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Hello listeners. It’s Brett Molina. Welcome back to Talking Tech. This month marks a major milestone for Microsoft and its Xbox video game console. Twenty years ago, this month, Microsoft launched the original Xbox. You may remember 2001 during the consumer electronics show, both Bill Gates and The Rock, when The Rock had hair and Bill Gates was still CEO of Microsoft, jumped on the stage and introduced the Xbox to everyone. For Microsoft, it felt like a pretty big leap back then. There were already a lot of different rivals between Sony and Nintendo, and then Sega had just said goodbye to console manufacturing. Now they came in and it’s that upstart. People weren’t sure what to expect but obviously we’re here 20 years later, they’re still going strong, and we’ve seen a lot of great games and a lot of great experiences with Xbox.
Now I’m joined by Mary Clarke to talk about Xbox’s 20th anniversary. She is a writer on USA Today’s For The Win. Maria, thank you for joining us.
Hey, nice to be here, Brett. How are you today?
I am doing great. Let’s start with memories. Share some of your earliest memories of Xbox and gaming.
It has to play halo with friends and stuff. This is the quintessential Xbox experience of playing Halo with friends … crouching down just enjoying time with my friends. That is what video games are all about. Enjoying time with friends, at least for me. Lots of single player experiences are great and all, but you can’t regain that feeling of sitting on the couch with your friends playing Halo and just turning things around and enjoying the feel of the game because there really isn’t anything like it. We’ll be talking about this shortly with the upcoming Halo release I think, but that’s the big reminder for me; just play these games with my friends and have a great time. We did them all during college too. We took our Xboxes to college and just had a good time with them. So these are the memories that really stand out to me, at least when I grew up with these consoles.
Yes. What I noticed about Xbox is that I felt like it took a lot of the things people were doing on the PC and made it a lot more accessible to you through a console. It’s always been the advantage of a console, right? Is it that you just plug it in and play. Like PC, at least back then, I think it’s gotten a bit better now, but 15, 20 years ago you really had to build a PC to get what you wanted. And there was a lot of luxuries too, like chat and stuff.
And Xbox really opened the door for that. When you talk about Xbox Live and … I still remember playing Halo 2 and a lot of those early Halos. Call of Duty was another big one. Call of Duty really took off thanks to Xbox, just for chat. And many of those other social functions that PlayStation had at the time were still trying to catch up.
But yeah, like you said, playing with friends and playing Call of Duty, getting used to this environment too, because it quickly … gets a bit weird and sometimes it gets a bit intense. Once you get your friends involved in the mix, it’s just that social. It is so much fun. There is just so much to enjoy.
Yes, exactly. It’s really the quintessential social experience and so on.
You mentioned Halo as one of your first memories. What are some of your favorite Xbox games that you have played?
Ooh, that will actually be something outside of the left box. I loved Ori and the Blind Forest. I don’t think it’s a niche choice. Is it?
I do not think so.
It’s one of those things that I’ve actually played it with friends as well. My friends got together and we passed the controller around and just played until we died. And the atmosphere in this game is fun. The platform was really cool. The music was great. I remember the level you try to climb through huge trees, it explodes around you and crumbles and just the frantic pace of it all. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite games. The vibe is basically flawless and it’s such a fun game. And obviously a lot of my video game memories are about my friends.
So just to be able to pass the controller between us and if we lose the house or just died we’ll roll back and try again in another run. This is one of my favorite games, just the memories I have and overall this game just felt so good.
Yes absolutely. Absolutely. My roommate had the first Xbox and it hadn’t really gotten into the online stuff yet, but I remember he had Counter-Strike and I remember the first time I played and I just thought it was cool because I liked the game, but you could also have your own music playing in the background which none of the other consoles did. And it was a whole new thing. And I thought it was really cool. I guess he had an Eminem CD or some kind of mix or something in there because every time I played it was the same Eminem song over and over again. Which may be a little agonizing for some people, but for me it was just a lovely reminder of playing it, hearing the song, and then playing Counter-Strike.
And that was my very first Xbox experience. But I really liked the other game on Xbox too and I don’t know if it’s out of the ordinary, but it’s one of those original Xbox games I think was a love-hate game … I really like Fabel. I love these games. I just loved all the role playing games that you can do. But what I also really liked are all the random incidental things. You could start a family and go on adventures, but then you have to stop and see your wife and kids or your husband or … all of those things. And I just found that element really funny and it was just a whole different type of RPG that wasn’t just about fighting and fighting. You had to do a lot of other things too.
And you don’t think of Xbox as an RPG console. I guess it’s more known for its shooters and racing games and stuff like that. But Fable was really cool because it was and had these different things. And I think we’re going to talk about what’s next for Xbox and it seems like they are kicking back more towards role-playing games and that sort of thing with the Bethesda acquisition. I think this is really something to look forward to for a lot of people who want to come back to it.
Yes absolutely. Well, let’s look ahead. We have Xbox 20 years and obviously this device has a lot of staying power and we know they have the Bethesda deal so we are going to see all of those games there. We also have another halo coming out, a lot happens.
Is there something you are looking forward to the most or want to see the most on Xbox in the next few years?
Starfield has to be one of them. I know it’s a Bethesda title. While it is shrouded in many secrets, I am really intrigued to see what they are doing there. It seems like a very ambitious project and I really want to see how it works and what they have in store.
I’m also a huge Elder Scrolls fan. I know this is Bethesda again, but Elder Scrolls 6 is basically as good as confirmed to be an Xbox exclusive title. And I’m a huge fan of Skyrim and loved playing that back then. So I’m definitely looking forward to that too.
And like I said, back to the RPG roots, the game Avowed, I think by Obsidian, looked really good too. I think we haven’t heard from this in a while, but I’m a great RPG player. So, Xbox is moving towards more RPGs and more stuff like that, it’s all really exciting to me. And I’m definitely looking forward to these games, especially Avowed, because Obsidian made so many good games. It seems like a really fun time to come for Xbox in the future.
Yes. I’m really excited about a lot of the Bethesda stuff. I feel like Bethesda has the weird reputation of these great games, but then they’re super buggy too when they initially come out like Fall … I think of it every time I think of Fallout 76 because I remember it Having played this and, I think within the first couple of hours I had to restart it because there is such a box that is critical to the game; and it fell in a place I couldn’t reach; and I couldn’t open it; And I couldn’t move forward if I didn’t open it. So I had to start over and it’s like little things where it is … Like Bethesda, I love their ambition but I always try to be hesitant.
But Xbox is interesting because, as you said, it’s been just a shooter / racing console for the longest time and that’s why a lot of people have been playing it. They didn’t have the diverse lineup that a PlayStation did. Back then there was Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy, a lot of those platforms and when they moved you could see that Xbox had really expanded its game portfolio. They really have something for everyone. It sounds like a cliché when it comes to video games, but there are many different games to choose from.
Yes. I think that’s really cool and I know everyone is big on the console wars, but we didn’t even mention that Xbox is a great tool in Game Pass, which is just a phenomenal service that you can just play games with can and only for a super cheap fee. It’s really great. It really seems like the console for … maybe not like niche picks … but it has something for everyone and it has so many options.
And I’m really looking forward to the future because like I said, it seems like they’re really diversifying what they’re doing. And I think it’s only going to do good because I know people are talking about console wars, but the competition is good. Competition is healthy. It makes everyone strive for bigger and better things and more ambitious projects. These are all good things in my opinion. These are really exciting times.
Yes absolutely. Well, Mary, thank you for being here. It’s great to have you
Yes. Thanks for being there. I would love to come back anytime.
Big! Listener let’s hear from you. Do you have any comments, questions, or ideas for shows or fond memories of Xbox that you want to share? Maybe we’ll share a few of these in the next episode. You can find me on Twitter. I’m @ brettmolina23. Mary too, where are you on Twitter?
Marycclarke and this is Clarke with an ‘E’ on Twitter.
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