10 Ways Xbox 360 Changed Gaming Forever

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The 360 launched a decade ago, and some of its biggest advancements tend to be overlooked by gamers. With the gift of hindsight, it was much more revolutionary that it seems on the surface…

Be sure to check out our other 360 anniversary stuff, including 360 trivia and the 10 most important exclusives

Atari popularized home consoles, the NES brought gaming back from the brink of extinction, the Genesis gave games an edge, the PlayStation matured the market even more, and the PS2 married gaming with home media. When it came time for the next console generation in 2005, what did the 360 do to change the medium? A lot more than it seems.

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Sure, the Wii’s motion controls and mainstream acceptance may be the most disruptive aspects of that generation, but Microsoft’s second system did so many subtle (and not-so-subtle) things that changed the course of gaming. As we hit such a major anniversary for the 360, let’s take a closer look at the 10 additions the console made to the world of games, whether it was a new policy that got implemented by its competition, or how it disrupted what gamers came to accept as the norm in gaming. Such as…

Live Arcade

LiveArcade

Since the earliest days of gaming, smaller and more experimental games from unestablished creators didn’t have much of a chance getting on a disc. But after a soft launch on the original Xbox, the 360 was home to the full rollout of Xbox Live Arcade, a digital storefront that would change console development. Not only was it a new home for retro games to find a new lease on life, it also became a launchpad for more experimental games like Braid and Limbo. Both PS3 and Wii soon opened their digital storefronts to similar content, but Microsoft was the first to give a new home to more independent and experimental titles that could succeed at a $10 price point.

Achievements

Achievement

“Gamify” is one of those marketing terms invented to induce vomiting in normal people, but I’ll be damned if Microsoft didn’t successfully gamify the gaming experience on the 360. No longer was your experience with a title forgotten once the credits rolled. Every 360 game has released  with Achievements, little numerical rewards for completing in-game objectives. The sound of an unlocked Achievement led to a Pavlovian response of excitement (from breaking 50 rat skulls to grabbing 300 orbs), and it was a high you just had to keep chasing. Sure they didn’t actually ‘mean’ anything, but these little breadcrumbs of rewards got players to try gaming tasks they would’ve otherwise not bothered with. Achievements became so indispensable that Sony eventually had to incorporate Trophies into the PS3 just to keep up.

System interface

Interface

Sure, the previous generation of consoles had menus for exploring memory cards,  swapping out discs, and playing CDs, but the UI packed onto the 360 was so much more than that. Starting with the now-ancient Blades that launched, the Xbox 360 start-up menu has become the standard starting place for most gamers. The days of putting in a disc and immediately starting a game were over. Now you could do so much without starting up a game; explore your friends list, the online store, your game library, and even take a look at the fledgling collection of non-gaming apps. Those blades also gave new space for advertising, but hey, you take the good with the bad. The home screen has gone through many incarnations, but no matter how it looked, Microsoft’s sophisticated UI changed the way people turned on home consoles from that moment onward.

Gamertags and Gamerscore

GamertagScore

Xbox Live was already pretty robust on the original Xbox, but the 360 is really when the majority of publishers made the system integral to gaming. So many titles shipped with a multiplayer component, making your Gamertag an even more important identifier for who you were. Sure, most people were named xxxSmokeDog42069xx, but when you saw the Gamerscore attached to that handle, you gained a newfound respect (or contempt) for that person. Thanks to the success of Achievements, Gamerscore added a new level of complexity and history to previously vanilla Gamertags. These two aspects of the system worked in tandem to create a whole new sense of community.

Netflix

Netflix

These days Netflix streams on pretty much every device known to humanity, but the DVD-by-mail company was new to the world of streaming back in 2008. Starting that fall, the 360 was the first place outside of a computer where you could watch Netflix’s online offerings. It was a mutually beneficial relationship that made Netflix the leader in streaming video and the 360 not only the leader in games, but also in TV entertainment. Soon Netflix headed to the PS3 and Wii, with Hulu, Amazon, Comcast, and many more outlets following suite. Putting Netflix on the 360 forever ended the idea that a console ‘just’ played video games and brought us closer to the idea of an all-in-one entertainment center that Bill Gates predicted the Xbox would become.

Not every impact is a positive one, as you’ll find out on the next page!

9 thoughts on “10 Ways Xbox 360 Changed Gaming Forever

  1. Fot better or for worse, the Xbox Live Indie Game store highlighted creations by very small teams or even individuals. It was an online space dedicated to tiny games priced to move, and every game could be sampled before buying via a timed trial. Granted, XBLIG became overrun by Minecraft wannabes and endless zombie/avatar crap, but Xbox was the first console to shine a spotlight on indie developers, years before “PlayStation <3 Indies" became a thing.

  2. Not sure if it’s strictly a 360 innovation, but having 6+ player parties felt like a pretty important feature when it rolled out.

    I’m pretty sure the 360’s initial party system was either a) in game or b) one-on-one parties. Getting a handful of friends together to talk in an overlayed menu while we were all playing different games was revolutionary.

    Great article!

  3. Before the system launched, I just didn’t buy into the hype about wireless controllers. I just didn’t think anyone gave a shit. But after playing with a wireless controller for literally five seconds, I could never imagine going back. Now whenever I play any retro console, I feel like a caveman when unwrapping the cord from around the controller.

  4. The 360 was for me a very big part of sculpting my life for the last decade. I bought a 4GB model on launch day. I plugged it in to my HDTV that had a 90lb unremoveable cast metal base and bathed in the glow of my first 1080p images. I ran ethernet across two floors of my townhome once Netflix was released because the original wifi adapter for the console was pretty shit. I bought a $35 HD-DVD drive after blu-ray won that battle because it upscaled dvds to 1080p automatically and the existing HD-DVD catalog was also cheap as hell. I started implementing home media servers in my place shortly thereafter so that I could stream torrented content from my pc to my big screen.

    Just after attending my first PAX Prime I got hired on as an Xbox support tech. it was both educational and horrifying. (Always keep your real address and other info up to date on your gaming accounts and make your secret questions have fact based answers, not opinions.)

    It inspired me to learn, get creative and immerse myself in all of the technical gobbledygook that I could so that I could implement crazy solutions to problems that nobody else ever seems to have.

    That’s why I still have one hooked up today. It’s my 4th one. The first one had it’s disk tray fail on me, the second I sold for rent, and the 3rd one I sold so that I could upgrade to the 500 gig model. I kept the original wired controller that came with the launch system, Half of the buttons don’t work anymore but I can’t bring myself to toss it out.

  5. I wished microsoft stuck with the netflix group viewing that they announced a few years after netflix was on the console, that sounded like an awesome idea. watching good or bad movies with your friends in an MST3K like mode would of made some fun experiences.

  6. I remember a few occasions where I had to revive my red ringed 360 using the infamous “towel trick”. I think by the time it had died for good it was a four or five time console zombie.

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