We’ve spent a long time with the Xbox 360. That sturdy little machine has chugged along steadily over the past seven years and it just might go down as the most successful, but under-appreciated consoles of all time. The Xbox 360 didn’t do a lot of things that one would consider revolutionary or game changing, but it managed to do a lot of things right. Microsoft may not have a reputation for being perfect (far from it), but they do have a knack for learning from their mistakes. Just look at the original Xbox. Microsoft managed to take that behemoth of a machine and streamline the best parts of it (internal hard drive, broadband online play, high definition output) in creating the Xbox 360.
Sure, the system caught a lot of flak for the infamous Red Ring of Death and the early models propensity for overheating, but Microsoft slowly tweaked both the hardware and software of the Xbox 360 to create a simple to use, well performing gaming console that often managed to outperform the beefier PlayStation 3.
So now that the curtain has been lifted on the Xbox One, lets take a look back at some lessons to take away from Microsoft’s second console.
10. Make sure you choose a solid medium
What was hailed as VHS versus Betamax round two, the debate between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD was less of a war and more of a schoolyard bully. Sony beat up poor Toshiba in this fight over a pudding cup, it’s just too bad Microsoft sided with Toshiba and created the HD-DVD player attachment for the Xbox 360. To be fair, I would never expect Microsoft to openly support Sony unless cornered into it (like 2013). And while Toshiba’s HD-DVD went out with a whimper in a matter of months, at least HD-DVD player owners will have their copy of Peter Jackson’s King Kong to stink up a room more than their poor choice in High Definition video.
9. Embrace High Definition gaming
This is less a lesson of this generation as both Sony and Microsoft provide solid HD support for their systems, but consider that Microsoft had created HD output cables for the original Xbox. In fact, they even went as far as to release two versions of this cable, evolving the peripheral so that they could include HD component cables with their premium Xbox 360 systems. Sony apparently didn’t quite get the memo for this as PS3 units shipped with composite cables for some time. Nintendo clearly had no interest in HD as the Wii barely supported 480p resolution with additional (expensive) cables. Even currently, Xbox 360 has more active support for native 1080p games than the PS3 does, which caps most titles at 720p.
8. Accessories are expensive
Microsoft clearly took this one to the bank by not including rechargeable battery packs, wireless LAN adapters and those tiny little hard drives. Yet there they all are, attached to my Xbox 360. Each little proprietary attachment has annoyed me with high price points and quirky behavior (charging cables inexplicably dying, hard drive data transfer cables), but they have all been worth it. Except for maybe the wireless network adapter. It works great, but it should have been included in the system.
7. DVDs are tiny
Seven years ago, a single DVD was enough space to hold plenty of data for a good game. Today? Not so much. 8.5 GB just does not go as far. Where Sony’s Blu-Ray Discs offer plenty of space (coupled with monster installs), the Xbox 360 has to chug along with some games requiring two or three discs. Some games even have separate install discs to improve the performance of that tiny DVD (Forza Motorsport 4) or entire discs for multiplayer (Assassin’s Creed III). Let’s just leave the 90s habit of changing discs in the 90s, it sure made LA Noire a pain to play.
6. You are the controller
I really don’t think that Kinect is going anywhere. It is an amazingly powerful peripheral, just seeing all the applications that homebrewed developers have created for it have been astounding. Too bad the games haven’t been quite as good. Yes, Dance Central is always a hit at a party (I can totally pull of drunk party chick) and YourShape Fitness is very good in its form and function, but I dearly want to see something breakthrough designed with the Kinect in mind. Kinect Star Wars was on the right track, but the execution was terrible. Fix the sensitivity, let us play is smaller rooms, put a better mic and camera on that thing, then we might have something going.
5. It’s getting hot in here
I learned this the hard way, but the original Xbox 360 was scorching! My first Xbox 360 pro was a stout machine, always traveling around without a problem. I even bought an external fan to help suction the heat away from the vent. Too bad it was made out of plastic and the metal plug melted the plastic fan to the case. Long story short, my Xbox 360 red ringed and Microsoft wouldn’t replace the console (third party damage). Good thing that third party, Nyko, owned up to their cheaply designed product and replaced the whole console without a fuss. They even sent me a new intercooler fan to replace my melted one (its living in a box 20 miles away from my Xbox 360). But without the notorious overheating and RRoD of the original Xbox 360, the Elite might never have come to pass with its quiet and powerful fans keeping the 360 going. Does anybody want an Intercooler?
4. Dorothy Mantooth is a saint!
Voice chat. I hate it. Well, not entirely, it is an effective form of communication and the Xbox 360 has a fantastic setup for it through Xbox Live. But I really don’t want to hear 13-year-olds rehashing their form-letter insults about my mother. Although with party chat I can talk to only those in my party and thoroughly ignore the rest of the lobby, something my antisocial online persona can truly embrace.
3. A controller so close to perfection
The Xbox 360 controller in short was amazing. The contours perfectly fit into your hand, there is just enough heft to it and it the pressure sensitive buttons are outstanding. The force feedback is more responsive than the DualShock 3 and it has the best trigger squeeze of any controller, especially when compared to Sony’s wimpy triggers. While the controller didn’t come with a rechargeable battery packed in and the D-pad was more of a plastic pancake (which is actually fixed if you get a transforming D-pad controller), this controller’s design is so solid even Nintendo copied it.
2. Achievement hunting
That little Xbox bloop is all it takes to get me sitting straight up in my seat. Maybe it is just a friend signing on but what I really want it to be is an achievement, inflating my (not-actually-worth-something) Gamerscore. The Xbox 360 was the first to have achievements with other platforms to follow in Microsoft’s wake (PlayStation Trophies, Steam Achievements). Achievements gave me something tangible to strive for, something not necessarily defined by the traditional sense of a game. Many are accomplishment driven, some are skills that need to be practiced, some take weeks to earn and others are earned by pressing start. Achievements are going to be a staying power.
1. Xbox Live is king, but it is time to adapt
There is no doubt that Xbox Live has the best community, the best competition on any of the consoles. Microsoft figured out what worked on the original Xbox and let the service come into its own on the 360. But while it is easy to rest on the laurels of success with a thriving subscriber list of players, Sony is catching up fast by not only including free multiplayer but offering significant promotions for premium subscriptions, including free games for PS+ members. This is a model that Microsoft should study hard rather than continuing with the archaic pricing of their marketplace items.