The Xbox 360 is now ten years old…happy birthday!

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Xbox

Where were you ten years ago? Maybe you were wondering if you’d ever get more than 1mb download speeds. Maybe you were enjoying an exchange rate of six Rands to a US Dollar. Or maybe you were waiting in line, for the latest craze to hit the scene. Ten years ago, Microsoft followed up on their smash hit Xbox console, with the Xbox 360.

Not as big! Rounder! Red ring of deathier! Project Gotham Racing 4! The Xbox 360 had it all, and faceplates to spare. It’s been ten years since the Xbox 360 launched. Ten years of highs and lows. And it was easily my favourite console of the time, as it dominated the industry like no other console did before it.

Development

It’s 2003, and Microsoft is already hard at work on some new hardware that’ll succeed the Xbox console that pushed them into an industry that was usually dominated by Sony and Nintendo. Known as the Xbox Next, Xenon, Xbox 2, Xbox FS or NextBox during its development cycle, the console would eventually be named the Xbox 360 and release in two flavours.

A premium edition that had a smoother finish, 20gb hard drive, a hybrid composite/component cable and a controller that wasn’t the size of a small moon. The core version was a few bucks cheaper, but had neither the cables or hard drive support that the premium edition did. Later on, an elite version would ship, that sported a beefier 120gb hard drive, as well as a matte black finish which just looked so much damn cooler.

Prepare for launch

The Xbox 360 first hit the North American and Canadian markets on November 22, 2005. It would then reach Europe on December 2, Japan on December 10 and roll out to various other countries over 2006. Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand and of course South Africa, all got their hands on the console eventually.

Sales were massive. The console regularly sold out, and savvy hawkers had 360 consoles up on eBay for ludicrous sums. Microsoft shipped 1.5 million consoles by the end of their 2006 financial year, had sold 10 million units by May 2008 and was the best-selling console between January 2011 and October 2013.

And while the original Xbox paved the way for a more cohesive online experience, it was the 360 that took the concept a step further. Xbox Live on the Xbox 360 was a game-changer, a proper online component that helped sell many a game out of the halls of dank LAN events and into living rooms. Xbox Live subscriptions were initially scoffed at (TO THE MAX), but they eventually became the norm for almost any internet-connected owner.

Combined with an evolving user interface and marketplace, and the Xbox 360 had the edge it needed to firmly establish its role as a living room regular.

Incarnations

The Xbox 360 also went through incarnations liked a bored Time Lord on Doctor Who. The original arcade and premium models had a rounder design, memory card ports and wireless controllers which made it a winner:

Xbox 360 (2)

Xbox 360 (1)

And then the Elite console beefed up the storage capacity and slapped on a new coat of paint:

Xbox 360 (3)

And then there was the Xbox 360 Slim, a notably leaner console with harder edges and newer hardware that finally killed off the problematic red ring of death bug that had been the death-rattle of many an original 360. The Xbox 360 slim also tossed the memory card ports for proper USB functionality and was friendlier to third-party hard drives. It was also whisper-quiet, had a glossier black finish and redesigned air vents.

SONY DSC

Eventually, the final Xbox 360 model would be the Xbox 360 E, which was designed to look similar to the new Xbox One console:

Xbox 360 (5)

Don’t forget the Kinect!

Kinect

No, shut up. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to make me forget about Microsoft’s terrible attempt to grab some of the Nintendo Wii’s spotlight.

Notable games

360-Games

Gears of War. Forza Motorsport. Crackdown. The list goes on and on, as the Xbox 360 had a stack of great exclusive games that were regularly released. Halo would eventually change hands from original developer Bungie to 343 Industries, Grand Theft Auto V would push the console to its limits in a swansong performance and everyone would agree that Fighters Uncaged was the worst game ever made. Alan Wake was considered a modern day masterpiece, Fable was alright if you were completely smashed and Geometry Wars consumed us all.

You also saw the rise of many a multi-platform franchise on the Xbox 360, which somehow managed to run far more smoothly on the Xbox 360, thanks to the native architecture of that system not being a nightmare to use, unlike Sony’s Cell processor on the PlayStation 3. Assassin’s Creed, Vanquish, Final Fantasy, Fallout 3 and Call of Duty all saw a brand preference for Microsoft’s big X.

And Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance of course. Never forget Metal Gear Rising. The Xbox 360 is still a damn good console however. Right now, it’s the perfect entry-point device for anyone who wants to dip into gaming. I’ll always remember regular Gears of War matches, where the gibs were plentiful and the lancer chainsaws were constantly revved.

What’s your favourite Xbox 360 memory?

Last Updated: November 23, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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