Powering Dreams: 20 Years of Xbox

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Xbox. Two decades of entertainment and innovation that have captured the hearts of players across the world. When you look back at everything Microsoft has accomplished over the years, it’s clear that they have been a leader in moving the industry in the direction it has gone. Many of the features and ways in which gamers play these days are thanks to Xbox. Online gaming, hard drives in consoles, achievements, backwards compatibility, cross play, subscription based gaming. All of these things were done first or done best by Xbox.

There is also a history of incredible games over the years. From epic blockbusters like Halo, Gears of War, and Fable, to smaller but beloved titles like Fuzion Frenzy, Crimson Skies, and Viva Piñata. Whether you began your journey on the original Xbox with the classic “Duke” controller, fell in love with the all time classic Xbox 360, or were pulled in by Xbox Game Pass and the Xbox Series X, you no doubt have great memories of playing an Xbox. So we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary by gathering our friends from around the games industry and asking them what some of their favorite Xbox memories are. We hope you enjoy this look back at 20 years of Xbox!

Ryan McCaffrey (IGN)
“When I think about 20 years of Xbox, the first thing I think about is Halo 2. It genuinely encapsulated everything I love about Xbox into one package: it was a hugely anticipated game that delivered on its massive hype with bleeding edge technology, it took us further into a story with characters that we loved, and it genuinely revolutionized multiplayer console gaming with an online multiplayer infrastructure that allowed you to play custom or ranked games with your friends all night long, seamlessly, on a suite of multiplayer maps that was so good that naming any of them even today instantly conjures up wonderful memories. Halo 2 was everything unique and wonderful about Xbox on one disc.”

Kyle Hilliard (MinnMax)
“The original Xbox was the first substantial purchase I made with my own money after getting my first job. I remember looking at the total, which accounted for a console, a DVD remote, a smaller s-controller, and a copy of Halo. I grimaced while swiping my card. After that moment, it became the most played console in my home. The GameCube (the cost of which I had split with a friend) and the PlayStation 2 (a recent Christmas gift from my parents) still played the occasional exclusive, but they were fighting to take attention away from a console that hosted a near-constant Halo lan party and no memory card management. It quickly became the video game staple for me and my friends.

It’s unthinkable these days that a company, even an established one like say, oh I don’t know, Google or Amazon, could enter the video game space and become a real player, but Microsoft managed to do it and has impressively maintained its position against Sony and Nintendo for a pair of decades now. It’s been an impressive run and I don’t see it expiring any time soon. Now we just need that proper Fable sequel that is currently being worked on and we will be good to go for another 20 years.”

John Wahl (Mega Dads)
“I have so many cherished memories associated with Xbox, from sitting in my brother’s basement and experiencing Halo for the very first time, to using money that we received on our wedding to go buy an Xbox 360, but I think my favorite has to be the co-op gaming I’ve done with my wife over the years. We’ve played through the entire Gears of War series together in split screen, chainsawing our way through hordes of locusts. We’ve spent hundreds of hours surviving the zombie apocalypse in Left 4 Dead and it’s sequel, even more so when we play online with Adam and his wife. And most recently we’ve been racking up Victory Royales in Fortnite which we play a round or two of at the end of a long day to unwind. I love gaming solo, but nothing compares to having a partner in life who has your back in the game too.”

Victor Lucas (EPN)
“We were in full production with Electric Playground as a television show as the Xbox was launching and those were incredibly exciting days because here was Microsoft entering the console marketplace, and there was this great sense of “Is their room in the business for three big juggernauts?” I think everybody was incredibly impressed by the bullishness of Xbox, this idea of launching a big, bold console with a hard drive built right into it, and an ethernet connection and the idea of digitally accessing your software, but also connecting in an ever present state on the internet was incredibly important to Microsoft. The technology involved with Xbox was really impressive.

I loved playing on the original Xbox and I love playing games like Rainbow Six, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, the original Battlefront games that Pandemic made, especially playing online with a lot of people that we met through Xbox Live, but also they were viewers of the show and then we would jump on and play with them. I also got to meet people that I’m still friends with through the connections at Xbox. I met with Ed Fries and also with Seamus Blackley, two of the fathers of the Xbox platform. It blows me away that I have been along for the ride, right from the very beginning with the platform. And I can’t wait to see where it’s taking us.”

Luke Lohr (XEP)
“My goodness Xbox has had some incredible ups and downs over the last twenty years. They entered the market when juggernauts like SEGA were backing down to Sony and Nintendo. It was bold, naïve, and awesome. one of my earliest memories came when I got my first Xbox 360 and booted up Gears of War (which I sold plasma in college to afford). I had never played a console game online before, much less one with voice chat. I put on my headset and suddenly I was talking to people that were IN MY GAME. It was incredible. That first night I stayed up until three in the morning playing Gears with incredible people over Xbox Live. I’ve never looked back.”

Danny Pena (Gamertag Radio)
“In 2001, I was in New York City. I was living there and I found out that Xbox was going to be in town, and I went to the event. It was a hands-on event, right before the original Xbox console came out. I went not knowing anything about the console, all I knew was that Team Ninja was going to have a game there, never heard of Halo, nothing. So when I went and I tried it out for the first time at this event called Xbox Unleashed, I became a huge, huge fan.

This was a 48-hour competition. Whoever had the most points by playing all the launch titles at the event will win a free trip to Cancun, free Xbox, a bunch of free stuff they were giving away. And I did it, but I didn’t win. But when I stayed there for 48 hours, which I have audio and video recording of the event, Xbox took us behind closed doors. It was maybe 10 of us out of thousands and thousands of people that were at the event that only stayed for 48 hours. They were like, “Eh, we’re going to surprise you guys, each of you get an Xbox to take home.” And they took our information, they sent it to us right before launch.

Then I got invited to the Xbox launch event at Times Square, and the rest is history. That’s where I got to meet the rest of the team and also Bill Gates. I got to play Fusion Frenzy with him, and that was a lot of fun, and I talked to media about the console. And ever since then, I became a huge fan of the console and of the company.”

Jon Clarke (XboxEra)
“In 2001, my younger brother and I walked into an EB Store, and they had an OG Xbox Demo Station with Silent Cartographer running in splitscreen. We were both blown away at the sheer scale of it all and within 30 minutes (getting used to Dual Analogue sticks was hard, okay?), we were sold. We went straight back home, bundled up our much loved N64 and games, grabbed all our spare pocket money and traded it all in for a shiny new Xbox with Halo and two pads. My love for the brand, and in particular, Halo, has never waned.

In 20 years of Xbox, I’ve made lifelong friends that I met playing Halo 2 online, and those friendships are the thing I value the most, looking back. I think that’s the biggest difference when it comes to Xbox – the community that is built around individual games and the platform itself is one of the most amazing parts of it. Here’s to the next 20 years!”

Liana Ruppert (Game Informer)
“Xbox has gone through more evolutions than most companies in this industry. When it first came out with the OG console, it was the king of console gaming. The 360 continued that trend, balancing a variety of gaming experiences to hit that sweet spot for all types of gamers. Unfortunately, the Xbox One changed that, moving away from what made Team Green so special and effectively losing a lot of faith from the gaming community as a whole. With that in mind, Phil Spencer came in basically with his own iteration of Miley Cyrus’ “I came in like a wrecking ball” and put back the Xbox name into the hands of gamers and the result has been nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Where many companies would have caved or only half-listened to the community, Spencer and his growing team say “nay nay, not in this house, in this house we have fun.” And they did just that. Though the changes they have had in mind take time, years even, Microsoft’s gaming division remained dedicated to the cause and the result has made their mission statement of “gaming is for everyone” ring more true than anyone else in this space that has tried to claim the same. I was so happy to see this growth because Xbox has always had a soft spot in my heart. When I was active duty, I went on several back-to-back deployments, twice in an active war zone. It gave me bonds that I will never forget, including staying up in the media tent long after lights out to play Halo multiplayer with friends. It was our escape and gave me some of my most cherished gaming memories.

And Mass Effect! The first Mass Effect was an Xbox exclusive. Little did I know at that time that this series would become my favorite story to date, a story that has saved my life both metaphorically and literally. I’m so happy to see Xbox reclaim its spot in the gaming space. This company has a special (and vital) place in our community and to see them take back what made them so great to begin with is something that I will always cheer from the sidelines for.”

Sean Abbott (Gamepass News)
“I’ve been an Xbox man since the original Xbox! From playing split screen Halo with sticky grenades only matches, right up to recently where you can take on 150 other players in a mass Battle Royale!
But the best out of all the memories I have are when the 360 was in its prime! My dad had one, my brother had one, and I had one. All under the same roof playing Call of Duty MW online. My dad being the sniper my brother the LMG guy and me who would push building to building under the scope of my dad. We would play like that for hours! Still today we sometimes play online together! My dad is a real Call of Duty shark! Haha. Good times!”

Cameron Hawkins (IGN, Kinda Funny)
“Xbox has been my favorite place to play for well over a decade. The Xbox 360 era was the prime time of my gaming career putting hundreds of hours into Halo 3, Call of Duty Black Ops, and ,of course, the Mass Effect trilogy. We also can’t forget Xbox Live Arcade and remember when Microsoft Points were a thing! There is no doubt that Xbox has had a roller coaster of ups and downs but even so I was a Day 1 Xbox One adopter and I don’t regret it for a second.

When it comes to Xbox I can find in my opinion the best controller, achievements to pop with the iconic blip, as well as my friends ready to jump in to an online match with me. Now with Xbox Game Pass, the Elite Series Controller, First Party Exclusives on the horizon, and more Japanese support than ever before now is the best time to jump in (remember that?) and see what makes the Xbox system so special.”

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