It’s all below
In case you missed it, there’s a six-episode Xbox documentary out now that deals with the history of the console line from the germination of the idea of the brand, through the success of Halo, into the red ring of death, to now. It’s called “Power On: The Story of Xbox,” and it’s interesting in the sense that it’s officially sanctioned (thus provided full access to current and former Xbox team members and archive footage), but also doesn’t hold back.
Big dramatic highlights of the Power On Xbox Documentary include:
- How scrappy the team was in terms of getting the idea off the ground, and the many barriers to entry that almost stopped the project cold
- The larger-than-life personality of Bill Gates, and how easily he could have sunk the project (or any project or team member with his infamous temper) at any given time
- The major development issues that Halo faced from creation through launch (like framerate issues and character model glitches)
- Tradeshow snafus like the infamous “demo unit Xbox never turned on while on stage” incident
- The Xbox 360 red ring of death (an entire episode is dedicated to this insanity)
- Microsoft’s failed pitch for the Xbox One
Told through six episodes (with my own short recaps below in parenthesis), the documentary is a fascinating look into the Xbox brand, with sharp editing and plenty of lively industry guests. Dedicating an entire episode to the red ring of death was ballsy — though the natural framing of the conclusion is that Microsoft ended up spending a billion dollars to “make good on it for consumers,” and came out the winner in the end. That victory is short-lived, however, as it leads directly into the disastrous Xbox One conference. Drama!
It’s a trip! Every episode is filled with some bit of knowledge that I had never heard of before, straight from the source. The first episode in particular took me back to the launch of the original Xbox, which I had won a copy of via a Taco Bell contest. I remember the skepticism in both the gaming industry at large and my friend groups — but once Halo glommed onto the zeitgeist, the rest was history and the brand hit the ground running. For all its efforts, it actually just won a Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Single Camera Editing,” adding another award to the production team’s repertoire.
You can watch every episode below on YouTube, or head to this page for more options (like IMDB TV, the Roku Channel, or Redbox).