The original Xbox turns 15 in Europe today.
Following its release in the US and Japan, Microsoft’s first games console came out on these shores on 14th March 2002 priced £300. It came with a massive controller and a launch lineup of games that included the groundbreaking first-person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved.
Halo, developed by Bungie, was the console’s “killer app”, fuelling early adopter sales across the globe.
Other launch titles included Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, Fuzion Frenzy, Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee and Project Gotham Racing.
Microsoft’s marketing for the original Xbox included the creation of an infamous banned advert titled Life is Short. Over the course of 30 seconds we see a man being born before crashing into his own grave. The Independent Television Commission (ITC) drew 136 complaints from viewers who found it “offensive, shocking and in bad taste”, and Microsoft pulled it from TV. Life is Short stuck around in cinemas and online, though.
Despite an aggressive and somewhat surreal marketing campaign, Xbox didn’t get off the best of sales starts, and in April 2002 Microsoft cut the price to £199 to match the market leading PlayStation 2. The Xbox was a complete flop in Japan, too (for more on that, check out our extensive feature on why Xbox failed in Japan). Nintendo would go on to launch the GameCube later that year, on 3rd May.
In the end, the original Xbox didn’t last long (Microsoft brought out its successor, the Xbox 360, just a few years later in 2005), but it made its mark. It was the console that launched Xbox Live – at the time revolutionary in the console space – and was home to some cracking games, including Fable and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. (I spent a huge amount of time playing Halo 2 multiplayer over Xbox Live with my original Xbox.)
In many ways, the original Xbox set up the Xbox 360 for wonderful success, even if it sold only 24m before it was eventually discontinued in March 2007.