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Ex-box no more (Reviews intro, February 06)

This article appears in the February 06 issue of PC Advisor, available in all good newsagents

At the tail end of 2002, Microsoft's first foray into console gaming was over before it began. How the vultures circled when Microsoft announced that its Xbox games console had caused a revenue loss to the tune of £112m. The cynical pundits declared - high on the whiff of their own hyperbole - that the Xbox was dead in the water. It was no more. It was an Ex-box.

But don't we just love the perennially classic tale, about the persecuted waif struggling to overcome insurmountable odds. Hang on - this is Microsoft we're talking about.

The harbingers of doom, who prematurely sounded the death knell of the Xbox, underestimated a company that doesn't know what the outside of the Fortunes 100 list looks like. Microsoft has been inured to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, because its overall aim was always to create a healthy revenue steam from online services for the Xbox, over a 20-year period.

Hello Xmas 2005, hello Xbox 360. The original Xbox release was an enigma shrouded in mystery - Microsoft cosseted its pet project with utmost secrecy. It wasn't until the general public saw Halo - its killer app to be - that they spake unto themselves: “Ah. That's what it can do. Cool.”

The Xbox 360, on the other hand, has been an open book from the word go - the early release date a sure sign of Microsoft's intent: to be in the unique position of having a monopoly on the market with its next generation console until Sony rejoins the fray, sometime in 2006.

The specifications of Sony's PlayStation 3 are more powerful than the Xbox 360, but it will take more than raw grunt to win the hearts of gamers. Just ask our deputy editor, Will Head, who immediately snaffled our review sample and snuck it back to his palatial house for “real-world testing” while your humble reviews editor was left with nothing more than fond memories.

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