Microsoft's little online gaming service that could - otherwise known as Xbox Live - turns 10 years old today. Launched back on November 15, 2002, which just so happened to be one year after the launch of the original Xbox, it's safe to say that Xbox Live took the gaming world by storm, despite the fact that Microsoft has been charging for access since the beginning. Why is the birthday of Xbox Live so significant? Because Xbox Live was the first service for consoles that got online gaming right.
Microsoft wanted the Xbox to be an Internet-connected machine from the start, but it was beaten to the punch by Sega's Dreamcast. Fortunately for Microsoft (and unfortunately for Sega), the plan for the Dreamcast didn't pan out so well, leaving the door wide open for Microsoft to hit a home run and really wow consumers with Xbox Live. There were plenty of skeptics in the lead up to Xbox Live's launch, but 10 years after the service became available to the public, it's pretty clear that the dissenters were nothing short of dead wrong.
The success of Xbox Live meant that a connected future was inevitable for consoles. However, that wasn't immediately clear - there were a number of available titles that took advantage of Xbox Live shortly after release, but it wasn't until the release of 2004's Halo 2 that everyone knew online console gaming was here to stay. Microsoft took a pretty big gamble on Xbox Live, but by the time Halo 2 landed, it was obvious that gamble had paid off in a big way.
Fast forward to today and all of the major consoles - even our handhelds - are connected to the Internet, ready to take us to a world of online gaming on dedicated platforms that seemed far too risky a mere 10 years ago. Xbox Live really took off with the arrival of the Xbox 360, and these days the service is more of a multimedia hub than it is a platform simply for online gaming and downloading additional content.
Make no mistake, Xbox Live has changed in many ways over the past ten years, so much so that we don't even think Microsoft could have envisioned the Xbox Live we have today when it set out to make a service for playing games over the Internet more than 10 years ago. Happy tenth birthday Xbox Live - we look forward to seeing where you are in another 10 years!