Xbox Made A Four Hour Anniversary Documentary About Itself

Power On: The Story of Xbox is a four-hour, multi-part documentary about the history of Microsoft’s console, produced by Xbox itself.

Some episodes break down the development of the first three Xbox consoles and interview the people involved in their creation. Other episodes get into specific, unavoidable moments in Xbox history, like the Red Ring of Death. Even Don Mattrick, the executive whose career was destroyed by the Xbox One’s abortive launch, appears on camera. This might actually be his first interview in years.

It’s good to see that Xbox made a documentary that doesn’t try to hide its mistakes. It is, however, still a product of the marketing department. This means it seeks to minimise those darker moments wherever it can. Fun and informative in certain sections, enlightening in others, but a long-form puff piece nevertheless. I’ve embedded the entire playlist below if you’d like to check it out.

Sony did something similar a few years ago when it released a two-hour documentary on the development of God of War. Called Raising Kratos, the documentary followed the game’s production over several years, including its live unveiling at E3.

Making Ofs happen for posterity in film-making all the time. They happen far less often in games, and that’s to the industry’s detriment. So, it’s nice to see members of The Big Three carving off some budget for productions like these. However, we mustn’t forget that they are sprung directly from the marketing department. Their goal is to get you feeling warm and fuzzy about the brand so that you’ll buy-in. Let’s just bear that in mind.

Further reading

Anyway, if you do decide to watch this and you’re feeling hungry for more video game docs, might we recommend a few channels?

NoClip is one of the bigger video game documentary channels on Youtube. Created by former Gamespot journo Danny O’Dwyer, it has produced short- and long-form documentaries since 2016. A recent series on the work of Dishonored developer Arkane ranks among the channel’s finest work. Indeed, it’s O’Dwyer’s work that these in-house docs from Xbox and PlayStation seek to emulate. Unlike a lot of other “documentary” channels on YouTube that are little more than facts from Wikipedia over a slideshow, O’Dwyer and his team embed themselves with developers in their studios and speak to them on their terms.

Cloth Map is another great channel that cleverly marries the travel documentary with video games. Hosted by journalist Drew Scanlon, who you may know as the Blinking Guy Gif, Cloth Map follows Drew on visits to various countries and dives into their connections to the culture of video games. Memorable docs include Drew’s visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and Havana’s ad-hoc, city-wide LAN network used for World of Warcraft. Though the channel was forced to slow its roll during the pandemic, I’m looking forward to seeing Drew hit the road again in the future.

Let us know if you decide the check out the Xbox documentary! We’d love to know what you thought.

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