until after I bought it. Which ties into that roundtable video I posted above, in which Robbie Bach talks about telling Bill Gates he didn’t want the Microsoft logo anywhere near the Xbox branding.
But having now flipped through several issues of the magazine, I can see why it would be a breath of fresh air compared to the more juvenile alternatives. Although that’s not to say NG didn’t have its share of nineties “edge” and videogame bro culture, but seeing beyond that it’s clear they were interested in covering gaming beyond cheat codes and Lara Croft’s cleavage.
Yeah, knowing what the tech landscape looks like now, 20 years later, you can’t help but shake your head at the idea that this was even within Microsoft’s grasp. Really makes me wonder about NG’s source, and how seriously this was even considered.
It’s stuff like that that makes me love reading older magazines and stories. A while back I got a GPD XD and got heavily into retro gaming, particularly the SNES, and grabbed all the old issues of a magazine called Super Play. And I loved the one-two punch of reading through that mag and then playing the games they were reviewing, as well as reading their rumours and speculations about (to them) future development in the industry.
That documentary series I mentioned in the OP is called Power On: The Story of Xbox, and as a FanFest registrant I just received an e-mail invitation to a first-look event on December 12th. That’s just one day earlier than the official launch, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is event is more than just a look at the series, and also has some guests and such in a studio. That’s just my speculation, they don’t say that in the e-mail.
Speaking of, here’s a quote from it:
Here’s the trailer:
Judging by the participation level in this thread, I’m suspecting I’m one of the few who actually cares about this, but I for one am really looking forward to this series, and will for sure attend this pre-launch event.
It was twenty years ago this month that the first issue of the Official Xbox Magazine launched covering the debut of the original Xbox console. The first cover story was Dead or Alive with a review of Halo as its game of the month. Project Ego was “previewed” years before Fable would be released.
Dead or Alive 3 9.5
Tony Hawk 2x 8.8
Project Gotham Racer 9.0
Transworld Surfer 8.2
NASCAR Heat 8.2
Cel Damage 6.0
Fusion Frenzy 7.8
4x4 Evo 2 5.5
Madden 2002 9.0
NFL Fever 2002 9.1
Air Force Delta Storm 7.1
Star Wars Starfighter 7.0
Weirdest ad: Mad Dash Racings green soiled underwear.
Thanks for the heads up on that. I grabbed a copy and just finished reading the article. And I gotta say, it made me curious about some of the politics that must be going on behind the scenes.
Reading articles like that, listening to podcasts like those linked above, and reading Opening the Xbox, one cannot avoid the names Seamus Blackley and J Allard and get the impression they were instrumental in the founding of Xbox. Also, I remember back then Allard was everywhere, basically the Phil of his day in terms of the outward face of Xbox.
But when watching the 20th anniversary stream, visiting the Xbox museum, or watching that roundtable above, those guys are hardly mentioned, if they’re mentioned at all. So, yeah, makes me curious about the politics of it and if there was some kind of falling out. That’s one thing I’ll be looking for in the upcoming documentary series for sure.
Thanks again. That article was a good read. I remember lusting after that Steel Battalion controller. Never could justify it, least of all because I’m not even all that into mechs. It was just so cool looking.
The cover story of the latest issue (227) of Retro Gamer magazine is a Halo retrospective. The story itself is 12 pages, and features people like Ed Fries and Jen Taylor, among others. It’s a decent read, nothing groundbreaking, but anyone interested in this thread probably wouldn’t find reading it to be a waste of time.
If your local library has Overdrive access (an ebook service) you can read it for free. That’s how I got my hands on it. Edge magazine mentioned by @Matesamo in a previous post is also available via Overdrive.
On a slightly unrelated note, I just wanted to let folks know I’ve completely redone the starting post of this thread, and moved the Ed Fries article to a later post. Just thought I’d make it a little more streamlined for people to find the official stuff.
just saw this whole history thing, here is a lineup of pre launch xboxes in kiosks i was building in seattle for the launch, did you visit the big xbox balloon house touring north america during launch? i’ll post up more pics from that first year of xbox on the road if anyone wants.
I remember that Microsoft had a traveling display / demo team but I am not sure they came near me, maybe New York or Boston but I never got to go. I did not know that much about the Xbox prior to it coming out, all I knew if Gamecube had Rogue Squadron and Xbox had something called Halo. We all lined up in the same line at Toys R Us =on launch day though.
Stories and photos would be awesome, thanks for the Kiosk photo. My friend still has an original Xbox kiosk from Gamestop in her new store, it is huge. I offer to buy it but it is always no.