The Original Xbox Almost Had A 56k Dial-Up Modem

In a wide-ranging discussion, Xbox higher-ups discuss the past, present, and future of Xbox.


As part of the Xbox 20th anniversary celebrations, Xbox leaders past and present sat down for a wide-ranging discussion about the past, present, and future of Xbox.

Retired Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime hosts the discussion, which features Xbox pioneers and business heads Robbie Bach, Ed Fries, Peter Moore, and Bonnie Ross. Bach, Fries, and Moore worked at Xbox at the start and have since left, while Ross is still working with Xbox, now as the head of Halo developer 343 Industries.

The 47-minute video is stacked with fascinating stories and insight about the history and evolution of Xbox. Ross, for example, reveals that she learned that Microsoft was making a console while having a beer at a bar where designer J Allard told her about the project.

Bach, the head of Xbox's business team at the time, mentioned that Xbox Live in particular was a huge gamble. When Xbox Live debuted in 2002, the only subscriptions people might have had were for a cell phone and cable. People might not appreciate how big a deal Xbox Live was for business innovation at Xbox at the time, Bach said. He said publishers doubted the appeal of Xbox Live, and it wasn't until Ubisoft's Ghost Recon came out and showed the appeal of an online-focused game that people appreciated the power of Xbox Live.

Also in the video, Bach talked about how the Xbox designers were considering putting a modem or ethernet connection on the original Xbox. At the time, broadband internet was only at its infancy, and about 80% of the world still had dial-up, Moore said. It was too expensive to include both a 56k dial-up modem and an ethernet port, and after a meeting with Bill Gates, the team decided to include only an ethernet port to make the Xbox prepared for the future.

Check out the full interview below.

Microsoft's latest console is the Xbox Series X, which just celebrated its first anniversary. The system is estimated to have sold around 8 million units. Thanks in part to Game Pass and cloud gaming, Microsoft is now thinking beyond the console as it aims to reach 3 billion gamers worldwide.

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