The original Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved celebrate their 14th birthday today

Microsoft launched not one but two huge worldwide entertainment brands 14 years ago today. On November 15, 2001, Microsoft launched the original Xbox console in North America. It also released Halo: Combat Evolved as a launch game for the console. That combination resulted in the beginning of the company's huge console gaming business that continues to this day.

Rumors about Microsoft entering the console market began in 1999 and many people at first believed those rumors to be hoaxes. However, the console was indeed real and was officially announced by Microsoft at the Game Developers Conference in March 2000. The first Xbox had a custom 32-bit 733 MHz Pentium III processor from Intel, along with 64MB of RAM and an 8GB built-in hard drive.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Later in 2000, Microsoft shocked the game industry again when it revealed it had acquired Bungie, which had previously announced its sci-fi shooter Halo at MacWorld in 1999. Halo would be turned into an exclusive launch title for the original Xbox (the game would eventually be released for Windows and Mac in 2003). Exactly one year after the original Xbox's launch, Microsoft updated the console to support its Xbox Live online gaming service.

While only 24 million units of the console were sold, the original Xbox did have a healthy audience in North America, where 16 million units of that worldwide total were sold. Microsoft learned some lessons and in 2005 launched the Xbox 360, one year ahead of the PlayStation 3 from Sony and the Wii from Nintendo. The company moved quickly to end its manufacturing of the original console. The final game for the first Xbox, Madden NFL 09, was released on August 12, 2008. Xbox Live support for the original console ended in 2010.

The release of Halo: Combat Evolved turned into an extra bonus for Microsoft, as it evolved into a massive entertainment franchise. The core Halo game series has now spawned several sequels, and many spin-off titles, and the Halo fictional universe continues to be expanded in toys, novels, comics, animated shorts and even two live-action digital series. While Bungie later broke away from Microsoft to become an independent developer again, Microsoft still owns and develops the Halo franchise which is under the control of its 343 Industries division.

What are your memories of the original Xbox and of Halo: Combat Evolved? Let us know in the comments!

John Callaham