22nd November 2023 marks 18 years since the debut of the Xbox 360. Arriving first in North America, the console would take until 2nd December of that same year to land in Europe. It was a landmark era not juts for the Xbox brand, but for gaming as a whole. Throughout the next week Chit Hot will be looking at some of the best (and worst!) titles from the Xbox 360’s launch period. But for now, let’s dive into just what made the console so special.

The original Xbox performed admirably, garnering respectable commercial success for newcomer Microsoft. Selling a reported 24 million units worldwide, despite a relatively short lifespan – just over three-and-a-half years in Europe – the groundwork had been laid. The brand had recognition, Microsoft had game studios, and Xbox Live was an industry-leading service. It came as somewhat of a surprise when Microsoft revealed the Xbox 360 console on MTV on 12th May, 2005. Just three years after the launch of the original console. However, their strategy was solid, with a fabled quote from the era sadly lost in time; “We have a Sega genesis not a Sega Dreamcast.”

Xbox 360 Pro

Xbox 360 Launch

Indeed, going for first-past-the-post was a solid decision. The quote above referenced the fact that both the Genesis/Mega-Drive and Dreamcast kicked-off new generations. But while the 16-bit era was led by Sega, they weren’t so fortunate at the turn of the century. The Xbox 360 however, went on to be the leader of the seventh generation of home consoles for much of it’s lifespan. A reported 84 million units of the console were sold over the course of the following decade. The console ranks as the ninth best-selling videogame console of all time.

But back to that launch. The Xbox 360 was initially in short supply in many regions, including North America and Europe. Two editions were released: an ‘Xbox 360 Core’, with no hard drive (HDD), and the ‘Pro’ version, with a whopping 20GB HDD. The Core saw much greater availability, which was a fine starting point as the console’s hard drive was detachable and could be purchased later as an upgrade. However, what couldn’t be upgraded was the console’s cooling system.

Xbox 360 RRoD

Red Ring of Death

Of course, we can’t talk about the Xbox 360 launch without mentioning the fabled ‘Red Ring of Death’ (RRoD). While the issue has certainly be overhyped throughout the years, at the time is was relatively damaging to the console. Typical consumer electronics failure rates are 3%-5%. However, the original Xbox 360 consoles were coming in far higher. Reports come anywhere from 23%-57%.

The RRoD debacle forced Microsoft to extend warranties on the early devices from the standard one year, to three. Furthermore, Microsoft had to invest in repairing the consoles. A reported $1.15 billion. Ouch.

Of course, Microsoft was quick to redesign the console internally, significantly reducing the impact of this issue. Throughout it’s lifespan we would see several later revisions of both internal and external design, including the Xbox 360 S and Xbox 360 E, in 2010 and 2013 respectively.

Xbox Live Arcade logo

Xbox Live

Xbox 360 may have the unfortunate claim to being the console with the highest recorded failure rate in history, but it also has a number of more positive claims. Without a doubt, it is the system that laid the groundwork for modern digital distribution services in homes across the world.

It’s true that Steam had already existed for PC for some time, and of course content being downloadable was nothing new. However, for consoles, the Xbox Live Arcade (now known as Xbox Marketplace) was groundbreaking. From day one of the Xbox 360’s launch, a number of digital-only titles were available. At first they were limited to just 50 MB to ensure they would fit on an Xbox 360 Memory Unit. However, as the years rolled on this policy changed. First to 150 MB, then 350 MB, and 2 GB by the end of the console’s lifespan. This lead to bigger productions being made available as digital-only releases, with Mars: War Logs offered as the first big budget title designed exclusively for these emerging digital distribution services.

Halo 3 keyart

Xbox 360 Legacy

Although not the best-selling console of its generation, the Xbox 360 has been deemed by many as the most influential. This is thanks largely to its emphasis on digital media distribution and multiplayer gaming on Xbox Live. It was the lead development system for many multi-format titles of the era, and brought us franchises such as Crackdown and Saints Row. It also played home to fantastic new editions in beloved series, such as Fable II and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. And of course, the mighty Halo 3.

There’s also the likes of the now defunct Kinect, the now defunct SmartGlass, and the now defunct Zune compatibility we could talk about, but these came much later in the Xbox 360’s life. For today, we’ll be celebrating the launch of the console and it’s line-up. Check out the articles below to see how the best, and worst, of the Xbox 360’s earliest games have stood the test of time.

What’s your lasting memory of the Xbox 360? Were you an early adopter? Did you suffer the dreaded RRoD? Let us know in the comments below!

Categories: Games Tech