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The Bizarre Original Design Of The First Xbox

When it comes to console design, Microsoft sure put the "box" in "Xbox." The first Xbox console was a big black rectangle that tipped the scales thanks to its internal hard drive, and at one time, the original Xbox One was colorfully compared to Betamax VCRs. Although subsequent Xbox One iterations slimmed down the console, Microsoft is reviving the big, blocky design with the Xbox Series X's refrigerator aesthetic. The Xbox Series S isn't safe from similar unfavorable comparisons, either.


However, the Xbox wasn't always a cubist console. When Bill Gates originally showed off Microsoft's video game ambitions, his prototype sported a radical design almost as eccentric as Gates himself. If you saw the initial design today, you'd probably think it was a joke, or at least a prop meant to satirize video game consoles. But, this bizarre original Xbox design is as real as it is weird. And it worked.

Introducing the Xbox, emphasis on the "X"

In 2018, the social marketing manager for Xbox, Graeme Boyd, took audiences to the past with a picture of the original Xbox prototype. This prototype is nothing more than a big shiny X with the word "Xbox" displayed in the center, but it is no mere show model. The prototype actually worked, according to Seamus Blackley, the Xbox's original developer. However, the black magic that went into the console didn't end there.


Each prototype was custom-built out of solid aluminum milled into an X shape and carved with numerous cooling gills — and cost a whopping $18,000. The aluminum made the prototypes extremely durable, but they also weighed a ton, as Blackley can attest. However, Microsoft wasn't willing to take any chances. Blackley claims that each prototype was packed in a heavy-duty Pelican case and tugged up and down stairs for half an hour to see what broke.

Thankfully, the mass-produced version of the Xbox is much lighter and box-like, as well as more affordable. The original console probably wouldn't have sold well if each one had been made out of milled aluminum.