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Xbox

From Academic Kids

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Xbox console and original controller

The Xbox is Microsoft's game console, released on November 15 2001. It is Microsoft's first independent venture into the console arena, after having collaborated with Sega in porting Windows CE to the Sega Dreamcast console. The price is currently 149 USD, 149 EUR, 99 GBP, 200 CAD, 249 AUD, 290 NZD and 1200 NOK. Notable launch titles for the console include Amped, Dead or Alive 3, Halo: Combat Evolved, Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee, and Project Gotham Racing.

Contents

History

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The Xbox was initially developed within Microsoft by a small crew including Seamus Blackley, a game developer and high energy physicist.

While some critics were initially concerned that the Xbox would allow Microsoft to extend its dominance of the PC software market to consoles, as of February 2005 estimates show the Xbox's share of the worldwide console market is not much ahead of the Nintendo GameCube and far behind the PlayStation 2. Indeed, Xbox for the most part has a similar (but smaller) selection of the teen-adult games that the Playstation 2 has, with Xbox's advantages mainly being in performance, graphics and sound. Initially, Xbox did have trouble getting console-exclusive games, a strategy with the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series that made the PlayStation 2 very successful but later the exclusivity deal was amended after GTA's publisher realized the sales potential of having GTA on the Xbox. Some consider the Xbox's freshman forey into the console market particularly successful in spite of the established dominance of PlayStation 2 whose market lead had been due to the original PlayStation base, and compared to the GameCube which has failed to match the sales of the Nintendo64 predecessor. The Xbox has not sold well in Japan, due to the Japanese people's poor acceptance of non-Japanese consoles, limited Japanese developer support, few game choices and the large size of the hardware itself. In much of Europe, the Xbox is currently slightly ahead of the GameCube, but is still far behind the PlayStation 2. Microsoft predicted that it would not make a profit on the Xbox for at least three years and that turned out to be correct; the division had its first profitable quarter in 2005.

In November 2002, Microsoft released the successful Xbox Live online gaming service, allowing subscribers to play online Xbox games with (or against) other subscribers all around the world and download new content for their games to the hard drive. This online service only works with broadband. The milestone of 1 million subscribers was announced in July 2004.

Several internal hardware revisions have been made to discourage modding, cut manufacturing costs, and to provide a more reliable DVD-ROM drive (the early units' drives were prone to failure).

Hardware

Microsoft built the Xbox around industry-standard PC hardware, unlike the traditionally proprietary design of nearly all other gaming consoles. However, it still uses standard console architecture.

The inclusion of the hard disk not only serves as a disk cache for faster game loading times compared to the PS2 and repository for saved game information (eliminating the need for sold-separately memory cards), it also allows users to download and save new content for their games from Xbox Live and copy music from standard Audio CDs so players can partially or completely replace the soundtrack of Xbox games that support Custom Soundtracks, all firsts in console history. Custom Soundtracks are often supported in non-cinematic games (e.g. racing/driving games) where the music is inconsequential to what is happening in the game.

Although the Xbox is based on commodity PC hardware and runs a stripped-down version of the Windows 2000 kernel using APIs based largely on DirectX, it incorporates restrictions designed to prevent uses not approved by Microsoft. The Xbox does not use Windows CE due to Microsoft internal politics at the time, as well as limited support in Windows CE for DirectX.

The Xbox is much larger and heavier than its contemporaries, and shipped with an unusually large controller. This is largely due to the large, tray-loading DVD-ROM drive and the standard-size 3.5" hard drive. Despite managing to be smaller and lighter than similar commodity PCs, the Xbox has found itself a target of mild derision, as gamers poke fun at it for things like a (overly cautious) warning in the Xbox manual that a falling Xbox "could cause serious injury" to a small child or pet. While some elements of the Xbox's design, like break-away cables for the controllers to prevent the console from being yanked from the shelf, take the size into account, it has undoubtedly hurt the system's sales to the space-conscious Japanese.

Another common complaint about the system was that the original game controller design was seen as too large for some people. For the Japanese Xbox launch, a new and smaller controller was introduced, a design which was subsequently released in other markets as the "Controller S", which eventually replaced the original design. Currently, all Xbox consoles come with a "Controller S", and the original version of the controller (also known as 'The Duke') is no longer sold.

Detailed specifications

  • CPU: 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, with a 133 MHz Front Side Bus
  • Graphics Processor: 250 MHz custom chip named the NV2x, developed by Microsoft and nVIDIA (comparable to a low-end GeForce 4 Ti card)
  • Total Memory: 64 MB DDR SDRAM running at 200 MHz, supplied by Micron
  • Memory Bandwidth: 6.4 GB/s
  • Polygon Performance: 125 million flat-shaded polys/second
    • (Microsoft figure. Some critics assert that the Xbox's polygon-per-second number is exaggerated by unrealistic testing conditions.)
  • Sustained Polygon Performance: 100+ M/s (transformed and lit polygons per second)
  • Micropolygons/particles per second: 125 M/s
  • Particle Performance: 125 M/s
  • Simultaneous Textures: 4
  • Pixel Fill Rate - No Texture: 4.0 G/s (anti-aliased)
  • Pixel Fill Rate - 1 Texture: 4.0 G/s anti-aliased
  • Compressed Textures: Yes (6:1)
  • Full Scene Anti-Alias: Yes
  • Micro Polygon Support: Yes
  • Storage Medium: 2-5x DVD, 8 gigabyte hard disk, optional 8 MB memory card
  • I/O: 2-5x DVD, 8 GB/10 GB hard disk, 8 MB memory card
  • Audio Channels: 64 3D channels (up to 256 stereo voices)
  • 3D Audio Support: Yes
  • MIDI DLS2 Support: Yes
  • AC3 (Dolby Digital) Encoded Game Audio: Yes (via TOSLINK)
  • Broadband Enabled: Yes (10/100base-T ethernet)
  • DVD Movie Playback: Yes (separate DVD Playback Kit/Remote required)
  • Maximum Resolution (2x32bpp frame buffers +Z): 1920(vert.)x1080(horiz)
    • Note: NTSC (Non-HD) TV's have less than 500 horizontal lines. PAL TV's have less than 600 horizontal lines.
  • HDTV Support: Yes, 480p/720p/1080i (see game boxes for supported resolutions).
  • Controller Ports: 4 proprietary USB-based ports
  • Weight: 3.86 kg
  • Dimensions: 324 × 265 × 90 mm (12.8 × 10.4 × 3.5 inches)

Official Xbox accessories

Audio/video connectors

  • Standard AV Cable: Provides composite video and monaural or stereo audio to TVs equipped with RCA inputs. Comes with the system. European systems come with a RCA jack to SCART converter block in addition to the cable.
  • RF Adapter: Provides a combined audio and video signal on an RF connector.
  • Advanced AV Pack: A breakout box that provides S-Video and TOSLINK audio in addition to the RCA composite video and stereo audio of the Standard AV Cable.
  • High Definition AV Pack: A breakout box, intended for HDTVs, that provides a YPrPb component video signal over three RCA connectors. Also provides analog RCA and digital TOSLINK audio outputs.
  • Advanced SCART Cable: The European equivalent to the Advanced AV Pack, providing a full RGB video SCART connection in place of S-Video, RCA composite and stereo audio connections (composite video and stereo are still provided by the cable, through the SCART connector, in addition to the RGB signal), while retaining the TOSLINK audio connector. As Europe has no HDTV standard, no High Definition cable is currently provided in those markets.

Numerous unofficial third-party cables and breakout boxes exist that provide combinations of outputs not found in these official video packages; however, with the exception of a few component-to-VGA transcoders and custom-built VGA boxes, the four official video packages represent all of the Xbox's possible outputs. This output selectivity is made possible by the Xbox's SCART-like AVIP port.

Networking

  • Ethernet (Xbox Live) Cable: A Cat 5 cable for connecting the Xbox to a broadband modem or router (note that there is no "official" Xbox Live cable; any PC ethernet cable can be used)
  • Xbox Wireless Adapter: a wireless bridge which converts data running through an ethernet cable to a wireless (802.11b or 802.11g) signal to connect to a wireless LAN. While the official Wireless Adapter guarantees compatbility with the Xbox, almost any wireless bridge can be used.
  • Xbox Live Starter Kit: A subscription and installation pack for the Xbox Live service, as well as a headset (with monaural earpiece and microphone) that connects to a control box that plugs into the top expansion slot of a controller. The headset can in fact be replaced with most standard earpiece-and-microphone headsets; headset specialist Plantronics produce various officially-licenced headsets, including a special-edition headset for Halo 2.
  • System Link Cable: A Cat 5 crossover cable for connecting together two to four consoles, for up to 16 total players. This functionality is similar to Sega's DirectLink for Sega Saturn.

Multimedia

  • Xbox Media Center Extender: A kit that allows Xbox to act as a Media Center Extender to stream content from a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC. It can also be used for DVD playback.
  • DVD Playback Kit: Required in order to play DVD movies, the kit includes an infrared remote control and receiver. DVD playback was not included as a standard feature of the Xbox due to licensing issues with the DVD format that would have added extra cost to the console's base price. By selling a DVD remote separately, Microsoft was able to bundle the cost of the DVD licensing fee with it. Although there is nothing to prevent the Xbox from acting as a progressive-scan DVD player, Microsoft chose not to enable this feature in the Xbox DVD kit in order to avoid royalty payments to the patent-holder of progressive scan DVD playback.
  • Xbox Music Mixer: A utility software bundled with a microphone that connects to an adapter that plugs into the top expansion slot of a controller. Provides a music player with 2D/3D visualizations as well as basic karaoke functions. It also allows users to upload pictures in JPG format (to create slide shows) as well as audio in WMA and MP3 format (for karaoke or a game's Custom Soundtracks feature) from a Windows XP machine running the Xbox Music Mixer PC Tool (http://www.xbox.com/en-US/musicmixer/pctool-overview/).

Controllers and removable storage

  • Standard Xbox Controller (AKA "Controller O"): The normal Xbox controller for all territories except Japan, this has since been replaced in Xbox packs by the Controller S, and due to its increasing rarity, is believed to have been discontinued. It is considered to be bulky. The black and white buttons are located above the ABXY buttons, and the Back/Start buttons are located between and below the d-pad and right thumbstick.
  • Controller S: A smaller, lighter Xbox controller. Once the standard Xbox controller in Japan, it was released in other territories by popular demand, and eventually replaced the standard controller in the retail pack for the Xbox console. The white and black buttons are located below the ABXY buttons, and the Back/Select buttons are similarly placed below the left thumbstick.
  • Memory Unit: An 8 MB removable solid-state memory card onto which game saves can either be copied from the hard drive when in the Xbox Dashboard's memory manager or saved during a game. Note that some recent games (e.g. Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball) do not support this accessory as a cheat prevention measure.
  • Logitech 2.4 Ghz wireless controller. Approved by Microsoft for wireless gameplay with Xbox.

Screenshots

Xbox and DirectX

Microsoft's set of low-level APIs for game development and multimedia purposes, DirectX, was used as a basis for the Xbox's hardware programming (as well as its name, which implies "DirectX Box"). The API was developed jointly between Microsoft and NVIDIA, whose chips power the Xbox graphics. The Xbox API is similar to DirectX version 8.1, but is non-updateable just like other console technologies.

Modding the Xbox

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Xbox and a Controller S

The recent popularity of the Xbox has inspired efforts to circumvent the built-in hardware and software security mechanisms (sometimes in order to use the Xbox as a low cost web server), as well as to add customized design touches to the console's case (similar to PC case modding). Hardware modding can involve anything from simply replacing the console's green decorative "jewel" with a custom-designed one to opening up the case and installing a modchip. However, there are many reputable sites in the UK (where overall, it is still technically legal) selling pre-loaded modchipped Xboxes.

Software modding is much less intrusive, and only involves running software exploits to trick the Xbox into running unsigned program code. This allows running an alternate dashboard such as Avalaunch, Evolution-X or UnleashX and in turn makes playing original (free) homebrew games such as Star Wars or various older games through arcade and games console emulators possible. This is especially attractive as the Xbox is designed to output to TVs, and high-quality controllers and arcade sticks are available for it.

The original hard drive can be replaced with a larger one. Then Xbox games can be copied from the DVD to the hard disk and then played directly from the hard drive. This requires a modded Xbox using one of the alternative dashboards, and is used by scrupulous users to eliminate load times or leave their games in storage, and by unscrupulous users to play illegally copied games.

Beyond gaming, a modded Xbox can be used as a media center with the Xbox Media Center (http://www.xboxmediacenter.com/) software (XBMC) allowing the playing of DVDs without the $30 DVD dongle/remote and streaming of music and video files from the hard drive or from another computer over a network. A modded Xbox can even be configured into a computer running Linux or Microsoft Windows CE operating systems.

Modding an Xbox may require opening the Xbox case, and would certainly void the Xbox's warranty. Also, most internal hardware modifications will render an Xbox unable to participate in Xbox Live which is why many modders use a switch to turn on and off their modifications to the Xbox. But as of November 2004, Microsoft has been taking new actions for banning Xboxes with hard drive modifications from the Xbox Live service. There has been several theories on how banning in this new method is done. One theory is that there is a "marriage" of one's hard drive serial number and one's Xbox's serial number, and banning if one of those two change due to part replacement. Another is that it might check for modified files, and another suggesting that Microsoft is detecting if the unique hard drive key of every Xbox has changed.

Currently, it is believed that Microsoft compares each Xbox's serial number and hard drive serial number upon connecting to Live, and that any "unpairing" of the two will result in a ban for the user associated with the console. One such successful use of Live to discourage modding was when the hit game "Halo 2" was released, and many owners of modded Xboxes found out that they were banned from the Live service.

Price history

North America

Europe

Oceania

  • AU$699 AUD (26 April, 2002, Launch Price) (Quickly dropped to $399 to compete with launch of Nintendo Gamecube)
  • AU$399 AUD
  • NZ$499 NZD (3 October, 2002, Launch Price)
  • AU$349 (2003)
  • NZ$399 (2003)
  • AU$299 (2004)
  • NZ$349 (2004)
  • AU$249 (2004,2005)
  • NZ$299 (2004 Q2)
  • NZ$249 (2004 Q4,2005)

Of note is the high European launch price. As with many games consoles (for example, the PlayStation series), the Xbox was launched with a price in GBP equal to its US price in USD (in this case, $/299), and this price then converted for the rest of Europe. Obviously, ignoring the GBP-USD exchange rate in the way gives the impression of a 100% mark-up for Europe.

With a price-dropped PlayStation 2 and a comparatively inexpensive GameCube as competition, many users were naturally reluctant to invest in the console (interestingly, the PS2 had faced similar attacks during the UK tabloids' preoccupation with "Ripoff Britain"). Microsoft countered with a 100 price drop (and its equivalent in the rest of Europe) some scant months after launch. To avoid frustrating early adopters, they offered a bundle containing two games and one controller for free to any purchaser who could provide a sales receipt showing the original higher price.

Future Xbox

Main article: Xbox 360
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Microsoft is expected to release a new generation of Xbox hardware, the Xbox 360, in 2005. NVidia have announced that they will cease production of the Xbox's GPU in August of that year, which will almost certainly mark the end of that console's production. [1] (http://www.forbes.com/home/feeds/afx/2005/05/12/afx2024549.html)

See also

Template:Dedicated video game consoles

External links

de:Xbox es:Xbox fr:Xbox fi:Xbox it:Xbox ja:Xbox nl:XBox no:Xbox pl:Xbox pt:Xbox simple:Xbox sv:Xbox zh:Xbox

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