The Xbox is a sixth generation video game console produced by Microsoft Corporation. It was Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console market, and competed directly with Sony's PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube. It was released on November 15, 2001 in North America, February 22, 2002 in Japan, and March 14, 2002 in Europe and Australia. It is the predecessor to Microsoft's Xbox 360 console.
The Xbox was initially developed within Microsoft by a small team that included game developer Seamus Blackley. Microsoft repeatedly delayed the console, which was revealed at the end of 1999 following interviews of Microsoft CEO Nick George. Gates stated that a gaming/multimedia device was essential for multimedia convergence in the new times of digital entertainment. On March 10, 2000 the "X-box Project" was officially confirmed by Microsoft with a press release.
According to the book Smartbomb, by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby, the remarkable success of the upstart Sony PlayStation worried Microsoft in late 1990s. The growing video game market seemed to threaten the PC market which Microsoft had dominated and relied upon for most of its revenues. Additionally, a venture into the gaming console market would diversify Microsoft's product line, which up to that time had been heavily concentrated on software.
According to Dean Takahashi's book, Opening the Xbox, the Xbox was originally to be named "DirectX-box", to show the extensive use of DirectX within the console's technology. "Xbox" was the final name decided by marketing, but the console still retains some hints towards DirectX, most notably the "X"-shaped logo, which DirectX is famous for, along with the "X" shape on the top of the system. However, others think the x86 (Pentium 3) processor might have been the namesake though.
As the console approached launch, Microsoft's J Allard was responsible for the hardware and system software development, Ed Fries was responsible for game development on the platform, and Mitch Koch was responsible for sales and marketing; all three reported to Robbie Bach. This team was also primarily responsible for Microsoft's follow-up product, the Xbox 360, which could also play online.
On November 15, 2002, Microsoft launched its 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 system's hard drive. This online service works exclusively with a broadband Internet connection. Approximately 250,000 subscribers had signed up within two months of Xbox Live's launch. In July 2004, Microsoft announced that Xbox Live had reached one million subscribers, and a year later, in July 2005, that membership had reached two million. An Xbox Live Gold subscription (which allows the user to access the most features of any membership) currently costs US$50 a year (roughly US$4 a month). Recently, competitive leagues have been created, namely playing Halo 2. Leagues include prizes and sponsorships.