A 2015 report by the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) found that more than 150 million Americans play video games, a large number of which play for more than three hours per day. It could therefore be said that gaming has become a way of life in the modern age—an alternative virtual life separate from reality. And one of the biggest gaming consoles is Microsoft’s XBOX.
Since the launch of the original XBOX in November 2001, Microsoft has sold over 100 million units of the XBOX, XBOX 360, and XBOX One consoles worldwide. To put that into perspective, that’s nearly a third of the population of the United States. With so many people getting lost in the XBOX world for hours a day, you’d think that there would be nothing that people don’t know about the console. But this might not be the case. XBOX has a long and complex history, and the road to being one of the major gaming consoles in the world wasn’t as smooth as you might expect.
Here’s the list of the 10 things you didn’t know about Microsoft’s XBOX.
10. The XBOX was originally literally an X-shaped BOX
This one’s kind of common sense. The XBOX was originally imagined as an X-shaped box. But apparently Bill Gates had some reservations about the look of the console, so they went back and created the rectangular-shaped XBOX that we are so familiar with today. I guess there’s a reason why Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.
9. XBOX was pitched to Sony as a partnership
This one’s kind of hard to imagine, especially when you consider how strong the rivalry is between the two companies today. But back in the early days of XBOX, the creators proposed a partnership with Sony. Billy Gates approached Sony CEO Noboyuki Idei with the idea, but Idei rejected it. Some believe that the rejection fueled Gates to go all in on XBOX to spite Sony. Sometimes things work out for the best, as PlayStation and XBOX have had highly profitable careers.
8. Microsoft lost $125 on each console sold when it first came out
Even though XBOX is now considered a major success, it didn’t get off to a very good start. Back in 2001, Microsoft lost $125 on each console that they sold, leading to a whopping $4 billion loss over four years. History repeated itself with the XBOX 360, which studies found lost $126 per unit. So how did they manage to turn things around and make a (gigantic) profit? Well, apparently all new consoles lose money at first, but then the parts to manufacture the console become cheaper. As of four years ago, XBOX 360 has generated over $56 billion.
7. Kinect technology was created by members of the Israeli military
Kinect was launched by XBOX back in 2010 in an effort to compete with Nintendo Wii. That much you probably already knew. But did you know that engineers from the Israeli military developed the technology behind Kinect? Rumor has it that the company that created Kinect, PrimeSense, first looked into selling the technology to Apple, but Steve Jobs and his gang gave them such a hard time that they eventually went over to Microsoft. Apple has since bought the company for $350 million.
6. Microsoft made a gaming console before XBOX
Contrary to popular belief, XBOX actually wasn’t Microsoft’s first gaming console… not really, at least. Prior to the XBOX, Microsoft teamed up with SEGA to help with their Dreamcast console (remember Dreamcast?). The collaboration didn’t go very well and Dreamcast wound up being discontinued in 2001, the same year that Microsoft ventured out on their own with the XBOX.
5. The XBOX logo is green because that was the only color available
XBOX has become so identified by its green logo that it’s hard to imagine it being any other color, but it turns out that the decision to use green wasn’t that big a deal for the designers. The legend is that the person responsible for designing the logo chose green simply because it was the only color of marker he had left. XBOX co-creator Seamus Blackley confirmed this in an interview with IGN, saying: “A guy called Horace Luke, when we had to have a logo for a meeting or something, he had one of those awesome sets of markers with the paint tips, and so everybody immediately stole all of them. The only color he had left was like the green nobody wanted, and so we made all this artist stuff with green and now it’s like still green.”
4. 54% of XBOX 360s got “The Red Ring of Death”
XBOX 360 was a major headache for Microsoft. On top of losing a load of money when it first came out, the company also had to deal with the fact that 54% of the consoles received the dreaded red ring of death, which indicates internal failure. 54%!? That’s a pretty huge number, especially when you compare it to the failure rate of Sony’s PlayStation 3 (10%) and Nintendo’s Wii (7%).
3. Microsoft v. MikeRoweSoft.com
Even the biggest corporations can get outsmarted by a single person. In 2003, a Canadian high school student by the name of Mike Rowe (not the guy from Dirty Jobs) started a web design business with the website MikeRoweSoft.com. Apparently Microsoft wasn’t too happy with it, because they had their lawyers contact Rowe and request that he give up the domain name. Rowe refused and instead asked for $10,000 in exchange for the site. Microsoft refused to pay but countered with their own offer, part of which included an XBOX and some games.
2. XBOX was almost called MARC
XBOX feels like the perfect name for the gaming console. It’s simple yet exciting. That’s why it’s so hard to imagine it with any other name. But that was almost the case. Before landing on XBOX, the creators went through a long list of potential names, including: MAX (Microsoft Action Experience), MIND (Microsoft Interactive Network Device), MITH (Microsoft Interactive Theatre), TAC (Total Action Center), FACE (Full Action Center), and MEGA (Microsoft Entertainment & Gaming Attendant or Microsoft Entertainment & Gaming Assembly). It’s easy to see why some of them were rejected. My personal favorite has to be MARC, as in Microsoft Action Reality Center. Could you imagine turning on MARC every night? That wouldn’t sound right.
1. Japan hates XBOX
Japan has one of the biggest gaming cultures in the world, which makes XBOX’s failure in the country a bit puzzling. Since their inaugural year, XBOX has failed to leave a mark on the Japanese gaming market, and their struggles only got worse as they came out with new consoles. Records indicate that the XBOX One was an all-time low for the company in Japan, at one point selling just over 100 consoles in a week compared to Sony PlayStation 4’s 15,000! XBOX’s failure in Japan likely has something to do with the fact that it’s backed by an American company, whereas Wii and PlayStation have their roots in Japan.