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End of an era: Microsoft halts production of the Xbox 360

It’s been roughly two and a half years since the Xbox One replaced the Xbox 360, and Microsoft is finally ready to pull the plug on its venerable console. Sales of the older platform are thought to have been steadily declining for months, though Microsoft has declined to break out the exact sales figures. Even so, this is the end of an era. The Xbox 360 (not the first Xbox) was Microsoft’s true breakout console, and the device that put the company on the map as a serious threat to Sony’s dominance during the PS2 and PS3 years.

At the start of the last console generation, Sony’s Ken Kutaragi made dismissive statements betraying just how impregnable the Japanese company thought it was. When asked about the price on the then-upcoming PS3, Kutaragi stated it was Sony’s goal to make “consumers to think to themselves ‘I will work more hours to buy one.’ We want people to feel that they want it, irrespective of anything else.” At E3 in 2006, Kutaragi claimed the Xbox 360 wasn’t even a blip on Sony’s radar, arguing “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does.”

The PS3 and Xbox 360 ended up in more-or-less the same place last generation in terms of total unit sales, but in the beginning Microsoft’s console ate Sony’s lunch. While the company’s gaming ambitions began with the original Xbox, the Xbox 360 strengthened and deepened its franchise pool with major hits from Halo, Mass Effect, and Gears of War. The console had an infamous hardware failure problem early in its life cycle (the so-called Red Ring of Death, or RROD), but it recovered from that debacle. The Xbox 360’s general focus and presentation were strong enough that the Xbox One’s initial launch plans and feature set were the subject of considerable ire from fans.

One common argument during the initial Xbox One launch was that Microsoft had forgotten the lessons Sony had learned from the PlayStation 3’s early struggles. In 2005, Microsoft had focused on delivering a top-notch, well-balanced gaming platform at an attractive price, while Sony’s decision to use an extremely powerful but difficult to program processor and expensive Blu-ray player had driven the PS3’s price much higher than its Xbox 360 competitor. In 2013, Microsoft was the company with the all-in-one box, mandatory bundled additional capabilities (Kinect), and higher price tag — and sales of the PS4 suffered as a result.

Heck, one of the reasons gamers are curious about Microsoft’s potential upgrade plans is because it gives the company a chance to finally fix the weaker performance that has dogged the Xbox One ever since it launched.

Xbox 360s still on-sale will be fully supported through their warranty periods and Microsoft has no near-term plans to shut down game servers or Xbox Live. For now, the peripherals, devices, and games attached to the Xbox 360 will function normally.

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