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Generation X: The Evolution of Xbox One

How Microsoft came from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One X in four years.

  • Text: Sam Bishop

The Xbox One X will finally be released in a few weeks, and it's clear to see why there's a lot of anticipation, as it's been lauded as the most powerful console ever made. We've played the console at events, and although the performance boost might not be hugely evident to some gamers, the jump to 4K on the right screen will definitely make an impression, like that moment when you first plugged the Xbox 360 into an HD screen for the first time. Images look crisper, lighting works wonders, and everything just looks so much better when you put it through this machine.

In terms of how it looks, although we knew it'd be the smallest in the Xbox One family, its size is surprising when you actually see it in person. Having that little black box sat on the table in front of you, you realise how impressive an achievement it is to put all that power in the smallest machine they've made. It's pretty sleek, with a matte design that's sure to avoid the dreaded fingerprint marks, but it's also notably minimalist, with just a solitary USB slot, two buttons, and the Xbox logo on the front. It's the best looking Xbox console Microsoft has ever made (rivalled closely by the second generation Xbox 360), and it certainly looks the part. But how did Microsoft get to this point, to this little box?

Let's start with the Xbox 360, which was a powerhouse console, with classics such as Halo 3, Crackdown, Gears of War, Forza, Fable II, and more bolstering Microsoft's second outing in the console market and ensuring it remained the go-to choice for many. In this era of 'console wars', Sony had won the round before with the hugely successful PlayStation 2, but Microsoft had bit back with the fantastic Xbox 360.

Fast forward to 2017, 12 years (would you believe?!) after the launch of the 360, and Microsoft is gearing up to produce the third iteration of the Xbox One, the 360's successor, with a generous serving of ambition backing up the project. But just how did Microsoft go from having the console-of-choice five years ago, to making a sizeable upgrade designed to rein in the competition?

The Xbox One went head to head with the PS4.

It's no secret that the Xbox One didn't have the smoothest of starts to life. The pre-launch conversation was marred by a number of issues, including a backlash against discs being tied to consoles (meaning that a game could only be used once and on one machine), as well as a criticism that it didn't have the same technical capabilities of Sony's PS4 (no doubt trying to prove a point after slipping a little bit behind Microsoft with the PS3), especially since the Xbox One used a lot of memory on the Kinect at launch, again a feature that fans weren't particularly enthralled with.

On top of that, there were also bumps in the road in terms of PR. For instance, when former Xbox chief Don Mattrick was asked about connectivity concerns (as the Xbox One originally required an internet connection), he uttered the infamous response: "we have a product for people who aren't able to get some form of connectivity, it's called Xbox 360." Microsoft game director Adam Orth also left the company after tweeting that those concerned about this connectivity issue needed to "#dealwithit".

The internet connectivity issue was eventually reversed, and changes were made in response to the criticisms Microsoft received, but by then the damage was done. In the eyes of many, the Xbox's reputation had been tarnished, and the PS4 instead became the go-to console for a lot of gamers, especially as it had more power, whether that be in terms of GPU, RAM, or otherwise.

The Kinect was a feature Microsoft pushed with the Xbox One.