10 Ways Xbox 360 Changed Gaming Forever

Red Ring of Death


Though we’ve already discussed many of the Xbox 360’s positive traits, Microsoft’s lack of quality control was bigger than just about any advancement. Be it a rush to manufacture or an inability to mass produce such a popular system, the first few years of the 360 experienced a failure rate estimated at one in six consoles. Customers quickly got to know the “Red Ring of Death” flashing red lights that let you know your 360 was dead. It not only trained a generation of players in navigating the waters of customer service to get your system fixed, it also showed the impact the internet could have on these types of issues. Consoles had malfunctioned before, but now gamers could share their dissatisfaction more openly than ever, forcing Microsoft to make good on fixing this systemic problem. Not only did this hasten a full system redesign, it also cost Microsoft billions, keeping the gaming division from reaching profit during its most successful years.

The death of third party exclusives


This one was really hard for people invested in console wars. Even into the PS2 era it was expected for series to stay exclusive to the console they’d historically shipped on, which led some to buy a PS3 assuming it was the only place they’d play certain series. But the 360 changed that misapprehension – franchises like Final Fantasy and Devil May Cry all did the unthinkable and came to the 360. A loud sect of gamers gnashed their teeth at the changes, but it soon came to be accepted as a the new normal. By the end of the console generation, third-party exclusives were a rarity, with most publishers putting games on as many consoles as possible. Nowadays, any single-system development (like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Street Fighter V) is usually due to lucrative exclusivity deals.

Unreal Engine


Though it was fairly standard for game development engines to be shared within a company, it was less expected to see pre-360 console games to come from an externally licensed tool set. However, after Epic Games set the standard for HD console graphics with Gears of War, Unreal Engine 3 became a very popular tool among developers. The more devs who used it, the worse news it was for the competition, as the PS3 initially had major problems with UE3 (the Wii couldn’t even touch it). The easy proliferation of the Unreal Engine may have led to a number of games sticking with the brown and grey palettes it manufactured so well, but it also normalized middleware to the point where it’s odd to find a console release that doesn’t use some sort of third-party tool set.

Wireless controllers


It’s hard to imagine the days when a tangled ball of cables sat in front of my TV, and I have the 360 to thank for that. While the Wavebird was the first dependable wireless device to hit the market from a console manufacturer, it was also an add-on that didn’t go as mainstream as it should’ve. Meanwhile, the 360’s wireless controllers came packed-in from day one (at least on the pricier model), making wired controllers the exception, not the standard. The accurate, cordless tech with a suprisingly strong rumble made gaming more convenient than ever, and the 360 wireless controller has become the standard bearer for quality in a gamepad.

Almost everything had a demo


Remember when you’d buy a magazine or a five dollar disc to play small samples of upcoming games? Only the most important titles would get the demo treatment prior to the 360, but Microsoft made trials the rule rather than a rarity. Many games were introduced to players via the Xbox Live Marketplace’s free, downloadable demos. Would as many people have bought BioShock or Dead Rising if they hadn’t sampled it first via download? The practice of downloadable demos certainly wouldn’t be as pervasive today if the 360 hadn’t made them such an early priority.

Is there any other important innovations that we missed? Teach us a little bit about history in the comments!

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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