I must admit, as a life-long gamer I never thought we’d be where we are now. Playing Super Mario Brothers on the NES was all that for sure, but games got bigger, better, and had higher functionality.
In 2001, the Xbox debuted from Microsoft going head to head with the Nintendo Gamecube and Playstation 2. While it was obvious that PS2 would win that generation on console alone, the Xbox would have another trick up its sleeve a year later that would put them ahead going into the current generation of systems.
In the summer of 2002, I was having a blast with the Xbox. NHL Hitz was the first game I had played on it. Halo was purchased at launch as well, and it changed everything. It was graphically superior to anything I’d ever seen. You could even play with up to 16 players by hooking up multiple Xboxes to a LAN. There was also great games like NFL 2k2 and Morrowind.
I had signed up to become part of a massive beta test for Microsoft’s Online Network. It was something that was going to revolutionize gaming. In July of 2002, I remember waking up for work, checking my email and being ecstatic as I was chosen to be part of the first wave of beta testers for what would be called Xbox Live. There were only 5000 chosen for the first wave of beta testers and while this number expanded over the course of 60 days, I was among the very first.
The email informed me that over the next couple weeks, I’ll receive a package with everything I needed to get my Xbox online. When I did, I remember seeing a lot of orange. The packaging to the headset, the t-shirt, the bag, and the disc cover were all orange. It was a great day. It also came with beta versions of the game Re-Volt, which was also on Dreamcast, as well as a copy of NFL Fever 2002 featuring Peyton Manning.
I was given a set of instructions an went to town, downloading information onto the Xbox. After the initial setups I was in a room of 7 other people gearing up to race in Re-Volt. Everyone was happy, excited and eager to play. You didn’t hear any name calling and angry racists like you do now. It was adults who were respectful and grateful for this amazing opportunity.
Re-Volt wasn’t the greatest game ever, far from it in fact. However, just to play something online with others simultaneously and without lag, all while being in constant vocal communication was out of this world.
Throughout the 60 day beta testing period, there were more discs sent with updates and improvements. We also got a few other things in the mail like an orange memory card. There was a lot of communication from Microsoft via surveys that we filled out to provide input on service improvement. I like to think I supplied vital information that helped mold Xbox Live into what it is today.
On November 15, 2002, the service went live for anyone with an Xbox console. Mech Assault was probably the first game I played on the service. I honestly don’t remember enjoying it that much, but I know it came early on.
Other great memories came from Xbox Live over the last 10 years. Here’s what sticks out the most for me:
- NHL 2k3: Not only was EA Sports nearly irrelevant when it came to quality hockey games at the time, 2k was really finding its stride with an epic game of simulation sports. Hockey was no disappointment. NHL 2k3 was online and amazing. As with many sports games, my website hosted a league for it. Even just playing co-op on the same console against random opponents online was a blast.
- Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow: The ultimate game of balance for 2 on 2 stealth game play. Spies versus Mercenaries is still one of my all time favorite games to play online. It required significant team work and while we frequently had an advantage by playing on XBL with 2 televisions for maximum vision, we still enjoyed this game for years.
- Halo 2: When a sequel to Halo was announced, details revealed an online component that was even more massive than its predecessor, but it would be on Xbox Live. I logged nearly 3000 games of Halo 2 according to Halo Waypoint, but less than 500 for Halo: Reach. That’s how good Halo 2 was.
Those are the games that stood out but there are countless memories from Xbox Live. I routinely play EA’s NHL series online. The arcade section has expanded tremendously, and there are apps that run music and Netflix.
It was also announced this week that the longest tenured XBL members may be receiving 10th anniversary Xbox 360 consoles as a thank you for their commitment. No one has been a part of XBL longer than I have…..fingers crossed.
Happy 10th anniversary Xbox Live. You are the superior online service, and it is not even close.