The Xbox is a home video game console lineup developed and marketed by Microsoft. The name Xbox was derived from DirectX Box, with DirectX referring to the Microsoft-developed API. It was launched in 2001 with the original Xbox. Alongside the Sony PlayStation, the Microsoft Xbox forms the leading console lineup in 2021. Almost every major release makes its way to the Xbox, along with some exclusives like the Gears and the Forza series. The second-generation Xbox console, the Xbox 360 has sold over 84 million units, making it the most popular Xbox to date.
History and latest hardware
Microsoft decided to enter into the home video-game console market as it feared losing a foothold in the video game industry. Previously, Microsoft had established Windows as a platform for gaming with the launch of popular titles like the Microsoft Flight Simulator and Age of Empires. However, Sony presented a vision that aimed at replacing desktop computers as a gaming platform with their upcoming PlayStation 2. Thus, Microsoft decided to launch a home video-game console to fight with the PlayStation.
The original Xbox was launched in November 2001, and it could not compete with the PlayStation 2. Microsoft stated that they lost an accumulative total of $4 billion from the Xbox. However, it outsold the Sega Dreamcast and the Nintendo Gamecube. The Xbox also set Microsoft at the forefront of the home video-game console market and the Xbox 360 improvised upon this. The second version of the Xbox went on to become the highest-selling console sold by any American company. The 360 was also doomed as the most successful seventh-generation home video game console although it was outsold by the PS3.
The Xbox One
The Xbox One was introduced in 2013, and it is still supported by Microsoft. However, Microsoft screwed up with the launch of the third iteration of the Xbox series. Microsoft was doing very well with the Xbox 360. It had a strong foothold on the market and everyone thought that the next generation Xbox will take the throne from Sony. However, the Xbox One launch was one of the most embarrassing tech fails. Microsoft pitched the Xbox One as the only entertainment you need for your entire. They laid more emphasis on online sharing features and an always-on internet connection was made mandatory. Also, the Xbox One was expensive as compared to the PS4, and customers were forced to buy the Xbox Kinect with every purchase of the console. The Kinect was an already failing peripheral, and potential customers just went with the PlayStation 4.
Microsoft learned from this mistake and removed the notion of an “all-in-one” entertainment system from the Xbox One. Successive iterations focused more on gaming than entertainment features.
The Xbox Series X|S
Microsoft’s ninth-generation home video game console is called the Xbox Series. Two versions of the Xbox Series have been launched. These include the Xbox Series X, which focuses on 4K 60fps gameplay, and the cheaper Xbox Series S, which focuses on 1440p 60fps gameplay. Also, with Xbox Series, Microsoft has shifted its focus from fighting with the competition on grounds of hardware. Microsoft has figured out that the future of gaming will be hardware-independent. Their new vision states that they don’t care about how many people buy their Xbox consoles. They care about how many people use their software.
Microsoft also states that Sony isn’t their competitor, but it is Amazon and Google, who are providing cloud gaming services to the masses. The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is Microsoft’s answer to these services. They are targeting every out there- from the Xbox to Microsoft Windows, to even Android. This justifies the launch of the significantly weaker Xbox Series S as well.
The Xbox Game Studios
The Xbox Game Studios (formerly known as Microsoft Studios and Microsoft Game Studios) was formed in 2019. Microsoft rebranded its gaming division to transfer Xbox to a big name in the video game industry. The Xbox Game Studios publishes games for both Xbox and Microsoft Windows. It has twenty-three game development studios under it. These include:
Studios under Xbox Game Studios
- 343 Industries: 343 Industries was formed by Microsoft after Bungie, the original creators of Halo. It was founded in 2007, and has overseen the development of every Halo title since Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition (2011). Their upcoming video game includes Halo: Infinite, which will be one of the biggest exclusives to be ever released on the Xbox Series X|S and PC.
- The Coalition: The Coalition is a Canadian video game development studio based in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is mainly concerned with the development of games under the Gears of War series. Microsoft founded The Coalition in 2010 after it reserved rights to the series from Epic Games. The series is one-of-the-best Xbox exclusives. Gears 5, the latest installment in the series, was released in September of 2019. Several spin-offs have followed the release of Gears 5, and the studio is rumored to have started development for an alleged Gears 6.
- Compulsion Games: Compulsion Games was acquired by Xbox Game Studios in 2018, the same year in which it released We Happy Few. We Happy Few is a single-player action-adventure set in an alternate historical timeline. The game takes you back to the 1960s where you see a dystopian society almost nearing collapse.
- Double Fine Productions: Double Fine Productions is an American video game development studio based in San Francisco, CA. They were acquired by Xbox Game Studios in 2019. Double Fine Productions have developed and published a large number of video games. These include the Psychonauts series, the Amnesia series. They also have developed titles for Xbox Kinect in the 360 days.
- The Initiative: The Initiative was formed in 2018, when Microsoft hired talents like Daniel Neuburger (the director of two Tomb Raider games), Chirstian Cantamessa (he wrote Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption), and Brian Westergaard (producer of God of War 2018).The studio also includes several talented engineers and artists from Respawn Entertainment, Santa Monica Studio, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Naughty Dog, Insomniac Games, and BioWare. The studio was described as a creator of “quadruple-A” games, and is currently working on a title called Perfect Dark.
- inXile Entertainment: inXile Entertainment is an American video game development studio based in Tustin, CA, They were acquired by Xbox Game Studios in 2018. inXile is best known for the Wasteland series. They also have developed games for Adobe flash and mobile gaming platforms.
- Mojang Studios: Mojang Studios is a Swedish video game development studio best known for developing Minecraft. Minecraft went on to become the most selling video game ever. It has sold over 238M copies till date, and Mojang is still releasing updates for the title. The studio was acquired by Microsoft in 2014, but Microsoft has assured full independence to the studio.
- Ninja Theory: Ninja Theory is a British video game development studio based in Cambridge, England. They are best known for developing the Hellblade series. They also have worked on Devil may Cry (2013) before being acquired by Microsoft in 2013. Ninja Theory is currently on Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, which will be exclusively released on Microsoft Windows and Xbox Series X|S. They also are working on a Project: Mara, We haven’t got an official title of this game to date.
- Obsidian Entertainment: Obsidian Entertainment is an American video game development studio based in Irvine, CA. They are best known for their The Pillars of Eternity series and The Outer Worlds series. They specialise in developing role-playing games, and both of their upcoming games are RPGs. These include Avowed and The Outer Worlds 2. We have not got a release date for either of these titles.
- Playground Games: Playground Games is a British video game development studio based in Leamington Spa, England. They were acquired by Microsoft in 2018. Alongside Turn 10 Studios, they work behind the Forza Horizon series. They have worked on Forza Horizon (2012), Forza Horizon 2 (2014), Forza Horizon 3 (2016) before being acquired by Xbox Game Studios. After being acquired, they have worked on Forza Horizon 4 (2018) and Forza Horizon 5 (2021). They also are working on a Fable sequel, a AAA open-world action-RPG game.
- Rare: Rare is a British video game development studio based in Twycross, England. They were acquired by Microsoft in 2002. Until 2002, Rare partnered with Nintendo to develop several titles for platforms owned by Nintendo. They have developed several popular games over the years, including titles for Xbox Kinect from 2009 to 2014.
- Turn 10 Studios: Turn 10 Studios is an American video game development studio based in Redmond, Washington. Turn 10 was established by Microsoft in 2001 to develop the Forza Motorsport games. Turn 10 also works on the Forza Horizon series alongside Playground Games. The latest game solely developed by Turn 10 is Forza Motorsport 7 (2017). Forza Horizon 5 is scheduled to release in November 2021. They also are working on the next entry in the Forza Motorsport series, which they teased back in 2020.
- Undead Labs: Undead Labs is an American video game development studio which is based in Seattle, Washington. They were acquired by Microsoft in 2018. Undead Labs have developed the State of Decay series since 2013. The latest entry in the series includes State of Decay 2 (2018). Undead is already working on the third entry in the series, which will be called State of Decay 3. State of Decay 3 will be released sometime in 2023-2025 exclusively for Microsoft Windows and Xbox Series X|S.
- World’s Edge: World’s Edge is an American video game development studio based in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft created this studio in 2019 to internally oversee development of the Age of Empires franchise.
- Xbox Game Studios Publishing: Xbox Game Studios Publishing was setup in 2000 as Xbox Game Studios’ publishing wing.
Studios under Bethesda Softworks (ZeniMax Publishing)
Xbox Game Studios bought Bethesda Softworks, also known as ZeniMax Publishing in 2020, while the deal was approved by the European Union and America by March 2021. The transfer of assets was completed within the same month. The acquisition of Bethesda Softworks was the single biggest acquisition in the history of the publishing studio, and it cost them $8.1 billion in cash.
Xbox Game Studios says that this acquisition was not to bring more exclusives to the platform, but was to bring more titles to the Xbox Game Pass on Day 1.
- Alpha Dog Games: Alpha Dog Games is a Canadian video game development studio. It was acquired by Xbox Game Studios when it acquired Bethesda Softworks in March 2021. Alpha Dog mainly works on developing games for iOS and Android. They have developed three titles to date. These include Wraithborne (2012), MonstroCity Rampage (2019), and Mighty Doom (2021).
- Arkane Studios: Arkane Studios is a French video game development studio based in Lyon, France. It was acquired by Xbox Game Studios alongside its Bethesda Softworks acquisition of 2021. Arkane Studios has developed several immersive sim games, including the critically acclaimed Dishonored series. They also have developed Wolfenstein: Youngblood (2019), Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot (2019), Deathloop (2021), Prey (2017), and Redfall (2022).
- Bethesda Game Studios: Bethesda Game Studios is an American video game development studio based in Rockville, Maryland. It got dissolved into Xbox Game Studios when Microsoft acquired Bethesda Softoworks for $8.1 billion in 2021. Bethesda Game Studios are the deverlopers of two critically acclaimed series: The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Their upcoming titles include Starfield (2022), and The Elder Scrolls VI, which was teased in 2020.
- id Software: id Software is an American video game development studio based in Richardson, Texas. They are one of the very significant video game development studios from around the world. id has created series like Doom, Wolfenstein, Rage, Quake and Commander Keen. All of these series have rose to critical acclaim and are massively popular to date.
- MachineGames: MachineGames is a Swedish video game development studio based in Uppsala, Sweden. They are the current developers of the Wolfenstein series, and have developed titles in the series from 2014. These include Wolfenstein: The New Order, Wolfenstein II: The New Collosus alongside others. They also have worked on Quake: Dimension of the Past (2016), and Quake: Dimension of the Machine (2021). MachineGames are currently working on the next Wolfenstein title, which probably will be called Wolfenstein III. They also are working on an untitled Indiana Jones game.
- Roundhouse Studios: Roundhouse Studios is an American video game development studio based in Madison, Wisconsin. They were formed fairly recently in 2019 by former developers of Humanhead Studios, who shut down in November 2019. Humanhead Studios has developed titles like Prey (2006), Rune II, and The Quiet Man.
- Tango Gameworks: Tango gameworks is a Japanese video game development studio based in Tokyo, Japan. They were set up in 2010, and have developed the survival horror series of The Evil Within. They also are working on Ghostwire: Tokyo which will be released sometime in 2022.
- ZeniMax Online Studios: ZeniMax Online Studios is an American video game development studio based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. They were setup in 2007 to develop The Elder Scrolls Online. Since then, they also have developed titles like Doom (2016), and Fallout 76 (2018). They currently are working on a mobile adaptation of Commander Keen, which will release on Android and iOS, alongside providing support and creating new content for The Elder Scrolls Online.
Future of the Xbox
The Xbox has come a long way since its inception in 1998. It has become one of the leading home video game consoles alongside the Sony PlayStation. Every major release makes its way to the Xbox which further symbolizes its importance.
However, Microsoft is taking a completely different approach for the future of the Xbox. Microsoft does not see console hardware manufacturer Sony Computer Entertainment as their rival, but they say it is cloud streaming service providers Amazon and Google. Microsoft knows that the future of gaming is cloud streaming, and thus they already have started their cloud streaming service called Xcloud.
Xcloud entered its beta stage in 2019 and is now publicly available along with a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Xcloud can be used to play titles on smartphones too, which sets it ahead of the crowd. However, the majority of the titles require a dedicated Xbox Wireless Controller, which takes away much of the charm.
But, we can assure you that with time, Xcloud will get more and more refined. Within another decade, Xcloud will become mature enough to give strong competition to other companies offering cloud streaming services in the market.
Microsoft’s shift of focus from hardware has become very clear from the launch of its ninth-generation Xbox Series X|S consoles. Along with this, the formation of the Xbox Game Studios also proves that Microsoft is on a quest to evolve the Xbox into a leading name in the video game industry. This is a smart move, and Microsoft’s arch-rival Sony Computer Entertainment also took the same approach in 2020 with the formation of the PlayStation Studios.