Even with its early and disastrous “three rings of death” hardware failures, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console managed to be a very highly popular game device, and cemented the company as a worthy competitor to Sony’s PlayStation business as well as Nintendo.
However, due in part to the 2008 financial crisis, Xbox fans would have to wait eight years before the company would show off a true successor to the Xbox 360. That happened 10 years ago today, on May 21, 2013 with the reveal of the Xbox One.
Before the reveal event, there were tons of speculation about the hardware and software in the console. At one point in 2012, a person tried to auction off what he said was a development kit for the console. He ended up getting raided by the police just a few months before the Xbox One was first announced.
There were all sorts of rumors about what would be included in that next console before May 21, 2013. There were also lots of speculation about what its name would be, including Xbox 720, Xbox Infinity, and Xbox Fusion. In the end, no one really picked the Xbox One as the name before the official reveal event.
There were already some storm clouds about the console before the reveal event happened. For one, Microsoft decided to invite select media to its Redmond, Washington campus, where a huge outdoor tent was put up for the occasion. This caused many people to scratch their heads, as the annual E3 trade show was being held just a few weeks later in Los Angeles. Why wouldn’t Microsoft want to use that show to reveal the next Xbox?
As it turned out, Microsoft talked less about its gaming capabilities at the Xbox One reveal event. Instead, Microsoft started out by focusing on the console’s TV features as “the ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system.” That included a feature that would integrate the console with cable TV set-top boxes so it could act as a live TV program guide.
In fact, Microsoft first announced plans to offer a live action Halo TV series at this same event. It would have been the flagship show for exclusive TV series for the Xbox One console. Microsoft even had a new Entertainment and Digital Media division designed to develop shows for the console.
The event also showed off some of the Xbox One’s Windows 8 kernel capabilities, including a way to snap apps so you could be playing a game and while also talking to a friend on Skype. It would also include the second generation Kinect motion sensor with every Xbox One.
However, many gamers were not happy with the fact that games didn’t get as much attention as the TV and Windows 8 features at the reveal event. They also didn’t like the fact that the Kinect was included in every Xbox One console. Many felt that would increase the price of the overall console package, and that the Kinect should be an optional accessory like it was with the Xbox 360 console.
Microsoft also didn’t comment at all at the event about perhaps the biggest controversy about the Xbox One. Rumors started hitting the net a few months prior to the console’s reveal stating that the Xbox One would require a constant internet connection.
In the end, on June 6, 2013, Microsoft did confirm that the console would need to be connected to the internet at least once every 24 hours. Adding insult to injury, the company also put in restrictions on how people could trade or sell used Xbox One retail game disks to others.
None of these “features” made gamers very happy, and neither did the high $499 price tag that Microsoft finally revealed for the console on June 10, 2013. Again, people asked why the console’s price couldn’t be lowered by ditching the bundled Kinect sensor.
In the end, Microsoft did an about-face on nearly every aspect of the Xbox One’s initial reveal. On June 19, 2013, less than a month after its reveal, Microsoft said that the Xbox One could play games offline, requiring just a one-time-only internet connection. It also pulled all restrictions on trading and selling used Xbox One game disks.
Microsoft did hold fast on including the Kinect with the Xbox One for a while, but nearly a year later, on May 13, 2014, the company finally announced it would sell the console without the sensor for $399. It was a decision that honestly should have been made much sooner.
In the end, Microsoft’s Xbox One was trying to offer people a game console, a Kinect device, a TV box with exclusive shows, and even a Windows 8 PC all in one. In its quest to make the console an entertainment box, it lost its gaming focus which is what made the Xbox 360 such a success. Thankfully it would seem Microsoft learned its lessons and didn’t make the same mistakes with the reveal of the Xbox Series X console.