The original Xbox launched in the UK 14 years ago today. It had already been released in the US, but for us Brits March 14 was the day the games industry changed forever. We look back at that day with varying degrees of fondness.
Console launches and me often seem to end in near disaster.
After getting home with a Nintendo 64, excitedly setting it up and sitting down to play Mario 64, I accidentally trod on controller cable and sent the whole thing crashing to the ground. The panic was over quickly, though, with the console turning on and working perfectly - aside from the fact it ran PAL games, which were for the most part beyond awful.
My launch Xbox 360 wasn't delivered the day it was meant to be, meaning I played Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones all day accompanied by a tinge of sadness as I stared at Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero which had been delivered a day earlier. The following day my mum drove me to the parcel depot, 45 minutes away in Horley. On the way back a car drove into the back of us as we stopped at a junction, causing a small but safe three-car incident.
My PlayStation had a fucked disc drive, but then so did everyone's it seems so it's hardly worth talking about.
Living in Brighton as a student, I was awoken at about 6.30am by the postman, who was delivery my imported US original DS. I wasn't happy about the time, and things got worse when I unboxed the machine to find a massive crack running down the top screen! Terrible scenes.
I spent all my life savings on a Mega Drive/Mega CD purchase, which I simply shouldn't have done and still regret to this day. Listening to Ecco's music on my parent's HiFi by simply putting in the game disc almost made it worth it, but thinking about it some more now, it really didn't.
My Euro Xbox purchase actually went very smoothly. For some reason I can't quite remember (I think it was price), I ordered an Xbox from Australia along with Jet Set Radio Future, Halo, RalliSport Challenge, and PGR. Brilliant times were had.
The real problems arose from my attempts to get an import console at the US launch a few months prior. In a moment of madness I bought a too-cheap-to-be-true unit from eBay. this was back in the day when eBay wasn't so keen to protect buyers and I probably should have been wiser. Weeks later, numerous phone calls to a mobile that was never answered, and lots of stress, and I was down £200. Which sucked.
I ended up buying an NTSC Xbox from a DVDboxoffice, a website I'd used to import cheap Region 1 DVDs. This arrived, which was great, but the optical audio output was broken, meaning all sounds carried to my amp and speakers stuttered and rather ruined the experience. This was, quite frankly, rather shit. By the time the company agreed to take the unit back the UK launch was around the corner, so I held on until March.
I loved the original Xbox. It was a glorious period for online gaming and the console that brought us PGR2. Enough said.
I, like many other idiots, bought my Xbox on the first day it was available in the UK, despite the fact it had no games I wanted and was hideously expensive. Still, new tech was new tech, and there was a lot to like about Microsoft's console: it was obviously powerful, and that power had the potential to offer games which went beyond what the PS2 could offer. Well, that's what the salivating gaming press thought, anyway. And to be fair to them, those Halo screenshots did look amazing.
The reality was slightly more underwhelming. After bunking off from sixth form and heading down to my local Choices Video (the nearest indie shop had the machine for sale before Bill Gates had proudly paraded the 'first' Xbox on sale at Oxford Circus HMV, the rascals, but it didn't have any bundles) I proudly returned to my house with the machine, an extra controller, Halo, and the sinking feeling that maybe the best part of 400 quid was a bit too much.
This feeling didn't get better when I started playing Halo, which I deemed to be, frankly, shite. Yes, it looked nice. But there was a very clear moment when, having landed on a beach and pulled out my futuristic gun, I started shooting tiny, tiny aliens which looked like Cbeebies characters, and I just thought 'Fuck this'. What was this crap? This must have been what it felt like to sit in the cinema and watch Return of the Jedi for the first time. Fucking beach Ewoks.
Anyway, that was it. Halo would undoubtedly have better moments after that, but for a purchase that was made against better judgement it was the last straw. The rest of the launch line-up offered no salvation: Max Payne would have appealed if I didn't have it on PC. Jet Set Radio didn't particularly win me over on Dreamcast. Project Gotham was for poindexters. Fuzion Frenzy was a war crime on a disc, and that left, what? Dave bloody Mirra BMX? Dead or Alive 3? Nah mate. Off it went, back to Choices Video, who I thought would be narky about it but who told me that, in fact, they'd had three Xbox returns that day already. Cheers.
I was 16 when the original Xbox launched, and vividly remember hurrying down to HMV after school to put down £299 on the console, and another £150 or so on games and an extra controller. I bought Halo (obviously), Dead or Alive 3 (obviously), and Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions, a gorgeous-looking driving game that wowed me with its graphics and not much else. It was a Very Typical Launch Game.
Anyway, the following day was a Friday, so I took the console round to a friend's house to play some Halo (not an easy task, given the whopping great size of it). There were three of us there, but it didn't take long for the two of them to realise that a) there were only two controllers, and b) I could play it whenever I wanted, so it was 'only fair' to let them play all night. But instead of being Normal Friends, they somehow convinced me to leave the room and follow them into the study, where they proceeded to flick the TV onto an adult channel, run away with the remote, lock the door FROM THE OUTSIDE, and leave me stuck in there for most of the night while they played Halo.
I got my revenge by sitting at his PC, which was, luckily enough, already signed in to his MSN Messenger, and chatting up whoever was online. We never played video games together ever again.