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Xbox’s infamously awkward CES reveal, 21 years later

Console reveals have always been weird, but was this the weirdest?

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Want to feel old? As of January 6, 2022, the original Xbox is old enough to drink!

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Today, Game Pass and Xbox’s recent habit of gobbling up smaller studios makes it a gaming powerhouse. In 2001, players were skeptical at best about Microsoft’s new console.

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Bill Gates announced the Xbox and showed off a wild-looking prototype in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the world got its first look at the console.

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At the Consumer Electronics Show 2001, Gates pulled back the curtain, showing audiences both the chunky new console and its equally massive controller, nicknamed The Duke.

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This being 2001, The Rock was of course there for some reason.

It was about as awkward as you’d expect.

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Given the pair’s electric onstage chemistry, it’s no surprise The Rock continued appearing at Xbox promo events throughout the year.

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And of course, Bill Gates would soon cement his reputation as an early 2000s fashion icon.

At Tokyo Game Show 2001, Microsoft revealed the Xbox controller S, a smaller version of the Duke controller that was the standard retail version in Japan.

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Seen here with vice-chairman of Japan’s Computer Entertainment Software Association Kenzo Tsujimoto, Bill Gates tried to assure players that Xbox had support from Japanese developers. Despite that, Xbox consoles have never been as popular in Japan as their competitors.

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The Xbox’s reveal looks oddly sedate compared to modern gaming announcements, but by the next year, Microsoft learned an important lesson:

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Talk about ethernet ports may get investors hot and bothered, but you need inexplicable celebrity appearances to really build hype.

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Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction are seen here inventing a new, worse type of co-op.

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By the time the Xbox 360 came around, it was revealed not at CES, but in an MTV special hosted by Elijah Wood.

See if you can spot the subtle differences in Microsoft’s approach this time.

Talk about “When You Were Young”

The event also included an obligatory performance by The Killers.

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Even without live concerts and red carpet events, Xbox’s CES 2001 reveal clearly made an impression. In the month and a half after its November launch, the Xbox sold 1.5 million consoles in North America alone.

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21 years later, Xbox is still going strong with the Xbox Series X. We’re still waiting for another team-up between Bill Gates and The Rock, though.