Ten years ago, I managed to smuggle a US Xbox in the UK. I bought a huge step up transformer to ensure it worked on the 240v supply and felt like I’d managed to grab the crown jewels from the castle. For a short while, I was a very popular chap. We hooked it up to projectors in the meetings rooms of Microsoft UK’s headquarters and cranked up the audio. Security poked their heads in once or twice but got used to it as we blasted through Halo in a darkened room.
And then one afternoon I was invited to Leeds Football Club to chat with them about technology – so we packed the Xbox, thinking it would make a fun end to the discussion. When we announced that we had the green and black contraband with us, the techies ran off to figure out how they could hook it up to the diamond TV screen that dominated the corner of the stadium. We never did figure that out – but we did managed to trot the box out at half time and parade it around the center circle. And then we had a nice pie.
Fun times and ten years has flown by. I’ve done a lot in my time at Microsoft since then as so has the Xbox. I vividly remember when it launched – people said it would be a flop, that the PlayStation had an unassailable lead and that our decision to put an Ethernet connection in the back of it was crazy in a world of dialup Internet. EDGE magazine in the UK had a memorable cover and I still have the magazine somewhere….as well as the commemorative t-shirt.
It was hard to argue against those naysayers at the time – but we believed and we’re persistent. That’s what we do. We build stuff, we learn, we listen, we fail and we keep coming back. Again, and again. And here we stand today, with a console that has grown from the Xbox to Xbox 360 – with millions of units out in the wild and hundreds of millions of games sold.
Oh and what games – games that have made movie openings seem small in comparison. Forza Motorsport remains my favorite but there are hundreds more, with cult followings. And then there is Halo which is so much more than a game – recently reimagined in Halo: Combat Evolved incredible new graphics for the original and audio to match. And 35 million gamers have chosen to hook up their Xbox to Xbox LIVE, using that Ethernet port (and now Wi-Fi) to connect to their friends, play real-time games online and create communities, friendships and businesses. Virtual clothes anyone? My avatar is currently sporting virtual Diesel jeans and a Turn 10 Studios t-shirt.
Last year we added Kinect to the Xbox family and the response has been astonishing – not only in sales but in the creativity with which Kinect has been greeted by the hobbyists and commercial developers alike. For Kinect, it’s really just the beginning and for Xbox, that’s only part of the story. My own Xbox is almost permanently ON in our household – though we’re not playing games so much. We’re streaming movies via Netflix, listening to music via Zune, tweeting and checking Facecook, showing our family photos to friends and connecting with the family back in the UK via Video Kinect. It’s now our hub of entertainment and more will be added very soon as Xbox has teamed up with partners around the world to bring more live and on-demand TV, movies, games, sports, music in to our homes.
Xbox is such a great story and it’s been told far better than I can by VentureBeat – head there to read the epic journey from idea to creation – it’s a brilliant, breathtaking journey…and it’s just part one. And then head to Microsoft News Center who have some never been seen before photography from the Xbox journey.
I’ll sign off by saying Happy 10th birthday Xbox – you’re growing up really quite nicely. I’m looking forward to your teen years!