Because my memories of that event are still so fresh, it's very hard for me to believe that it's been five full years
since the launch of the Xbox 360--the release that heralded the first shot in the next-generation console wars among Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. The latter two companies would release their PlayStation 3
consoles a year later, in November 2006
But back then, the PlayStation 2 was still the most dominant console on the planet, and no one had ever heard of the Wii. For its part, the Xbox 360 was an unknown--the original Xbox, released in 2001, had been a highly unprofitable loss leader, and now the world was waiting to find out if Microsoft was ready to be a real player in the console game.
And did they succeed? By almost any measure, they did.
"Microsoft has come such a long way," said Dean Takahashi, the author of "The Xbox 360 Uncloaked
," and like me, one of only three reporters there throughout the Zero Hour event. "In planning the Xbox 360, they expected to get maybe 20 million units sold in five years. In fact, they were able to do more than 40 million. This console generation has worked out far better than they thought."
By comparison, according to an article
Takahashi wrote last month for VentureBeat, where he is a lead writer, Nintendo has moved 74.6 million units to date, while Sony has sold 38.9 million PS3s.
Back then, in the fall of 2005, the question on everyone's mind was how the new Xbox would fare against Sony's PS3. After all, Sony had sold more than 100 million PS2s, and it was well understood that the PlayStation fan base gave Sony a huge advantage heading into the next-generation console wars.
But from the beginning, Sony stumbled, most visibly with supply chain issues that forced it to charge $600 for the PS3. And Microsoft, with its $400 Xbox 360, had no problem taking advantage of the PS3 fans who simply weren't willing to fork over $600.
Another area where Microsoft got an early lead was with its lineup of exclusive games. Indeed, the platform has helped spawn (or enhance) some of the biggest and most important exclusive titles in video game history--the Halo, Gears of War, and Fable franchises--and has seen titles available on multiple platforms tend to perform better on Xbox.
For their parts, the PS3 and the Wii have both had their share of blockbuster exclusives. PS3 players have had sole access to titles like the God of War and Gran Turismo franchises and those with Wiis were the only ones to be able to play New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Fit, and others.
Of course, back then, no one expected Nintendo's next-generation entry to be a real player. The thought was that it would be a battle for first place between the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Five years on, that seems like a quaint equation given the almost instant dominance of the Wii. Still, many people have long lumped the PS3 and the Xbox 360 together--given their high-quality graphics and immense processing power--and measured them more against each other and not against the Wii.