The Microsoft Xbox is a sixth generation era video game console first released on November 15, 2001 in North America, then released on February 22, 2002 in Japan, and on March 14, 2002 in Europe. more...
It was Microsoft's first independent venture into the console arena, after having developed the operating system and development tools for the MSX, and having collaborated with Sega in porting Windows CE to the Sega Dreamcast console. Notable launch titles for the console include Amped, Dead or Alive 3, Halo: Combat Evolved, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, and Project Gotham Racing.
The Xbox was initially developed within Microsoft by a small crew including Seamus Blackley, a game developer and high energy physicist.
The Xbox launched in North America on November 15, 2001. The greatest success of the Xbox's launch games was Halo: Combat Evolved, which was critically well-received and one of the best-selling games of the year. Halo still remains the console's standout title. Several other launch games were also successful, including Project Gotham Racing and Dead or Alive 3 ). However, the failure of several first-party games (including Fuzion Frenzy and Azurik: Rise of Perathia ) damaged the initial public reputation of the Xbox. Additionally, many early third-party Xbox games did not take full advantage of its powerful hardware, with few additional features or graphical improvements to distinguish themselves from the PS2 version.
In 2002 and 2003, several releases helped the Xbox to better compete and distinguish itself from the PS2. The Xbox Live online service was launched with a strong lineup including MechAssault and Ghost Recon. Several best-selling and critically-acclaimed titles for the Xbox were published, such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Take-Two's exclusivity deal with Sony was amended to allow Grand Theft Auto III (and, later, its sequels) to be published on the Xbox. In addition, many other publishers got into the trend of releasing the Xbox version of multiplatform games right alongside the PS2 version, instead of delaying them for months.
In 2004, Halo 2 set records as highest grossing release in entertainment history as well as being a successful killer app for the online service. That year, Microsoft and Electronic Arts reached a deal with would see the latter's titles on Xbox Live. In 2005, the long-awaited Doom 3, Half-Life 2, and Far Cry Instincts were released on Xbox.
In November 2002 Microsoft released the Xbox Live online gaming service, allowing subscribers to play online Xbox games with (or against) other subscribers all around the world and download new content for their games to the hard drive. This online service only works with broadband. 250,000 subscribers had signed on in 2 months since Live was launched . In July 2004, Microsoft announced that Xbox Live reached 1 million subscribers, and announced in July 2005 that Live had reached 2 million.
Some critics were initially concerned that the Xbox would allow Microsoft to extend its dominance of the PC software market to consoles. However, as of February 2005, estimates show the Xbox's share of the worldwide console market is only slightly ahead of the Nintendo GameCube and far behind the PlayStation 2. According to company documents, Microsoft has shipped 22 million consoles to retailers worldwide. Although ahead of the GameCube's 18.5 million , this is far behind the PlayStation 2's 100 million . (Except by GameCube's numbers, they refer to consoles shipped to retailers, not consoles purchased from retailers. This number includes both consoles sold and consoles still in the retail channel.) The Xbox has enjoyed its greatest success in North America, where an estimated 13.5 million units have been sold. In Europe, the Xbox's market share is currently slightly ahead of the GameCube, but is still far behind the PlayStation 2.
The Xbox has sold poorly in Japan, mainly because Microsoft was unable to enlist enough local developers to cater to Japanese interests. The large size of the hardware itself (in particular the controller was too big for the average hand) did not endear itself to size-sensitive Japanese customers. The fact that the Xbox was foreign-produced and marketed (Japanese tend to buy domestic goods) also did further harm.
Internal documents show that the Xbox division had lost $4 billion from 2000 to 2005. In particular, the Xbox hardware itself is a loss leader, since the console was sold at a loss even at its debut price. The losses deepened when sales of the Xbox increased and when the price was reduced successive times to compete with PlayStation 2 . Microsoft predicted that it would not make a profit on the Xbox for at least three years. This prediction turned out to be correct; Microsoft Game Studios, Microsoft's game division in charge of Xbox development, had its first profitable quarter reported in January 2005 .
The Xbox was designed to take advantage of a slowdown in the saturated PC gaming market and incorporates a built-in ethernet adapter. At the time of its introduction, the Xbox was the only game console to do so. Also, the console cost as much as the high-end GeForce 3 video card alone in 2001, while having comparable graphics processing power (the Xbox's NV2A graphics chipset is a derivative of the GeForce 3). Nonetheless, most of these features were not fully exploited in its first year of launch, notably the lack of Xbox Live online multiplayer.
The Xbox was the first console to incorporate a hard disk drive, used primarily for storing game saves (eliminating the need for separate memory cards) and content downloaded from Xbox Live. Some games also use it as a disk cache, for faster game loading times. Some games support "Custom soundtracks," another particularly unusual feature allowed by the hard drive. An Xbox owner can copy music from standard Audio CDs so players can replace the soundtrack of Xbox games that support custom soundtracks.
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