An enormous success

First!” That was the phrase Microsoft was able to shout out in November 2005 after it launched the XBox 360, the successor of its original gaming platform. The system launched in two flavors, the Core unit and the Premium.

Game-wise, Microsoft came swinging with a decent line up of games, which gave gamers the likes of a next-generation Madden (’06), Project Gotham 3, Perfect Dark Zero and the most successful, Call of Duty 2. Perfect Dark Zero was a bust for most people, and Kameo: Elements of Power didn’t have much value to it, but Call of Duty pushed its way to the top and carried the new Xbox Live.

The original Xbox Live was a success from the start, but grew exponentially when it was redesigned for the Xbox 360. Gamers were able to create more of an online identity for themselves, customize the dashboard and guide of the 360, and have access to digital downloads with Xbox Live Arcade.

But what really helped push the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live were the introduction of Achievements and a Gamer Score. Required for all Xbox 360 games, playing a game could net you up to 50 achievements for specified tasks and up to 1000 points for it (Arcade games were set at 12 achievements and 200 points). The points are essentially useless, but gamers have rabidly done whatever they can do to get as many as possible.

The Xbox 360 has grown quite a bit since its release. Halo 3 was the most anticipated release, and sold that much more systems, and saw major success. But Microsoft introduced other exclusives, such as Gears of War and Mass Effect, that went on to be big.

However, third-party games have had a big impact on the 360. Call of Duty 4, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion have been big time sellers. But the biggest surprises Microsoft were able to pull off were the acquisitions of Grand Theft Auto, Virtua Fighter, Devil May Cry, and others. GTA had seen Xbox action before, but not until well after its initial release. GTA IV launched on Day 1 with the PlayStation 3 version, much to the dismay of Sony loyals.

Live Action: Awaiting Exclusives

And now let’s take a look into what the Xbox 360 has in store for this holiday season and the upcoming year. From what we’ve seen at various gaming conventions, the 360 looks to be bringing a lot of bigtime action to its games library and especially Xbox Live.

As opposed to last year, there is more than one Xbox exclusive being anticipated this year. Gears of War 2 and Fable 2 are looking to be huge sellers. Gears of War 2 builds on where its predecessor left off, but pits players in bigger and more epic battles. Everything is at stake, to say the least.

Fable 2 hopes to be the game developer Peter Molyneux promised 2004’s Fable to be. Taking place 500 years after the original events, gamers will be given a wider array of options and tasks. Just like before, you can choose the path of evil or good and the effects of either will have bigger impacts. This time around you’ll be able to build a family (or families…), travel around a massive world, and even get an STD. If that doesn’t prove how far they are willing to go detail-wise, then we’re not sure what does.

At an unspecified time this fall, Xbox Live members will be seeing a brand new version of the service. It appears to be more streamlined than before and will introduce one of Microsoft’s major partnerships: Netflix. Netflix users will be able to stream movies through Xbox Live in addition to being able to download movies Live already offers. Live will also introduce Avatars, which seem to be a more advanced version of Nintendo’s Miis.
2009 should see the release of Alan Wake, a survival horror game that has been stalled for the last couple of years. Also on the horizon lies Dead or Alive 5, Halo Wars, Forza Motorsport 3, and others surely to be announced at the Tokyo Game Show.