It’s 2013 as of this writing, which means it’s time for the next Xbox to be revealed. The third generation of Xbox is a rather confusing name: It’s called the Xbox One, it’s heavy on TV, media features, and Kinect stuff. It plays games too.
But let’s go back, shall we? Before the Xbox One, there was the Xbox 360. Eight years and one week ago, Microsoft used MTV to announce the unveiling of the new Xbox with a TV special titled Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Which later gets changed to Xbox 360 Revealed partway through the broadcast, but that title isn’t nearly as catchy.
Our host for this evening is Elijah Wood, which you may know from some series of movies about Hobbits. Along with Wood, our co-host is MTV2’s Jim Scherer joining along in the festivities, being the primary interviewer for most of the special.
Before they show off what the new Xbox looks like, they start out with the typical “video game history” video that talks about what’s happened in gaming. Goes through all the common beats: Video games weren’t a thing until people got crazy for Pong, then Nintendo came around and made video games relevant in America again, and then a bunch of other stuff up to now. The competition isn’t nearly mentioned as much directly, which is probably a good idea since they didn’t want people to get hyped for the next PlayStation or the Nintendo Revolution.
It seems every major video game-related TV special has to mention the history of video games, and it’s always hackneyed every time I see it. I mention this because me and friend of the site Bobinator watched Cybermania ’94 a while back before writing this, and even though it’s almost 20 years old as of this writing, it’s just as ridiculous as this event. Even Cybermania said Pong was the first video game, which I guess is a bit more punchy to say compared to SpaceWar.
Why do we even need this video game history montage? We get it, video games are a big deal, you don’t need to constantly remind us. Then again, this is on MTV, so they’re likely pandering to the goofy teens to twenty-somethings that thinks video games started with the PlayStation.
After the system’s reveal, we segue to The Killers performing “Mr. Brightside.” Elijah Wood announces it as “the first time you’ll see The Killers like this!” Which is just the band in a digital music video through a green screen that magically transitions to the band performing the song live on stage. I don’t even know what the producers were going for with this, if you wanted a “digital band that performs on stage,” they should’ve gone for the obvious and went for Gorillaz.
As I watched this performance, I didn’t see the need for them to do it from a virtual studio to a live performance. Honestly, the live performance portion is a bit better than the half-baked music video. While I’m not a Killers fan, I can understand why they were chosen here, and the song’s alright. At least the song’s better than “When You Were Young,” the only other Killers song I know because of Rock Band and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
During the event, Wood interviews famous celebrities like Lil Jon, who hopes “to get a free [Xbox] tonight;” Ryan Cabrera, and Tony Hawk, who was shilling Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, which ended up being one of the system’s launch titles.
Speaking of launch titles, it’s now time for a montage of games coming out for the new system! Get hyped for all these next-gen graphics!!!
Of course, it’s a montage full of bull shots, games running at low frame rates, and target CG renders that look nothing like what the final games will look like. Remember the 3D rendered Madden NFL 06 video that EA made to hype that title? Or Ubisoft doing the same thing with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. This seemed to be incredibly common until people complained about false advertising from a CG-rendered Call of Duty 2 commercial. Thank god that stopped. Though I still take any sort of trailer render with a grain of salt because of stuff like the above.
After that brief glimpse of smoke and digital mirrors, rapper Sway interviews the people from West Coast Customs, the people who helped on Pimp My Ride. Remember Pimp My Ride? That goofy little show where X-to-the-Z Xzibit would take hoopties and make them fly rides? Well, they decided to pimp an original Xbox with a screen and LCD mods. Because hell, why not?
We then cut to Sway going to Microsoft’s headquarters and showing all the various 360 prototypes before showing off the final build, emphasizing the “ring of light” and the goofy face plates idea. I’m glad they showed the green ring of light, because that ring became the butt of many jokes for several years thanks to the constant hardware failures the 360 had over those first few years.
Afterwards, we see three esports pro gamers – Amy “AthenaPMS” Brady, Matt “Xyos” Leto and Delroy “D-Mega” Palmer – fly off to Twycross, England and visit Rare, hyped to show off their hot new game: Perfect Dark Zero. Not really the best thing to show off, but I guess Halo 3 wasn’t quite ready for prime time just yet.
I wonder if any of these people are still around doing esports stuff. I bet D-Mega left to become a lawyer or something.
2020 Update: AthenaPMS is still around and still representing esports in some fashion. As for the others, a brief web search found me nothing. Wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve moved on to more normal lives since.
After that brief glimpse of Rare, which included Xyos talking about polygons and destructible environments, and D-Mega messing around in a mocap suit, we cut to a tournament of Perfect Dark Zero.
They play a bog standard Team Deathmatch game. One team consisted of AthenaPMS, D-Mega, R&B singer Omarion, and Joseph Hahn of Linkin Park. The other has Xyos, Amber “AthenaTwin” Dalton, Japanese hip hop star Uzi, and Wilmer Valderrama, that guy who played Fez on That ’70s Show.
Naturally since the producers think the average MTV viewer has the attention span of a gnat, the “tournament” is filled with various quick cuts of celebrities, Jim Scherer chatting with all the players while they’re playing, and maybe 20 seconds of Perfect Dark Zero footage. The game ends with AthenaPMS’s team winning the first (and as far as I know, only) Perfect Dark Zero tournament by a single frag.
Elijah Wood ends the show by saying that the Xbox 360 is gonna be amazing and hopes to see everyone in the “Xbox Live Universe” later in the year. The Killers return to perform “Smile Like You Mean It,” and the credits roll.
I remember watching this live back in 2005. This was back when my Nintendo loyalty had unraveled, when I started getting back into PC gaming, and began being more platform-agnostic when it came to video games. The competition didn’t opt to go this route, instead with trailers of similar CG renders around E3 the following month.
While TV was a vessel for console manufacturers to tease their systems, it’s since been usurped by YouTube and Twitch.TV for a more personal experience. It’s a shame, really, as I find a charm to these silly TV specials dedicated to video games.
Clearly this special was not made for me, or the average video gaming audience. This was Microsoft and MTV pandering to the average dude who doesn’t follow video games religiously, and I can applaud them despite how goofy it all looks in retrospect. It sure beats mocking the dull E3 conferences these days, that’s for certain.
As for me, watching the special got me mildly interested in the 360, but I didn’t get it until 2008 as a Christmas gift. It’s since become my Rock Band 3 machine with occasional other games on it. I still never really played the launch offerings on the 360, like Perfect Dark Zero. I bet it’s not as bad as people say it is.