Extra Life

What were you doing six years ago on the morning of Friday, December 2nd, 2005?  Can you even remember? I can remember, very well.  I was patiently waiting for a game shop to open so that I could collect my first Xbox 360 on launch day.  Yes, I was lucky enough to secure a console on launch day after pre-ordering months in advance.  After quitting smoking in August, I was rewarding myself with staying off the evil fags, by putting the money I’d saved towards the 360 (it was the only way I could’ve afforded it!).  You may not have realised it, after most of the recent news relating to the original Xbox being ten years old but the 360 is today, the ripe old age of 6.  In the world of consoles, that is practically geriatric since previous console life cycles have been around the four year mark, or less.  What has given the 360 this extra life? Has it just grown old gracefully or have our lifespans increased?

Launch day. The 360 display is actual size.

In retrospect, it is quite amazing that the 360 has lasted this long.  The initial failings of the console should’ve been a death knell for it.  A high percentage of launch console and beyond suffered the dreaded red ring of death hardware failure. I lost two 360s to this unfortunate occurance, luckily I managed to replace them both within a day each. Other people weren’t so lucky and had to wait a fair while to get their consoles fixed, indeed, many bricked it just after the first year warranty had expired.  This problem has been gradually ironed out over the years with more reliable hardware and doesn’t seem to have deterred many buyers.  So after a near miss with death, the 360 soldiered on and kept selling. What else could be granting the 360 such a long and prosperous life?  Could it maybe be the software?

Shooting, driving and ogres, a perfect launch line up.

The 360 launched with some great titles and followed them up with even more great games over the years.  On launch day you could pick up such classics as Project Gotham Racing 3, Kameo, Call of Duty 2, King Kong and Need for Speed Most Wanted.  All were noticeably different to the last generation and made me feel that I was on to something great.  A few months down the line and I was playing Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, this was truly next gen stuff and was starting to show what the 360 was capable of.  Bona fide titles have followed over the years with the Halo series being a flagship title and how could we forget the Gears of War games?  Benchmark games through and through.  Quality titles have been released over the 360’s lifespan including Bioshock, Left 4 Dead, Alan Wake, Guitar Hero, Mass Effect, DiRT and so many more.  Each newer game in any series pushed standards further; you can see why people might not want to move on to a new console.

Has your ring ever gone red?

Of course, the way the 360 looks has changed over the years too.  Starting as a white monolith, the 360 evolved into a black monolith with the elite model, which gave us much needed extra memory with a bigger hard drive.  Still not showing any signs of aging, the 360 also added a crucial HDMI output that solved many visual complaints of the machine, unreadable on-screen text was a thing of the past.  A while later the 360 underwent some major cosmetic surgery to keep those looks young and beautiful.  The new slim and quiet model took away the monolithic proportions and made the console look more acceptable under your television.  By heck was it quieter too! It was akin to having a whispering wind in the corner as opposed to the zimmer frame disco.

It's like the Joan Rivers of the console world.

Can all this really be attributed to the extra long life of modern consoles, especially the granddaddy 360?  Possibly.  But it’s more likely that there are greater factors at work here.  The economic climate is probably the largest factor with companies less willing to take huge gambles on new hardware that may fail or falter, i.e. the 3DS.  The fact that, one year ago, Microsoft launched a new way to play games with Kinect, shows they are still expecting some longevity from the 360.  Even more impressive is the take up of people buying Kinect, they must also have a bit of faith in the console.  Personally, I’ve built up a huge library of 360 games and don’t feel ready to move on to something shinier just yet.  I’m of the opinion that if it isn’t broken why try to fix it?  There are of course, rumours, that the successor to the 360 could be less than a year away, more likely two.  That isn’t really a long time if you think about it, but you have to ask what you want from a new console.  Better graphics?  Improved reliability? Backwards compatibility? All of this?  All I know is that whatever it is or when it comes out, it’s going to be expensive and I have no more vices to give up, except gaming!






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