When it comes to console hardware design, Microsoft have always gotten a bit of a bad rap. The original Xbox was the size of a tank (and about as heavy as one) and the follow-up Xbox 360 wasn't designed well enough to stop boards from warping and giving millions of people the infamous "Red Ring of Death" error. The Xbox 360 Elite fared better, but then the Xbox One was launched and proceeded to split opinions. Some think it looks great, whilst others feel that it was constructed by the fella who designed that first Xbox and that he's actually a giant, given its size.
Despite those problems, that never stopped a million and one cheap knockoffs being made that didn't exactly skirt the line when it came to legality. We've all seen them, usually propping up somebody's trestle table at a car boot sale or turning up in bargain stores so that unsuspecting grandparents can lay down their money, thinking they've nabbed a good deal that little Jimmy will be over the moon with. Clone consoles can be a fiver's worth of fun, but the main problem here is that these monstrosities that pay homage to Microsoft's consoles don't run actual Xbox, Xbox 360, or Xbox One games...pretty much as you'd expect.
In a year where Microsoft is all but set to announce a new Xbox One system design at E3 (at the least), we thought we'd look at some of the best, worst, funniest, most blatant, or most utterly perplexing Xbox ripoffs that have come and gone, so they can get an idea of what to avoid.
OK, so the Droid X360 isn't technically a ripoff of an Xbox console, taking pointers in name alone, but we feel it should make the list. Unlike the others on this list, it actually does an almost passable job of what it claims to do. A handheld, the Droid X360 is the disowned ugly brother of Sony's PlayStation Vita, running Android and featuring an HDMI out port to enable it to be used as a fully-fledged console or media server.
But that name is obviously designed to somehow fool someone into thinking that they're getting something Xbox 360 related. Why else would you use the letter "X" and the number "360" unless you were learning a really, really long multiplication table?
Despite being relatively usable, with only 512MB of system RAM and a 1GHz processor, the Droid X360 was never really up to the job of competing in terms of power in a marketplace that contains the PlayStation Vita and every phone made in the last five years.
Apart from having a great name, the Happy 360 doesn't have much going for it. Manufactured by China's Rodisson Technologies, the machine comes with a pistol light gun, two painful-looking controllers, and is shaped like an Xbox 360 that's had too much cake at a party before leaping feet first into a vat of Tipp-Ex. We're not sure why they've gone to the trouble of making a case that contains a DVD tray cutout and the hard-drive protrusion at the top, especially when the device doesn't contain any drives at all, but there you go.
Like many knockoff consoles, it's a "Famiclone", meaning that it plays 8-bit Nintendo-like games, with the system containing pirated NES games with slightly altered titles. "Monkey Kong" and "MARLO Brothers" show up in the menus, for example, but loading them just fires up a dodgy ROM for Donkey Kong or Super Mario Bros. Of course, they all chug along at a speed that would suggest someone was trying to get them going using all the power of a Casio digital watch from 1988, too.
The first hybrid design in the list but definitely not the last, the Arcade Game Box went on sale for $70 back in mid-2011 and could play Nintendo Game Boy and SNK Neo Geo titles, alongside many arcade games - none of which even approached full speed - all through emulation. It also worked as a media server, though given the lack of power, we imagine attempting to stream HD video over a LAN with this console would probably cause it to burst into flames. We also imagine it gives you enough time to take a brass rubbing of each frame before the picture changes.
On top of being underpowered, the Arcade Game Box looked like it was designed by someone who couldn't decide which console they liked best, with the main hardware looking like an Xbox 360 on a Wii stand, and the controllers being entirely obvious PlayStation copies.
We're not even entirely sure what the manufacturer was going for with the PX-3600. It's got a case that's sort of Xbox 360 shaped, with a disc tray on top (which does nothing) that looks like it's from the Dreamcast. It's also got two massive green circles on the front that not only make the thing look like it's judging you with evil eyes for being dumb enough to buy it, but that also are surely way too big to be buttons...
Oh no, wait...they ARE buttons. Buttons so big that you can press them with your shoe. From the other side of the room.
"Excellence, enthusiasm, enjoyment, hospitality" says the box. Maybe the "hospitality" refers to the manufacturer offering to put you up after you try to play Exciting Bike and the PX-3600 burns your house to the ground? We're not sure. The name suggests an affinity with the 360, but then the double zero at the end harks back to the Atari 2600, which is actually closer to the point given that it plays the same NES games as the Happy 360.
And no, this one was nothing to do with Team pX. We'd make something much more stylish.
Unsurprisingly coming from the same manufacturer as the PX-3600 is the XGAME 360, a device which looks similar to the 3600, but which also comes with a super-cool light gun. Yet again, it runs the same old 8-bit titles, but this version of the machine has a bonus feature in that the controllers have cables that are about an inch long, meaning that if you want to play, you pretty much have to be uncomfortably straddling the TV whilst your retinas melt in order to do it. It'd be stupid to have giant buttons if you're sat with the console pressed up against your chin, so they've done away with those and replaced them with giant lights ripped right off a 1960 Bowden Spacelander pushbike.
Only, they don't light up.
This design has been released by multiple companies with slight changes, under multiple names. XGAME 360, the PX-3600 we've already looked at, the DEXK, and the Super Game Console (well, that name just sells itself) are all but identical.
But none are quite so bold as the next entry in the list…
Colombian company NanicaStation liked the previous two consoles on our list (the XGAME 360 and PX-3600) so much, that they licenced the Chinese-made device and slapped their branding on it. Their company logo looks like the PlayStation and Gamecube logos having a fight with a deer that's unfortunately caught on fire, and they've even gone so far as to use Sony's PlayStation font for their name.
Still, what's a bit of borrowed IP between friends, eh? After all, there's no beating about the bush when the front cover of the box says "Includes Super Mario 3" in big letters, accompanied by an image of Mario himself…
NanicaStation also came out with a Super X-Game 360 Slim model of the device later on but apparently didn't understand what that last word meant. It was exactly the same height and width but came in black as opposed to the iris-breaking luminous white of the original.
Oh, where to start? We're having trouble finding the words here.
The Mega Drive Extreme looks like a 1/10th scale mode of an original Xbox and was named after a Sega console. It also comes bundled with two PlayStation-looking controllers, although they've been repainted in a violently horrid black and mint colour scheme as opposed to the Xbox's infinitely better black and darker green. There were also versions that came with a lightgun, so that you could rock Duck Shoot like it was 1989...as long as you have a CRT television.
Aside from Duck Shoot, it played all the same games as the other Famiclones. You could play Falling Block Arrange or Nintendo's own Golf, which was cunningly switched to be called GOFE, because renaming an entire sport is a great way of calamitously attempting to pirouette around a copyright.
Watch out for Team pX's new game, FEEFA International Kickball, coming to a Mega Drive Extreme near you soon...
At first glance, the hilariously-named i-Dong doesn't look to be much of an Xbox knockoff. However, a little bit more investigation shows that Taishan Online Technology's machine is essentially a Kinect-alike sensor, stacked on top of what seems to be two circa 2003 DVD players that have been lashed together with tape. Despite the sensor looking a bit like a Kinect device, it still requires you to use a PlayStation Move-styled dedicated controller, but does contain a number of games that it would be generous to say were "inspired by" Kinect Sports.
It was also released at a converted price of $223. Yes, the i-Dong cost the equivalent of two-hundred and twenty-three US Dollars.
Needless to say, it was only released in China and reports suggest that it sank without a trace. We're guessing that the lack of online multiplayer didn't help it, especially when you consider that for local play, you'll need to ask "Who wants to come over and and have a go on my i-Dong?"
We're not sure of the thinking behind this one. The manufacturer has gone so far as to include official images from the Batman & Robin movie on the box for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and then screwed up the spelling of the name. So, you've got Thurman, Schwarzenegger, Clooney, Silverstone, and the other one, all peering out of the Battman box that contains a console that seems to want to be everything at once whilst providing absolutely none of the functionality of any of the devices it seeks to emulate. Shaped like an original Xbox – only with the "X" coloured red to make it stand out to customs inspectors from a mile away – the Battman comes with a pistol-style lightgun, two controllers modelled on the original digital PlayStation pads, and a cartridge that looks suspiciously like it's been pulled out of a Famicom...
...because it has. Of course, despite the branding, it's a Famiclone that plays the 100-in-1 cart that comes in the box, with none of those 100 games being anything to do with Batman, let alone the Batman & Robin movie.
The best thing about this is that it's made by a company called Unique, who then went on to release the same device with the exact same name, only with the newer one being modelled on the PSOne. Unique, indeed.
It may seem strange that a console that never made it to market is at the top of the list, but the sheer testicular fortitude it took to not only come up with the plan for the Ouye, but to release that plan to the market, means that it has to take the top spot.
Not content with having a name that's remarkably similar to the failed Android-based Ouya console (you know, that console that plugged into your TV and let you play Crossy Road with a lower framerate than you'd get on your phone) the machine itself was set to look remarkably like a PlayStation 4 with an Xbox One grille on top. It'd also have a controller that would have been familiar to anyone who has been within ten feet of an Xbox One.
After infringing on about a hundred billion design copyrights and practically inviting a lawsuit from the Ouya team while they were at it, the company behind it threw the Ouye in the trashcan when a crowdfunding effort on Chinese site JD Finance went spectacularly poorly.
We're guessing that people figured production would get shut down by lawsuits after they'd handed over their cash, but that's just speculation from someone who's thought about it for more than 0.4 seconds.
OK, so it may not be an Xbox ripoff – though given that the Dreamcast was powered by Windows CE, there's a Microsoft link – and this isn't one that we're necessarily mocking. No, we thought we'd make mention of the Treamcast not only for the way in which they ripped off Sega's console, using most of the original hardware, changing one letter of the name and squaring off the rounded corners of the logo, but because it actually improved on the original system in some ways.
The Treamcast was more or less a straight copy of the Dreamcast, given that it contained original Sega parts, played official Dreamcast discs and supported all official Dreamcast controllers. However, it included a fold-down 5" TFT screen for on-the-go play (though it still needed mains power and could use the standard TV outputs if needed) and two smaller Saturn-styled controllers for those that didn't like the larger official ones. Not only that, but it contained a modified BIOS that allowed owners to play games from any region, whereas the real deal was region-locked. The cheeky manufacturers also released a relatively full line of Treamcast-branded peripherals and cables to round things off, until Sega finally slammed the door and shut the whole operation down in 2003.
The Treamcast was probably the only knock-off console that improved on the machine it was copying and out of this list, it's the only one that will cost you more to buy today than the console it ripped off.
So, have you ever been bought one of these? Worse still, has anyone bought you one, thinking that they were going to be your favourite grandma in the whole wide world? Try not to cry as you tell us all about it in the comments.