One year ago tomorrow, Microsoft launched Xbox One, its most impressive yet controversial video game and entertainment console. It's been a tough first year in many ways, but the software giant is celebrating this anniversary with some nice giveaways for those who took a chance on the Xbox One.
For me, the first year of Xbox One was a disappointment, mostly because I never really took advantage of the console's unique features—I use it in my home office, not in the living room—and because my limited play patterns—I've been a Call of Duty rut since, oh, 2005 when the Xbox 360 launched—means I could have saved over $600 and simply used my previous console for all of 2014. But looking beyond my own needs, I see some areas that are still troubling. The performance is terrible, and the continued lack of obvious features despite a year of improvements is indefensible.
It's not all bad. For all the talk about the performance advantages of the PS4—which I think are largely overcome by developer familiarity over time, as was the case with Xbox 360/PS3—the biggest issue that the Xbox One had this first year was price. And here, Microsoft has finally shown up in a meaningful way. On this day a year ago, the cheapest Xbox One you could buy was the only Xbox One you could buy, and it cost $500. Today, you can get into Xbox One for as little as $350, and it includes two free games (a $120 value). I mean, seriously.
Microsoft is of course focusing on the positive, and I do not begrudge them that. And to be fair, they've shipped 10 million consoles into the market in record time with this console generation. If it weren't for the PS4, we'd be falling all over ourselves congratulating them on this success.
So here's what they're doing.
First, if you live in one the Xbox One's original 13 markets and have opted in to receive Xbox Marketing emails, you will receive a personalized email detailing what you've accomplished since Xbox One launched last November.
And beginning today, everyone who purchased an Xbox One in the 13 launch markets between November 22, 2013 and November 11, 2014 will receive a Year One Celebration gift box email that will include:
A Year One Gamer Picture
New Xbox One backgrounds: A special Year One background as well as an exclusive Day One background for those who unlocked the Day One achievement
A Year One background image for use on Twitter, your desktop, etc.
A free rental of "Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn" (for a limited time)
A free rental of "Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods" movie and a sampler pack of "Dragon Ball Z" TV episodes (for a limited time, available in the U.S. and Canada only).
Also, some "fans will be fans will be selected at random to receive a special gift from us." The full list of possible gifts is on the Xbox Wire site, but it includes such things as limited and special edition console bundles, an Xbox Live Gold 12-month membership digital code, and many, many in-game perks and bonuses.
So happy birthday, Xbox One. Here's to an even better Year Two.