Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Xbox. To celebrate, Xbox held a livestream advertising a making-of documentary and a Halo series, new console features, a Netflix-partnered giveaway, and a surprise about their newest game.
The 20th anniversary event began with a preview of the new six-part documentary series Power On: The Story of Xbox, releasing Dec. 2021, showing clips of the original design team, as well as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bill Gates at the first launch event. The Rock made a later cameo in the presentation plugging the Netflix algorithm action movie Red Notice and a crossover giveaway event they’re doing with Xbox at xboxvault.com, including Red Notice Game Pass collector’s cards, “Cleopatra eggs” from the film, and an oil painting commemorating his presentation twenty years ago.
The event was as nostalgia-filled as this post, showing years of global fan events, E3 presentations, multiplayer gameplay gaffs, and friends that met playing online meeting up in real life. Xbox was very committed to the idea that games are a medium to bring people together, fostering diverse and inclusive communities, rather than what Xbox Live was at one point famous for: that is, racist and sexist abuse online.
As part of today’s Xbox 20th Anniversary Celebration, Compatibility Program Lead Peggy Lo announced 76 new games joining its backward compatibility catalog, including the entire Max Payne series and the F.E.A.R. franchise, the original NIER, Binary Domain, and Star Wars: Jedi Knight 2 – Jedi Outcast, among others.
11 titles will get FPS Boost, and 26 titles that were already backwards compatible but didn’t have FPS Boost will get it (including Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion). This will mean a four times resolution increase on the Xbox Series X and One X. So basically Rockstar could have just partnered with Xbox to include the GTA trilogy in this deal and gotten better fan response than they’re getting with the current state of their remaster.
Bonnie Ross, Head of 343 Industries, announced the new Halo TV series, expressing that “like Marvel and Star Wars, Halo is a universe where hundreds of stories can be told,” which simultaneously ignores the critical backlash to the homogeneity of many of those stories in those franchises and the fact that Halo has been telling the same story for twenty years. The series is coming to the Paramount+ streaming service in 2022, a service whose biggest value to me is the NWSL and UEFA soccer, but which also hosts several Star Trek shows—and, most importantly, all of Detroiters.
The presentation ended with the Halo Multiplayer surprise launch announcement, by Joseph Staten, Head of Creative for Halo Infinite, and Tom French, Multiplayer Associate Creative Director.
The whole presentation was a long commercial, but a fun one. That Xbox has so many women in leadership positions was encouraging to see. The Rock selling us on his movie that Netflix has already decided us is their most successful ever felt cheap and rote. Still, it was heartwarming to see people that enjoy games being kind to each other. Xbox as a positive force, and videogames generally as a space for community, was a major theme. It was refreshing to see that Xbox is helping players continue to enjoy the games of yesteryear, contributing to the project of archiving the history of games for developers and fans for years to come. All in all, a solid celebration for the 20th anniversary.
You can see the full 20th Anniversary Celebration Presentation below: