On November 22, 2005, Microsoft ushered us into a new age—one in which the phrase "glorious HD" was required, by law, to appear in every video game review until 2007.
In case you need me to set the stage for that wild year we called "2005," here's what was happening:
- 50 Cent's The Massacre took the world by storm (back when he was just a rapper and not a glorified-sugar-water bazillionaire)
- The Star Wars prequel trilogy mercifully came to an end
- Grey's Anatomy had only begun its reign of TV terror
- New Pope!
- Celebrated National Guardsman George W. Bush began his second term as President
- You were much younger
Though Sony and Nintendo's systems wouldn't be available for another year, the launch of the 360 represented a sea change for our industry—one with some negative repercussions. Launching at $399—unless you were unfortunate enough to pick up the cheaper model without a hard drive—the Xbox undoubtedly ushered in a more expensive era of gaming. The price of new releases raised from the time-tested standard of $50 to an unthinkable $60, and, in order to get the most of our new systems, we'd need to upgrade our huge, boxy CRT TVs to a then-expensive HD model. (As the former owner of a 32" Sony flat-tube television, I can tell you that thing weighed roughly 5000 pounds and could withstand most World Wars.)
Thinking back, it's strange to realize how much has changed in this industry over the course of ten years. The face of video game coverage wasn't yet YouTube—seeing as it just launched—digital distribution was mostly limited to a very early (and unpopular) version of Steam, and picking up a video game system at launch necessitated camping out and violating vagrancy laws. And the biggest franchises of our modern day were just a twinkle in the eyes of their respective developers; sure, Tomb Raider was around, but largely considered a joke thanks to 2003's unfortunate Angel of Darkness. And, despite how much it stood out in terms of quality, Call of Duty was just one of the many, many games that involved shooting Nazis.
I'm sad to say my particular 360-launch-related story isn't very interesting: As a much bigger fan of Japanese games at the time, the lack of support from some of my favorite developers made me a bit wary of Microsoft's console—not the mention the fact that the PS2 was really firing on all cylinders in its final years. But, even if you didn't share my specific tastes, the large launch lineup of the 360 certainly had some stinkers, with both Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo showing just how much Rare had slipped since its absolute domination of the N64's library. Summer 2006's Dead Rising would be the first game to truly show off the system's potential, but it took BioShock for me to finally make the leap into what was then considered next-gen. (No easy feat on a grad student's salary.)
So, where were you during this fabled time in video game history? Did you risk dying from exposure in a desolate Best Buy parking lot, or were you content to stay stuck in the past until Sony or Nintendo brought their consoles to the market? There's no shame here—unless you try to argue the merits of Wall Guy.