How The Original Xbox Made Me Distrust Microsoft’s Future Consoles

I like video games. That should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been to this site. Most of the time, I do prefer to play on Sony’s gaming systems. I have owned every version of the PlayStation since the first one came out way back in 1995. That doesn’t mean I’ve only limited myself to Sony system, though. I also loved My Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Gamecube, Nintendo GameBoy Advance and many other gaming consoles from my past. I even have a Nintendo Switch right now. So you can’t really say I’m a Sony fanboy or anything like that. If a system has good games, even if I can’t get it, I will pine away at it from a distance.

There is one exception to this, however. And that exception is for the Xbox consoles. It’s not that I hate Microsoft’s systems per say. Rather, I would say I just dislike them enough to refrain from seriously considering getting one. And this all stems from the fact that I actually had the original Microsoft Xbox.

I was actually very excited for my Xbox at the time. It was a super powerful system, much more beefy than the PlayStation and the Gamecube. It was also the more “cool” system for the time as it was the brash US newcomer trying to take on the Japanese juggernauts who have held an iron grip on the video game market. Microsoft was already a company that had millions to burn so you knew they had the financial power to keep the system afloat for years to come.

But the main reason why I wanted to get a Microsoft Xbox was, of course, for the games. It was the only system where you could play the first two Halo games, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Shenmue II and Fable. All of these games were, to me, at least, system sellers. They were the reason as to why you needed to get an Xbox. And get one I did! So, at one time, I actually had all four current-gen gaming consoles: the Sega Dreamcast, the Sony PlayStation 2, the Nintendo Gamecube and, finally, Microsoft’s Xbox. My wallet may have been crying out in pain because I took out so much of its innards but it was worth it.

To be honest, there was just something about the original Xbox that enamored me to it. Yes, it was a big chunk of plastic that took up a lot of real estate. But I actually like it because of how hefty it was! It also had its own hard drive, which made it so much easier to save games! I didn’t have to fumble around for loose memory cards, which was the standard practice at the time. I also didn’t mind The Duke controller. Some people complained how large it was and, yes, I would agree to that to a certain degree. But to say The Duke was uncomfortable, especially for my “small Asian hands” was totally exaggerated; it felt fine. Actually, my issue with The Duke was with the face buttons as they were i a domed oval shaped instead flat and round. That just didn’t feel right. That’s probably why I didn’t like playing any fighting games on the Xbox.

For a while, everything was all hunky-dory. I wasn’t getting that much playtime on my Sega Dreamcast as, by that time, there wasn’t that many stellar games to come out for the system. It was obnoxiously hard to get the top-tier games for the Gamecume at the time so I didn’t boot it up all that much as well. I was distributing my time between my PlayStation 2 and Xbox and I was having blast with the both of them. There were some games that did appear on both systems so I would usually “mix and match” between the two. I actually got Silent Hill: The Room and Fatal Frame II: Director’s Cut for the Xbox even though they were also available on the PlayStation 2. That’s how evenly distributed my love for both systems were at the time.

Alas, my good times with the Microsoft Xbox was not to last. One day, I was playing Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic. I managed to get to the point where the crew tries to board the Star Forge and the cinematic of the big battle and the Ebon Hawk attempted to flit its way into the base. But the video wasn’t playing right. The video would stutter and a lot of the audio wouldn’t sync properly with the video. I could still kind of get what was happening but it just wasn’t looking good.

This was the first sign of my Xbox’s DVD drive breaking down.

After that point, I couldn’t play my Xbox for any lengthy period of time. I could get a good 15 or 30 minutes of gaming but, eventually, everything would become a stuttering mess. I would have to power down my Xbox for something like 10 minutes for everything to cool down before I could start playing like normal. I still managed to finish Knights of the Old Republic in this waybut, in all honesty, that was just me powering through it. I wasn’t having that much fun because I just couldn’t get in to a groove because of this start and stop playstyle.

As much as I liked my Xbox, the system didn’t get that much love here in the Philippines so it was rather difficult to find a reputable place that could repair it. So I went online to see what I could do to resolve the problem. I did find a trick where you open up the Xbox and adjust the DVD drive’s power output to the laser as a potential fix. It’s not as safe or as fun as, say, adjusting the laser height for the PlayStation 2 as you are adjusting the amount of juice going to a laser. However, after some fine tuning. I did just that and it did seem to work…

…for a good month.

Once again, the DVD drive was starting to fail me. This happened while I was playing Fable this time and, for some reason, it started to break down once again during near the end of the game! It actually started to happen during the final boss battle with Jack of Blades, of all times! The audio just didn’t sync with what was happening on screen and things just started to jitter something fierce. As I was massively overpowered during the fight as I love to grind to level up often, I did beat Jack of Blades quickly and got the stuttering video good guy ending of Fable. I then tried to adjust the power to the laser as before but nothing really worked anymore. Every game just stuttered no matter what I did.

So I decided to bite the bullet and order a new Xbox drive. If I could, I would’ve bought some generic DVD drive and just jury-rigged the entire system. But the original Microsoft Xbox required you to get their very own DVD drives. I had to go to a repair shop and get them to order a replacement drive. Like I said before, it was much for difficult then, which also meant it was much more expensive. Still, I loved my Xbox then so I shelled out the cash to get a new drive.

After a week or so, I did get my Xbox and it was in good and working condition. But it wasn’t to last for very long. The last game I played on my Xbox was Silent Hill: The Room. I actually finished it once before but I wanted to see the other endings and that meant to having to play through the game once again with different choices.

It was during this second playthrough wherein the replacement drive started to stutter and skip. I just had it replaced a month prior and it was already acting up? That was just maddening! I even went back to to store to complain but, once again, the repair store wasn’t exactly legit so, no matter how much I complained, it’s not like they were going to help me. Oh, they can replace the drive again but I would have to pay them the same price I did a month ago! That was pretty much it. Even if I did love my Xbox, it wasn’t worth the time, money and aggravation to maintain if it broke down so often! I didn’t have this issue with any of my other consoles. My Sega Dreamcast was still working when I gave it to my cousin. My Gamecube never broke down on my ever. My original “phat” PlayStation 2 lived for a good decade with all the tweaking I did on it. My Microsoft Xbox? It lasted for only two years! Two freaking years!

This still really didn’t turn me off from Microsoft’s consoles entirely. Those two years were pretty much gaming bliss but, from that point on, I always had it in my mind that Xbox systems may not be built to last. But maybe Microsoft would get their act together with their upcoming console: the Xbox 360. Maybe they would work out the problems with the Xbox 360 and construct a system that was built to last.

Red Ring of Death, anyone?

To be perfectly frank, I was seriously considering getting an Xbox 360 when it was announced. After all, it was going to be the system that exclusively carried the next Halo game! And the thing looked really sleek, especially when compared to its heftier older brother. But I purposefully held off from getting one because of my experience with the original Xbox. I was definitely worried Microsoft would once again create something that would break down on me. And with all of the reports regarding how often the Red Ring of Death rears its ugly head, that pretty much cinched it for me. I wasn’t going to get another Microsoft console because, in the back of my mind, I would be too concerned with it breaking down on me quickly.

Maybe it was just the luck of the draw that I got a defective Xbox drive. Maybe it was just a series of unfortunate events that led me to get a crappy replacement drive. Maybe I would’ve been one of the lucky ones who got an Xbox 360 that never suffered from the Red Ring of Death. Who knows?

I still haven’t permanently shut the door on the idea of getting a new Microsoft gaming console, though. I’m still hoping for that one game or feature that will make me actually run out and get one. But that feature will really have to be something big because my fear of getting an Xbox that breaks down on me after a few months has been drilled into my brain because of those two years of wondrous gaming which was cut short all too soon.

What was your experience with Microsoft’s consoles? Better yet, have you ever had a gaming console break down on you and what did you do about it? Let me know in the comments section below!

2 thoughts on “How The Original Xbox Made Me Distrust Microsoft’s Future Consoles

  1. Pingback: The Good, Bad and Meh of the PlayStation Showcase (September) | 3rd World Geeks

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