Flashback to 2002: Microsoft reveals Xbox Live ... on VHS

Nu-metal was all the rage, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 50-year anniversary on the throne, and the original Xbox had recently burst onto the scene, in late 2001.

The console itself wasn't a revolution, but the service it gave rise to changed the face of gaming forever. How did Microsoft explain this unique concept to the industry? Using a VHS cassette, of course. Prepare yourself for some early 2000s marketing cringe.

I recently picked up an Xbox Live neon sign from eBay, and it came with a curious disc and VHS cassette. Upon further perusal, I found myself transported to June 2002, when these packages were presumably sent out by Redmond PR to various industry figures and press. (In 2002, I was skipping school to play Halo Combat Evolved, so I have to believe there's some sort of quantum feedback loop going on here.)

This video has been posted on the internet before, but I'd never seen it before, so forgive me if this is not your first time being exposed to this cringe-worthy classic.

The video details how Xbox Live works, complete with fuzzy VHS quality, late-90s, early-00s fashion, and over-exaggerated, "we're- super-cool-gamers!" marketing. The video shows how original versions of Xbox Live would have had built-in voice modulation, allowing you to sound like a squeaky mouse or evil super villain over the airwaves. I kind of wish they had left that one in ... expletives from other gamers about my mother in Call of Duty would have been easier to deal with if they came with a hint of Darth-Vader delivery.

Cringing aside, Xbox Live eventually grew into a huge phenomenon, and it gave ascension to the Xbox brand as a frontrunner in the gaming industry. The service has more than 50 million subscribers, and it continues to show year-on-year growth and engagement. Thankfully, the marketing has also improved.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!