Today marks the five year anniversary of the release of the Xbox One, and what an interesting and crazy five years it has been to say the least. While Microsoft’s latest console has largely been somewhat divisive and hasn’t come close to the success that the Xbox 360 had, it is still a platform that has tried many novel new ideas, many of which will likely carry over into the next generation.
So much like we did last week with the anniversary of the PS4, let’s take a look back at the Xbox One’s biggest moments of its first five years on the market to see how we got to where the platform is at today.
Xbox One is Revealed, and It’s a Mess
In many ways, the reveal of the Xbox One was and still is the defining moment for the platform. The Xbox One was formally announced on May 21, 2013 by Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business president at the time, Don Mattrick. The device was pitched as an all-in-one platform that would be able to serve your needs not only for gaming but TV, movies, and all other forms of entertainment: hence the name, Xbox One. It would also be launching with a new, updated version of Kinect, the motion-tracking camera that first debuted during the Xbox 360 era.
This focus on other forms of entertainment during the Xbox One reveal soured many gamers who were looking for the focus of the presentation to be on the games themselves, something Microsoft promised to give more attention to a few weeks later at E3. Among other announcements at the event, Microsoft stated that the Xbox One wouldn’t be backward compatible (something later rectified) in addition to restrictions when it came to sharing games.
Perhaps most egregious of all though was that the Xbox One was initially planned to require you to connect to the Internet once every 24 hours if you wanted to play your games offline. In an attempt to thwart piracy, Microsoft wanted to instill this new policy but in the process, it would basically make the Xbox One useless for those who may not have reliable Internet connections. Mattrick himself even suggested that if you don’t have a reliable Internet connection, then you should simply opt to stick with the Xbox 360 instead.
The Xbox One reveal is still looked back upon as almost a joke considering how quickly that Microsoft reversed many of the platforms core tenants less than a month later. Microsoft’s stumbling out of the gate with the system’s reveal set a negative precedence that it largely still hasn’t been able to recover from.
E3 2013 and the Fallout from Initial Reveal
Following the Xbox One reveal in May, Microsoft had a lot of work to do both at E3 2013 and the weeks after. For starters, they reversed most of the negatively received plans for the Xbox One such as the game sharing restrictions and requirement to connect online every 24 hours. Additionally, Don Mattrick departed from Microsoft mere weeks after E3 2013 on July 1.
As for other major talking points at E3 2013, the focus software-wise was on that of Ryse: Son of Rome, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, Quantum Break, Titanfall, and Halo 5: Guardians to name a few. It was also announced that the system would be released that year in late November and would retail for $499.99, which would soon be revealed as a $100 premium over its main competitor, Sony’s PlayStation 4.
Xbox One Releases Around the World
On November 22, 2013, the Xbox One released around the world. After having a rough go of it from reveal to release, the system was finally available on the market for consumers to purchase. At its release, the Xbox One’s launch lineup mainly consisted of cross-generation games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Madden 25, and Battlefield 4, but not without a few exclusives of its own.
Notable 2013 Exclusives
- Dead Rising 3
- Forza Motorsport 5
- Ryse: Son of Rome
- Killer Instinct
- Crimson Dragon
- Peggle 2
Xbox One Becomes Available Unbundled with Kinect
In a move that spurned many who purchased their Xbox One units on launch day, Microsoft announced that come June 2014, they would be shipping new Xbox One consoles that would not come with Kinect. Due to this, the cost of an Xbox One could be lowered to $399.99 and would hopefully make it more competitive with Sony’s PS4. At the same time, this signaled that the end of the Kinect seemed to be coming, though its demise wouldn’t officially be met until years later when the device was officially put out of production.
The Infamous E3 2014 Conference
A little over six months after releasing the Xbox One, Phil Spencer (who had now been promoted to the head of the Xbox division at Microsoft) and company headed back to Los Angeles for another showing at E3 2014. While in the moment the show wasn’t terrible by any means, Microsoft’s E3 2014 showing has become memorable to many for all the wrong reasons.
Over the course of the 90-minute showcase, Microsoft talked about a variety of upcoming exclusives such as Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2, Ori and the Blind Forest, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. All of these titles ended up releasing in either 2014 or 2015.
However, this conference is remembered by many because of the games announced at the conference that later were canceled. Games like Fable Legends, Phantom Dust, and Scalebound all ended up being canned by Microsoft for one reason or another down the road. Even Crackdown 3, which also debuted at this conference, still as of this writing hasn’t released, even though it is finally scheduled to arrive in early 2019.
Microsoft Purchases Minecraft
In September 2014, Minecraft developer Mojang announced that they were being purchased by Microsoft. Mojang’s founder Notch decided that Minecraft had become too big for him to handle and instead sold the company and its IP off. In the process, Microsoft had now gained control of one of the biggest games (and intellectual properties) of all-time to fit alongside the rest of their first-party lineup.
Notable 2014 Exclusives
- Sunset Overdrive
- Forza Horizon 2
- Project Spark
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Backward Compatibility Revealed at E3 2015
After a sparse first year-and-a-half on the market that was filled with gems like Sunset Overdrive and Titanfall, it was once again time for E3 where Microsoft claimed that they had the best Xbox lineup ever for the latter portion of the year. Their showing at E3 2015 this time centered around Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, a third-party title from Square Enix which was exclusive to the Xbox One for one year. Other noteworthy announcements included the reveals of Gears of War 4, ReCore, Sea of Thieves, and Rare Replay along with the introduction of the Xbox One Elite Controller, which would launch later in 2015.
Likely the biggest announcement of the entire show, however, was that the Xbox One would soon be backwards compatible, allowing users to play select Xbox 360 titles on the platform. This feature would arrive via a new system update later that year and was made possible due to the structure of the Xbox One’s hardware.
Backward compatibility has remained a key component of the Xbox One’s marketability over the years, with the feature even expanding from Xbox 360 games into original Xbox classics. The emphasis on being able to go back and play older titles is still something that Xbox’s Phil Spencer stresses is important for the future of the platform.
Notable 2015 Exclusives
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Gears of War: Ultimate Edition
- Forza Motorsport 6
- Ori and the Blind Forest
- Rare Replay
Fable Legends Canceled as Lionhead Studios Closes
In a move that surprised many, Microsoft announced in early 2016 that they would soon be closing Lionhead Studios, the developer of the much-loved Fable franchise. In the process, the studio’s current project Fable Legends would also be canceled. This announcement was made in March and the following month in April, Lionhead officially closed. As of this moment, there have been no new Fable games since the release of 2012’s Fable: The Journey. Rumors, however, indicate that a new Fable project is currently being worked on by Forza Horizon developer Playground Games.
E3 2016 and the Reveal of Project Scorpio
After months of rumors and speculation, Microsoft showed up at E3 2016 ready to not only talk about more games that were in the pipeline, but also new hardware. In the near future, Microsoft announced a new version of the Xbox One that would be called the Xbox One S. This slimmer model of the system would do away with the power brick seen in the original version of the Xbox One and would also support 4K video. Three different versions of the Xbox One S would be released later in 2016 for prices ranging between $299 and $399, depending on the amount of storage.
The Xbox One S wasn’t the only piece of hardware that Microsoft revealed at E3 2016, though. Project Scorpio, the codename for a new, more powerful version of the Xbox One that would support 4K visuals for gaming, was revealed to be in development. Phil Spencer promised that Scorpio would be “the most powerful console ever created” at E3 2016. Even though we wouldn’t see more of Project Scorpio until the following year, this announcement proved that console cycles as we previously knew them seemed to be ending.
Other notable announcements at Xbox’s E3 2016 event included Xbox Play Anywhere, the new initiative that would allow select titles to be purchased on both PC and Xbox One platforms for the cost of one. This also eliminated future first-party titles from being exclusive only to the Xbox One and would instead see them coming to both PC and Xbox. It was a strange move to some, but one that Microsoft saw as benefitting them across all avenues rather than just that of Xbox as a platform.
In the realm of software, State of Decay 2, Forza Horizon 3, and Gears of War 4 were just some of the big titles that were touched on over the course of the presentation.
Xbox One S Releases, Slowly Becomes New Standard Model
In August 2016, the Xbox One S hit store shelves. At launch, only the 2TB $399 version of the new iteration of the Xbox One was available. A few weeks later, the less expensive 1TB and 500GB models of the system hit the market as well. The Xbox One S from this moment onward became Microsoft’s base model that they would market to consumers as they slowly began to phase out the launch version of the system.
Notable 2016 Exclusives
- Gears of War 4
- Quantum Break
- Forza Horizon 3
- Dead Rising 4
Scalebound Canceled by Microsoft Studios
Likely one of the most blindsiding moments in the Xbox One’s history for many came with the cancellation of PlatinumGames’ Scalebound. Microsoft Studios made the announcement in January 2017 after the action title had previously been delayed from a planned release in 2016. Microsoft cited the cancellation as a “business decision” and never said much more about it afterward.
The end of Scalebound‘s development was definitely a sour note for the Xbox One’s upcoming lineup, especially after the previous year’s loss of Fable Legends. Combining these cancellations together with the lack of noise from Crackdown 3, and concerns over Microsoft Studios’ first-party lineup began to bubble up more than ever before.
Xbox Game Pass Announced, Launches in June 2017
In February of 2017, Microsoft revealed the first details of a new service that would eventually change the landscape of the Xbox One. Xbox Game Pass was announced and was pitched as a service like Netflix that would give subscribers access to an ever-changing list of games that they would be able to play for free. For $9.99 a month, Xbox Game Pass subscribers would be able to download any title that was a part of the service and play it in its entirety.
By June of that year, Xbox Game Pass finally launched and over 100 titles were available for play out of the gate. To this day, the list continues to see new games added and removed on a monthly basis.
Project Scorpio Becomes the Xbox One X at E3 2017
A year after revealing Project Scorpio, it was once again time for E3 and Microsoft this time around decided to open the conference by divulging all of the details of the new hardware. Now called Xbox One X, the console would support legitimate 4K resolution gaming and would stand as the most powerful console that had ever been made. In addition, the Xbox One X would be the smallest Xbox console that had ever been made.
In short, it was a technical achievement from Microsoft and showed that even though they didn’t have a first-party lineup that could rival that of Sony or Nintendo, third-party games would likely be best on their platform. The Xbox One X would retail for $499.99 and would launch later in the year on November 7.
With this in mind, the rest of the conference was largely spent revealing or showcasing third-party titles and their visual prowess on the Xbox One X. Metro Exodus, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Anthem, and Middle-earth: Shadow of War were just some of the many third-party games that were shown on the Xbox stage at E3 2017.
As for first-party titles, new information on State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and the reemergence of Crackdown 3 all took place during this presentation. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was also revealed to be in development at E3 2017, along with the announcement of the release date for indie darling Cuphead, which would arrive in September.
Last but not least, the most intriguing reveal of all at E3 2017 was that the Xbox One would soon allow original Xbox games to join the backward compatible lineup. Microsoft would be launching this initiative later in 2017 and would later reveal the select list of titles from the original Xbox lineup that could be played on Xbox One. These titles could either be downloaded digitally or if you still had the original game’s disc, would be able to be inserted directly into your Xbox One to play.
Production of Kinect Officially Ends
In October 2017, the Kinect was officially ended as Microsoft ceased its production. After having bundled the device together with Xbox One consoles at launch less than four years prior, Microsoft decided to move away from the gadget entirely mostly due to a lack of consumer interest in the product. This announcement wasn’t surprising in the slightest after having seen the company’s moves over the past few years, but it further emphasized just how botched the launch of the Xbox One was back in 2013.
Xbox One X Releases with a Major Lack of First-Party Support
On November 7, 2018, the Xbox One X was finally released nearly 18 months after its original unveiling at E3 2016. While Crackdown 3 was originally scheduled to launch alongside the sleek new Xbox hardware, the Sumo Digital-developed title had once again been delayed to an unspecific date in 2018. While Microsoft now had the most powerful console on the market, they had little-to-no supporting first-party games to end 2017 with.
Before the year closed, PUBG Corp released the most popular game of the year in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as an Early Access title which was console-exclusive to Xbox One. Despite this large get for Xbox One fans, PUBG‘s launch on the platform was mired with bugs and other issues that hindered the game’s performance and nearly made it unplayable for many.
Notable 2017 Exclusives
- Forza Motorsport 7
- Halo Wars 2
- Super Lucky’s Tale
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
- Phantom Dust
Xbox Game Pass to Now Include All First-Party Titles at Launch
After having revealed Xbox Game Pass nearly a year prior, Microsoft kicked off 2018 by announcing that all first-party titles that would come to Xbox One would be available on Game Pass the day of their release. This new addition to Xbox Game Pass made it more compelling than it likely ever was before and became perhaps the biggest reason to subscribe to the service. Sea of Thieves would serve as the first new title that would release in March and join Xbox Game Pass immediately upon its arrival, while later in the year that would follow for games such as State of Decay 2 and Forza Horizon 4.
Microsoft Announces Multiple Studio Acquisitions at E3 2018
After complaints from many over the years about the lack of first-party titles coming to the Xbox One in the future, Microsoft showed up big at E3 2018 and proved to fans that they were listening loud and clear. In a move that seemed to show Microsoft Studios’ commitment to gaming over the long haul, it was announced at E3 2018 that five new studios would be joining the company’s first-party lineup. These developers included Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, Playground Games, and an entirely new studio called The Initiative. This move nearly doubled Microsoft Studios’ in-house teams and brought the total number of Microsoft-owned devs to eleven.
Other noteworthy reveals at E3 2018 included the announcements of Halo Infinite, Gears 5, and Gears Tactics as future first-party titles that would be on their way. Third-party companies also revealed a number of new games on stage as well which included Devil May Cry V, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Cyberpunk 2077, and Dying Light 2.
As for more minor footnotes mentioned over the course this E3 2018 event, Phil Spencer stated that the Xbox hardware team was already hard at work on the next Xbox consoles. This is the first mention that has been made of next-gen hardware by Microsoft and while timetables for these new devices are still uncertain, it seems to indicate that we’re on the back legs of the Xbox One’s life.
Also mentioned was the use of a new streaming service that would allow players to stream Xbox One games to other devices such as their phone to play their games wherever they might please.
Xbox One Gets New Ways to Play with Mouse and Keyboard Support and Adaptive Controller
One of the biggest initiatives of the Xbox One platform in 2018 has been to allow gamers to play how they want in addition to providing a way to play for those who otherwise might not be able to do so. This has been seen by Microsoft’s willingness to now include mouse and keyboard support on the Xbox One, along with the advent of the Adaptive Controller which will help those with disabilities more easily play games.
As of now, the Adaptive Controller has been made available for purchase, with mouse and keyboard support having recently launched on Xbox One with only 14 games available for use as of now.
X018 Returns as Microsoft Reveals More Studio Purchases
The most recent entry on this list happened just a few short weeks ago during X018, an event that Microsoft held in Mexico City for the world’s most hardcore Xbox fans. During a live stream at X018, Microsoft made more announcements regarding the future of first-party developed games.
As of now, both inXile Entertainment and Obsidian Entertainment have joined the list of first-party studios that now belong to Microsoft Studios. These two developers are well-known for their work on RPG-centric titles and further prove that Microsoft seems to be committed to developing a wide array of games moving forward.
Notable 2018 Exclusives
- Sea of Thieves
- State of Decay 2
- Forza Horizon 4
Despite starting off on a bad note, the Xbox One has continued to push the video game industry forward through the use of innovative services like Xbox Game Pass, impressive hardware with the Xbox One X, and a commitment to backward compatibility that other platform holders should take note of. Even if the platform’s first-party lineup has been dismal, the way in which Microsoft and Phil Spencer have crafted the Xbox One’s ecosystem have arguably made it the most alluring place to play your games.
We’ll have to see how the final years of the Xbox One pan out before its story is written in stone, but with a newfound emphasis on first-party studios and the advent of streaming games to other devices coming in the near future, it’s hard to argue that any other console is set up more perfectly to make the jump to next generation than that of the Xbox One.