The Xbox One X, the system Microsoft calls “the most powerful console ever,” is nearly here. While we can’t dig into our impressions just yet, we wanted to take a look back at Xbox through the years. So we got the whole family together – with a couple minor exceptions – for some photos. We couldn’t get them to all dress up in the same sweaters, but we did manage to get them into a few goofy poses, like that one where everyone looks off to the side for some reason.
We managed to get the original Xbox, released just two weeks short of 16 years ago, out of the retirement home for a few shots, as well as first Xbox 360. You can also see an Xbox One Day One Edition, an Xbox One Elite, and an Xbox One S in there, as well as the star of the show, the Xbox One X. Sadly the Xbox 360 Slim and Xbox 360 E weren’t available for a visit, and the Duke controller has a visit planned soon but couldn’t make it for this event.
Lining up all the systems, the first thing that becomes apparent is just how big the first Xbox One is. Way back in the day, “hueg like Xbox” – spelled just like that – was a meme that went around the gaming world. People were landing helicopters and starting small nation-states on the massive console. But when you put it side by side with an Xbox One or Xbox One Elite? It actually looks pretty svelte. When you take into account the pure math the systems are capable of, the size difference becomes even more stark. The original Xbox was capable of 5.8 GFLOPS (FLoating point OPerations per Second, a number often touted when companies brag about their console or graphics card’s power), while the Xbox One X is capable of 6.0 TFLOPS. Yes, that is a 1000-times difference. I’m not going to try to say that the Xbox One X is one thousand times more powerful than the original Xbox – I’ll leave that to the guys at Digital Foundry. But regardless of whether that number is 100 or 500 or 1000, it’s kind of wild to think about how much more computing power Microsoft is packing into the Xbox One X compared to its grandpappy.
Looking at the systems in a line-up, it’s kind of like watching Microsoft breathe in and out. The Xbox was this huge breath in, with the consoles expanding and contracting with each generation. The Xbox was gigantic (the biggest console ever?), while the 360 was small when compared to the PlayStation 3. Then, out of nervousness about the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death, the Xbox One’s original iteration was cautiously over-manufactured. It somehow got even bigger, and ended up looking like a VCR instead of a game console. Which is kind of a problem when you consider that VHS tapes died out about a decade earlier.
And so with the Xbox One S and X, Microsoft went all out, cranking every iota of power out of the system while compressing it down ever smaller. The One S and One X are pretty close, though. The Xbox One X is slightly deeper and slightly thinner than its older brother, but would still fit easily into an Xbox One or original Xbox.
While the design of the Xbox console itself has been kind of all over the place, the controllers have been more of an evolution. Again, the Duke is missing in action, but I threw an official photo of the beast into the gallery below for reference. That thing was huge. From there, it’s been pretty linear. The Xbox “S” controller shrunk the form factor pretty significantly, looking like a more contoured version of the Dreamcast controller. From there, the 360 controller smoothed things out and dropped the support for controller-based memory units and add-ons and, most importantly, dropped the cord in the first big move to wireless controllers. The silver controller pictured features a transforming directional pad meant to give gamers playing fighting games and retro titles better control over their games. Whether it actually worked is subjective, but it was Microsoft’s first foray into enthusiast controllers.
The Xbox One controller was, in truth, more a tweak than anything else. The nurled grips on the sticks is appreciated, but the shoulder buttons only clicked on the outside, a move that felt weird to gamers even if it was meant to improve ergonomics. The next big jump came in Microsoft’s much-lauded Elite controller – the one with that gem-like directional pad. Coming in at 2.5 times the price of a standard Xbox One controller, the Elite controller comes with its own case and charging cable, as well as one other directional pad, two sets of analog sticks, and four optional paddles that can stick magnetically to the back of the controller.
The Elite controller launched just over two years ago, and was a good part of the reason I picked up the Xbox One Elite bundle on my own dime. It became a favorite controller for me immediately and it’s still something I pick up as my first controller for both Xbox and PC gaming.
Looking at the history of both the Xbox console and its controllers, we can come to a couple conclusions. Whatever the next Xbox is – an Xbox Two, an Xbox Infinity, an Xbox One X 1X, or whatever else, it’s either going to be big enough to be a space heater, or small enough to fit into a handbag. The controller, meanwhile, will probably end up being another slight tweak. If we’re lucky, maybe the next generation of Xbox will include the Elite controller’s changes as a bundle, but that’s not the case this time around – the Xbox One X controller is the standard Xbox One controller available in stores right now.
We’re sixteen years deep into the Xbox legacy. Do you still have your original Xbox sitting in a closet somewhere? Xbox and PlayStation have traded blows through the years, both at retail and among fans, but there’s no question that the Xbox has done its own thing and has its own history.