Since 2001, Microsoft has been and continues to change, the landscape of console gaming, not only by pushing boundaries in hardware but reinventing software functionality. Xbox consoles have sold fairly well despite trailing its competitors in sales for the better part of the last 17 years. However, it’s the constant evolution of their product that helps the gaming industry as a whole to flourish. It’s hard to think what gaming would look like today without Microsoft’s adaptive technology. Luckily, Xbox leaves little to be desired from a technological standpoint.

Here are 5 ways Xbox changed the game.

Xbox Live

On November 15, 2002, Microsoft launched the paid online multiplayer gaming service that would change the way games are played forever. Exactly one year after the release of the Xbox, gamers could play with friends via an internet connection from the comfort of their own home.

While online gaming was not a new concept, it was the timely arrival of Xbox Live and its accessibility that separated it from any previous attempt of older consoles. Broadband connections were significantly more available in the common household by 2002 than they were when the Sega Dreamcast offered online gaming just 3 years prior, for example.

The Xbox’s massive built-in hard disk drive provided enough memory for the console to perform at a high level.

An Ethernet cable and headset was all you needed to get started and even though it wasn’t until the Xbox 360 that the service’s interface and capabilities would be perfected, the introduction of Xbox Live made it so playing online was no longer as foreign of a concept outside of Japan. Right place, right time.

The standardization of the wireless controller

Before 2005, the best wireless controller on the market was probably the Wavebird for the Nintendo GameCube. The thing is, the Wavebird was sold separately as were all wireless controllers. When the Xbox 360 launched, two variations of the console was available for purchase. The Xbox 360 “Core” bundle included a wired controller like every console before it did but the “Premium” bundle included a wireless controller in the box.

Shortly after, a chargeable battery pack was sold to replace AA batteries. Not only did the Xbox 360 come with arguably the most ergonomic controller of all time, it didn’t need to be tethered to your media center. The most liberating feeling a gamer could have was suddenly part of the experience of buying a new console. A wired controller was never included in a console bundle again. Xbox did it first.

HD gaming

Along with a wireless controller, Xbox 360’s premium bundle included a component cable for high definition. The cable output a 1080i resolution, the highest quality provided by a console at the time. The 360 didn’t have an HDMI port to output full 1080p until after 2007 but the giant leap from SD to HD was already taken in 2005.

Enhancing graphics is a strong suit of Microsoft’s, and the Xbox One X providing high dynamic range (HDR) 4K definition is a clear indication of that. However, the PlayStation 4 Pro already offers 4K gaming. What Xbox did in 2005 was a much bigger step forward, replacing the TV’s standard 4:3 aspect ratio with 16:9. Being the first to adopt the widescreen format set the precedent for gaming to look as beautiful and refined as it does today.

Achievement unlocked

Yes. Out of all the things Microsoft has done, incorporating achievements for every game was simultaneously the most minor and fundamentally impactful adjustment to the way gamers play video games. Challenges added aside from the story mode and online multiplayer gave games more reason to be played.

Creating an achievement system that rewards the player with points to add to their Gamerscore gives gaming a sense of competition among friends that going to an arcade used to.

A cumulative score attached to players’ accounts or “Gamertags” gives video games new life that otherwise would collect dust once the single player campaign is completed. Achievements are a bonus that preserves the fun of traditional gaming in this advanced era of cinematic gaming experiences, allowing even linear games to encourage exploration. PlayStation would go on to create their own trophy system which rewards gamers for completing the same challenges but let’s be honest, the Xbox pop-up notification is much more satisfying.

They also did it first, once again.

Xbox game pass exclusives

Last but absolutely, positively, certainly not least, the Xbox Game Pass. Full-game digital downloading straight from a console marketplace is a luxury we’ve been afforded since the Xbox 360! On June 1, 2017, Microsoft took it a step further and hard launched the Xbox Game Pass subscription service that gives Xbox One and Xbox One X owners access to a large lineup of downloadable games for the price of $9.99 a month.

PlayStation Now had been established long before Game Pass, allowing gamers to stream games from a cloud so Xbox basically just made their own version. The two Netflix-like services were on an even playing field for the most part.

That is until Microsoft made a groundbreaking announcement last week.

According to Game Radar, on January 23, 2018, they announced the inclusion of Xbox exclusives to the service, making first-party titles available to play upon their day of release. That's huge! The Netflix of video games just got their equivalent of Netflix Originals.

The games will still be available for purchase at the standard retail price so that might be a false equivalency being that Netflix Originals can’t be found anywhere else but $10 a month for all Xbox exclusives at the press of a button? That’s close enough and significantly discounted enough.

We might have officially seen the end of physical copies in video games as we knew it.

Whether positive or negative, this is a big deal for consumers and developers. This is another move from Microsoft that already has changed the trajectory of gaming. The video game industry will never be the same after this.