Vale, Xbox 360. You served us well. Microsoft have officially ceased production of Xbox 360 consoles, according to a company announcement this morning.
“Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us,” reads the statement by Xbox head Phil Spencer. “Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. We will continue to sell existing inventory of Xbox 360 consoles, with availability varying by country.”
If you haven’t upgraded to a current-gen console just yet, don’t worry. While Microsoft isn’t going to be making any more Xbox 360 units, they intend to continue servicing the millions of units out there in the world. Xbox Live services will remain in place, you’ll still be getting Games with Gold deals and Microsoft will still be opening Xbox 360 games up for play on the Xbox One to tempt you into upgrading.
“I want to personally thank the Xbox community,” finishes Spencer. “(T)hat includes the vast and diverse audience of gamers, developers and publishers who brought so much passion and creativity to the Xbox 360. You are the heart of what we do at TEAM XBOX, and you have been critical to the success of Xbox 360.”
We’ll go into much more detail about the console’s life cycle in a feature piece here on The Iris in a few days, but here’s the cliff’s notes version.
Released in 2005 to immense fanfare (and a ridiculous launch party called Zero Hour which saw Microsoft book out an entire aircraft hangar — see YouTube embed below) the Xbox 360 was among the first systems to eschew memory cards for hard drives. Its controllers were wireless and are, to this day, considered some of the finest ever designed. While all seemed well on the surface, Microsoft still ran into trouble early. Consoles had been rushed into production to beat Sony’s PlayStation 3 to market and began to exhibit hardware failures in the thousands. Microsoft’s long-term, and now-infamous denial of the problem was later reversed and everyone who had suffered the “Red Ring of Death” issue were given free repairs and warranty extensions.
The console launch included a number of games that ran the gamut from HD re-releases, to the standard pretty-but-hollow expensive tech demos, to the genuinely solid. Project Gotham Racing 3 was beautiful but lacking in content. The launch featured not one but two titles by Rare, something that would have caused a frenzy only a few years prior when they worked for Nintendo. Sadly, Perfect Dark Zero had no hope of living up to its beloved N64 predecessor. Kameo: Elements of Power failed to capitalise on its many good ideas. It wasn’t until a month after launch that the system’s first real killer app arrived — The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.
Halo 3 broke records on release. Gears of War found a way to make cover-based shooters feel seamless on a console. Rare released their last truly great game, the much-overlooked Viva Pinata during the X360’s lifespan. Too Human arrived to huge fanfare and middling reviews. Peter Moore had Halo 2‘s launch date and logo tattooed on his arm so he could announce it at E3.
The Xbox 360 reinvented itself several times, inside and out, releasing a total of three separate base models, each thinner and more streamlined than the last. It’s operating system also changed several times from the original “blade” style interface to the tiled look now in use across Microsoft’s entire product range. The Xbox 360 also took Xbox Live from an idea of what a console-based subscription platform could be, to a world-class multiplayer service and online store rolled into one.
Towards the end of its life, developers were pulling visuals out of the system that many would not have believed upon release. Halo 4 and Gears of War 3 remain eye-popping visual treats even compared to current-generation systems.
I’m sorry to see you go, Xbox 360. I paid just over AU$500 when you first came out and, though we had our differences, I certainly feel as though I got my money’s worth.