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Friday, December 02, 2005

Microsoft Xbox 360 [Illustrated Review]

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Microsoft Xbox 360

"Microsoft Xbox 360: The Xbox 360 is here and it has your living room squarely in its sights. This time around Microsoft’s next generation console promises to have something for everyone, but what does it have in store for you?


Although [H]ard|OCP is primarily a PC enthusiast Web site, we have a long history, rich with stories, with the original Xbox console. Like most hardware enthusiasts, we were immediately intrigued by the PC-like hardware of the original Xbox and couldn’t wait to get our hands on one and see what made it tick. On November 17th, 2001, the day the original Xbox launched we were the first Web site to completely disassemble the console and give you a firsthand look at the inside of Microsoft’s new console. 90 days later, [H]ard|OCP was the first and only Web site on the planet to water cool an Xbox. Why would anyone tear apart an Xbox? To see what’s in it, of course. Why water cool an Xbox? Simply put, just to see if it could be done.

[H]ard|OCP has watched Microsoft with great interest since then and, once again, the team from Redmond has our full attention with its ground breaking new console that has roots firmly planted in the realm of cutting edge PC technology. We’d be crazy not to take the Xbox 360 out for a spin and see how the retail experience stacks up compared to our initial impressions after our hands on experience with the console back in May.


From Microsoft: Celebrating the dawn of a new era in entertainment, millions of game fanatics around the globe came together tonight for the televised unveiling of the Xbox 360™ future-generation game and entertainment system from Microsoft. An audience of millions watched "MTV Presents: The Next-Generation Xbox Revealed" as celebrities, professional athletes, musicians and Xbox officials took the wraps off the much-anticipated system, ending months of intense speculation and satiating consumers worldwide.

The new Xbox 360 system places players at the center of powerful next-generation games and entertainment experiences. The elegant design features a breakthrough wireless controller and an array of Faces, interchangeable faceplates that let gamers personalize their console. The unveiling spotlighted some of the groundbreaking games in development for the new Xbox 360 system, advancements for the Xbox Live™ service — the only unified console gaming service— and new digital media experiences that only Xbox 360 can deliver.


It has been four years, almost to the day, since the launch of the original Xbox console. Looking back to when Microsoft first announced the original Xbox, few people, if any, expected the software giant to be able to compete in the crowded console market dominated by the likes of Sony, Nintendo, and Sega.

Although the original Xbox was the butt end of more than a few jokes because of its large size and even larger controller, there was one aspect of the Xbox that was no joke -- its raw horsepower. Sporting hardware specs almost double that of its main rival, the question wasn’t whether the Xbox could perform, the question was whether or not Microsoft could deliver where it counted most:games.

At the time, Sony had a stranglehold on the console market for more than 6 years with the extremely popular PlayStation, and they had a huge 13 month head start on Xbox with the massively successful, backwards compatible, PlayStation 2. Complicating matters for the folks in Redmond, the Xbox originally launched with only a handful of games and, of those games, only Halo was a true blockbuster title. Compared to Sony’s massive install base and their hundreds of game titles for (both PS 1 & 2) already on the shelves, it was abundantly clear that Microsoft had its work cut out for it.

The Xbox has come a long way since then, eventually overtaking the Nintendo GameCube as the number two selling console in the world. In that time, Microsoft has also launched some of the most successful game titles in history and established an online service (Xbox Live!) that is second to none. However, despite these and other success stories, the Xbox was never able to overcome the PlayStation 2’s initial thirteen month head start.

Fast forward to November 22, 2005:

Microsoft is still the number #2 selling console in the world but my how things have changed. The Sega Dreamcast has fallen by the wayside, Nintendo’s GameCube has slipped to last place in a three-man race, and Microsoft is now the company launching its next-gen console far ahead of the competition.

Let’s take a good, [H]ard look at the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and see if it has what it takes to take the pole position in the next-gen console race." [more]

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