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Whatever happened to the Xbox’s original prototype?

It’s in Microsoft’s Visitor Center

Graeme Boyd/Microsoft

It’s on display at Microsoft’s new Visitor Center at headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

But that answer barely does justice to the ostentatious, aluminum X casemod that appeared on stage with Bill Gates at GDC 2000 in San Jose, Calif. when he and the company revealed that they were gonna sink both fists into this console gaming racket.

Graeme Boyd, Xbox’s social media marketing manager, took everyone on a trip down memory lane this weekend by tweeting a picture of one of those old promotional models. Here it is all polished up:

Eurogamer noted that the Xbox showpiece cost about 18 large to manufacture (according to Dean Takahashi’s Opening the Xbox) because the case was milled from a solid block of aluminum. Seamus Blackley, one of the Xbox’s creators, said they accomplished their purpose.

Evidently there was more than one, and they sound heavy — or at least unwieldy.

Blackley was also behind another outsized original Xbox creation — the mighty Duke controller, which got a hero’s welcome when it relaunched (courtesy of Hyperkin) this spring.

Forgive me, I have some nostalgia for the old Xbox. It was my return to console gaming. I was in a shitload of trouble as a teenager, so, no way would my parents let me buy an NES when it was looking like I would barely graduate high school. I had to play that over at friends’ homes. In college, I played other guys’ consoles in the fraternity house (usually breaking into their rooms to do so) and after graduation, I was super serious about being Mr. Big Newspaper Writer Man, which is a gig that moves you around the country and does not pay a lot.

But in 2003, I caved in and bought my Xbox at a Best Buy in Golden, Colo. on my dinner break. I had been skeptical of getting a console until Brian Crecente, a founding Polygon editor and a colleague at the Rocky Mountain News told me that these machines were capable of logging into the Weather Channel (!!!!) so that my NCAA Football game in Lawrence or Palo Alto would be played in the exact same conditions those cities were experiencing at that moment. Really, that was the deal-maker for me 15 years ago.

The PlayStation 2 was, unquestionably, the champ of its generation (if not all console generations), and Nintendo hardware has a timeless appeal that resonates throughout video game culture. But let’s also speak a word of charity for Microsoft’s let-it-all-hang-out aluminum X; against rivals like Sony and Nintendo, they needed something just that outlandish to capture and hold attention.

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