Xbox chief Phil Spencer took to the company’s primary blog on Wednesday to make a hardware announcement, but it had nothing to do with recent rumors about the game console’s future. Instead, Spencer came to bury his past.
“While we’ve had a great run, the reality of producing a product over a decade old is starting to creep up on us,” Spencer wrote in his announcement that production of the Xbox 360 system has officially ceased. The remaining 360 consoles will continue to be sold in stores, and Xbox Live related services and connectivity for current 360 users will continue to function, but if you’re looking for a brand new 360 system, your time is limited.
Spencer’s announcement didn’t go as far as announcing how many 360 systems have been sold in its nearly 11-year existence – likely because Microsoft’s recent Xbox-related announcements pushed sales figures for both the 360 and the One to make. thrown in one heap. the latter sounds better. Still, we know that the platform has surpassed at least the 84 million sales announced in 2014.
What’s probably most striking about the 360 hardware is how much Microsoft couldn’t leave the not-so-good-enough alone. Most home electronics enjoy under-the-hood changes during their lifetime, coinciding with parts dropping in price or switching suppliers, but a major overheating debacle made the Xbox 360 revision process much more public than consumers may be used to.
The Xbox 360 got a significant “sleek” redesign in 2010, but the hardware has had a few major revisions over the years. For starters, the Xbox 360 was the first major home game console to launch in multiple configurations, mostly so that Microsoft could advertise a cheaper “Arcade” option with less memory to soften the blow of the $399 “Premium” model. Xbox 360 systems continued to be available in multiple storage configurations throughout the line’s 11-year lifespan.
After Microsoft acknowledged the Xbox 360’s widespread overheating in 2007, there was also a vague time when customers weren’t quite sure which motherboard they’d be getting if they bought a Premium configuration. The first major motherboard revision, the Zephyr, was designed to fix overheating issues while adding HDMI support, but the problem wasn’t fully resolved until Microsoft later rolled out the motherboard revision called Falcon, which moved the CPU to a 65nm process.
Before the wider rollout, you could only guarantee you were getting a Falcon if you opted for the higher-end Elite model with more memory; if you were more economical you had to roll the dice in terms of what mobo your Premium system came with. In this author’s case, a 2007 search for a Falcon-powered Xbox 360 Premium proved fruitless, and my first Zephyr-powered 360 went into the red just in time for the launch of the Xbox 360 S in 2010, which came with a very welcome wireless 802.11n adapter (and a built-in Kinect port, which reduced the need for cables for that accessory when it launched later that year).
That model held up until this week’s announcement, with the only major hardware revision coming the following year with a revised power supply and a tweak to block a “reset glitch” hack that enabled unsigned code – and a front-face tweak from 2013, called “E,” which removed the optical-out functionality. (Thanks to Ars reader solomonrex for the reminder on E!)
Even if you didn’t find yourself buying new hardware variants, your Xbox 360 still held surprises over the years thanks to a seemingly endless series of software “dashboard” updates that took the console’s interface from a “blade” series of panels to an avatar-dominated, subway-loaded mess of logos and ads. During those years, the Xbox team tried to strike the right balance between enabling a whole new era of digital download purchases and making the Xbox Live software less of a hassle to actually locate.
For many owners, that didn’t matter, as the Xbox 360 was the first major living room box to support Netflix on-demand streaming, and the system ended up being used more for video streaming than online multiplayer. That revelation has led us to wonder if the Xbox 360 would ever see a shrunken, Roku-esque rebirth at a lower price point as a streaming box.
However, with today’s Spencer announcement, that’s not likely. It’s entirely possible we’ll get a shrunken Xbox One with such functionality later this year, but the 360 hardware has officially ringed its last red.