Reflections #3: Happy 20th Birthday, Xbox!

Good morning everyone,

I wanted to type up a special article since today is the day Xbox celebrates it’s 20th year of being in the gaming market. Of the three major consoles, it’s the youngest! Xbox has been a platform that came out hot right out of the gate and made big waves in the gaming community over the years. I’d like to celebrate this day with them by discussing my own history (briefly) with Xbox, covering where Xbox is right now, and then finalizing this article by talking about what the future has in store.

Before we go much further, for you gamers out there, I’ve written a few pieces about Xbox in the past, including my deep dive into the Halo series this past year. You can find those articles below:

A Review of the Xbox Series X

Shane’s Review – Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Part One)

Shane’s Review – Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Part Two)

Without further ado, let’s get into the action.

First of all, I’m going to give a condensed version of my history with Xbox. Eventually, I might write a more in-depth article about this subject, much like I did with Nintendo. I don’t have that kind of free time at the moment so we’ll just keep the topic here, as well as abbreviated. I did not get my first Xbox console until 2011. It was a slimmer Xbox 360 that my friend was trying to sell for about $100 dollars. It came with a copy of Halo: Reach, Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (Rated Teen version), a headset, two controllers, and maybe two more lesser known games that I’ve probably traded. To be honest, I was more interested in the copy of Oblivion since the game was eventually rated Mature and I wanted one of those early copies since I went deep into the Bethesda games on my PS3.

My friend, Daniel, got me set up with a Microsoft account and he added some of our common friends to my friends list and mentioned to them who I was during school. For many weekends, I would play Halo: Reach’s multiplayer with our friends and we all got a tighter bond. I felt like an idiot for getting a PS3 and not being with my friends on the online games. At the time, I played one mission of Reach’s campaign and realized it wasn’t my thing, so I just kept playing the multiplayer.

I knew from that point, I was hooked on the Xbox. I still used my PS3 for the games I already had, but it was more of a Blu-Ray player and it was the place I’d play Rock Band. The next summer, the Xbox died and would not run the latest college football game I bought just a week before. (Keep in mind, 360s were known for this.) Thankfully, it was late in the console generation and the price to get a new one was a lot less steep than previously. I will say that I still play the Xbox 360 that I got to replace it, even to this day. I love playing NCAA Football 14 on it.

After the Xbox 360, it was time for the Xbox One. I remember choosing PS4 at the time because I just could not see the benefit of integrating all your entertainment into one central hub. Keep in mind, smart TVs were not a thing yet. In hindsight, I went back and watched the Xbox One reveal and I think it was ahead of its time because now we would appreciate a console trying to be the one hub of entertainment. As for the Kinect and voice commands, I just never cared for it. Plus, this was being revealed during all of the NSA leaks from Edward Snowden, so people had skynet concerns.

From 2014-2017, I was back on Playstation. It wasn’t until I saw a Facebook Marketplace post for a used Xbox One. They had four controllers, a day one Xbox One, a few games like GTA 5, Gears of War 4, and the brand new PUBG game. $150 dollars later, the console was mine.

I wanted to try some of the Microsoft games on it since I always saw them on sale. Keep in mind, this generation was when Xbox was “down” relative to the other gaming console generations. I had an enjoyable time on that console. The games performed great, and I just loved the controller. That’s when I decided to download a free game called Fortnite and then that’s when I got sucked right back into the fold.

Similar to the last time I got an Xbox, I got a community of my co-workers added and we would play Fortnite and PUBG. We would have our Not Safe For Work office chatter and just have a great time overall. Around this time Xbox released the Xbox One X.

The summer of 2018, my co-worker brought his Xbox One X console to work since he was going on a vacation after his shift was over. During lunch, he offered to let me try it, since it had better hardware than the original one I was playing on.

I was impressed! Shortly after, I went and bought one for myself. I sold the other Xbox to my brother in law and then I think he sold it at a yard sale.

I played the Xbox One X until the launch of the newest console, the Xbox Series X. To this day, I have the Xbox Series X and then this summer, I sold my Xbox One X since the semiconductor shortage made used consoles a hot ticket item. I used that money to buy a Xbox Series S, the digital only variation of the new console.

With this point being mentioned, I am going to transition to where Xbox is right now. I would say they have re-build and re-structured themselves into a strong position going forward. One of the main driving forces is the emergence of Game Pass as a service.

Xbox is taking the Netflix inspired route in terms of game access. For $10 a month, you can have access to all of the games Xbox themselves have made, any time and any console you wish. I used this service to play the Master Chief collection this summer. They also have healthy partnerships with EA that expands their catalog even further with EA Play’s games. As long as you have Game Pass, you can download these games to your console and play them at your own leisure. The only issue that arises is when third party games only have a limited amount of time on the platform. So for example, let’s talk about November. Two major releases in Forza Horizon 5 (Made by Microsoft) and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Remastered were added to Game Pass. Which should you try first? You would want to go the GTA route because it will only be on there for X amount of time. Xbox will let you know, much like HBO Max does, when games will be removed from the service. As for Forza, it’s a first party game so it will always be there for you to play.

With that being said, the other major factor driving Xbox’s recent success is their organic growth of studios under their umbrella titled Xbox Game Studios. Over the past few years, Xbox has been doing some networking with game studios that have been great partners with Xbox. Xbox takes studios like Obsidian and offers the option for them to buy Obsidian so that Obsidian can enjoy the added benefits of being a part of a major corporation like Microsoft so they can grow their own teams and make bigger games. For now, it seems that Xbox acts autonomous with their studios. They let them make what they want.

So many platforms are taking this “acquisition” approach in order to give people a reason to use their service over others. For example, I don’t have Paramount+ but since the future Halo TV show will debut over there next year, I’ll end up buying a brief subscription in order to check out the show.

Xbox made one of the biggest acquisitions in the gaming industry with Bethesda in 2020. Bethesda is a RPG juggernaut with Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Starfield. Xbox has a tendency to use these acquisitions to fill in major gaps in their catalog. For the longest time, I always felt that Xbox was lacking in RPG games, this is no longer the case!

Xbox acquiring more studios to make exclusive, high quality experiences for gamers on their Game Pass service is setting them up for a bright future.

So, what is their future exactly? The gaming industry got thrown a major curveball with the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. This was the year that Xbox wanted to start off with a bang by launching Halo Infinite and their new consoles.

Both of these launches got stymied in a sense. For Halo, the gameplay demonstration in August of of 2020 received poor reception across the board. Xbox decided to delay it until December of 2021.

Not to mention, many people still are not able to purchase the new consoles, a year later, at MSRP pricing, due to the semiconductor chip shortage. You *can* get one, but you’re going to have to take a risk and pay a scalper premium pricing on eBay since retailers still have not taken safe guards against scalping.

Even with these setbacks, Xbox is in great shape. For Halo, they have made the game for the older consoles in order to get as many people playing it as possible. Not to mention, the multiplayer aspect of the game is free to play, and it might even be launching early. Call of Duty has been receiving lukewarm reception thus far, and Battlefield 2042 looks like it is ridden with technical issues out of the gate. As fro the battle royales, the hype has died down. This is a prime opportunity for Halo to take back it’s throne as the key shooter experience.

With the console shortages, Xbox has been doubling down on their cloud gaming infrastructure. They are hoping to get next generation experiences like Starfield available for people with older consoles by streaming the game from their cloud servers. Historically, this has been a shaky experience but I think that’s because our country’s broadband infrastructure is outdated. Until that is remedied, Xbox can at least work on the back end and make their own servers run well.

They even want to make a streaming stick type of device. I think you can price it for about $150 to where you just stream games on a TV stick type of device and then you use a Xbox controller that comes with it to play along. Again, I think once the internet infrastructure in all of our countries are more up-to-par, I think this will be a great option.

In conclusion, Xbox has ran out of the gate making such a big impact in gaming, even though it’s the youngest of the major three platforms. In the past, it’s given me great memories with my friends and family and it’s also helped me in some rough times. In the present, it’s setting the stage with Game Pass and partnering up with studios they work well with. In the future, they will try to diversify their platform with cloud gaming in order to help alleviate the console demand in case another parts shortage were to ever occur, also ensuring the cost barrier gets lowered to allow more people to enjoy the games. Xbox likes to use the term “gaming ecosystem” a lot and I think they are well on their way in establishing that. They have come a long way and I want to end this article by wishing them a happy 20th birthday!

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