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Visitors play on Xbox consoles during the annual Tokyo Game Show in Makuhari, Tokyo, Japan on Oct. 14, 2001. 

Visitors play on Xbox consoles during the annual Tokyo Game Show in Makuhari, Tokyo, Japan on Oct. 14, 2001. 

Photographer: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images
Technology
Screentime

Xbox: The Oral History of an American Video Game Empire

The original product was ungainly, over-budget and nearly canceled. Here’s how it became a hit and reshaped an industry.

The box looked like an old VCR, the controller was comically large, and it was made by one of the most boring companies on earth. Somehow, the Xbox triumphed and gave Microsoft Corp. the first—and last—successful video game console brand from an American company since Atari.

Twenty years later, Bloomberg asked two dozen people instrumental in creating the Xbox to recount how they did it. Microsoft broke into an industry dominated by Japanese companies and reshaped the business around shooting games and online play. Efforts by Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google to crack the industry in the years since have come nowhere close. Video games now account for more than $11 billion a year for Microsoft and have established the Xbox as a premier brand.