Microsoft’s entry into the console business at the turn of the 21st century caught the industry off guard. Even though Microsoft was one of the most successful technology companies in the world, the thought of an American company competing directly in an industry dominated by Japanese titans like Sony and Nintendo seemed like a significant gamble to some. With a strategy focused on powerful hardware, mature software, and online gaming, the first Xbox console established Microsoft as a major player in the space, even if they fell well short of the success of Sony’s PlayStation 2.
It wouldn’t be until the release of Microsoft’s sophomore console, the Xbox 360, that things really started to turn around. Gamers flocked to the 360 thanks to its smooth performance, strong stable of first and third-party software, and intuitive online features. Though Nintendo’s Wii would end up besting it in terms of sales, the 360 is looked at by many as the real winner of its console generation, primarily because it was able to take significant market share away from Sony thanks to the early struggles of the PlayStation 3. Microsoft’s third and current console, the Xbox One, has had a much tougher time due to increased competition from the Sony PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC gaming. That being said, Microsoft has taken steps to course-correct from the Xbox One’s early struggles and the console is much better than it was at launch in 2013.
The Xbox brand has endured its share of ups and downs, and there is a fascinating history behind many of the decisions Microsoft has made with its console business. With that in mind, here are a few interesting bits of Xbox trivia that you may not have been aware of previously.
15. Epic Games Convinced Microsoft To Increase The Xbox 360’s Power
Released a year into the Xbox 360’s lifecycle, Gears of War is often touted as the first true “next-gen” release (by 2006 standards anyway), as Epic Games’ third-person shooter was a visual powerhouse designed to show off the capabilities of Microsoft’s hardware. That being said, there was a very real possibility of Gears of War not being as impressive as it was if Epic had not been able to force Microsoft’s hand on one important hardware decision.
The Xbox 360 was originally meant to ship with around 256 MB of RAM but Epic convinced them to increase it to 512 MB after showing off how much better Gears would look with double the RAM. In order to help make up the cost, Microsoft decided not to make the 360’s hard drive standard, which is how we ended up with two different SKUs on launch day in November 2005. Still, considering you could always buy a 360 hard drive later on if you bought the cheaper Arcade Edition, it’s safe to say Microsoft made the right decision in the end.