Five years ago today, the first Xbox 360s were handed out at Microsoft's Zero Hour event in the Southern California desert. A half-decade later, the console celebrated its fifth birthday with a worldwide sales tally of now more than 45 million units sold and a track record of both highs and lows.
One of those lows came right after the console's launch, when both the hard-drive-less $300 Xbox 360 Core and the 20GB $400 Xbox 360 Pro were in short supply for months. Once stocks of the console were reestablished, it came under criticism for its loud fan and an increasingly common problem called the "Red Ring of Death" resulting from overheating. Eventually, Microsoft would pay over $1 billion to extend the warranty of consoles to three years from their production dates.
On the software side, the Xbox 360 launched with 18 titles, including Call of Duty 2, Condemned: Criminal Origins, Madden NFL 06, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted. It would go on to offer a wide selection of both third-party favorites, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Fallout 3, and hit first-party exclusives, such as Halo 3, Halo: Reach, and, most recently, Fable III.
While the original Xbox's life cycle lasted from 2001 to 2005, the Xbox 360 will likely be around well beyond five years. In June, Microsoft released the new slimline version of the console, which sported a quieter cooling system and a new 40nm chipset with a 250GB hard drive for just $300. (A $200 4GB version of the smaller console was introduced in August.) Last month, Microsoft introduced the Kinect, the heavily hyped motion-sensing system that's intended to extend the console's life cycle for several more years.