There are very few consoles that have managed to go through the highs and lows that the Xbox One did. Microsoft's eighth-generation video game console was universally panned upon its release. Things got so bad that one of the creators and designers of the original Xbox feared that was the end for the Xbox brand.
What happened with the original Xbox One launch?
After Microsoft burst into the scene with the OG Xbox, its follow-up, the Xbox 360, was pretty much the "better" console compared to the PS3 for several years. It took Sony's extensive library of exclusives and a series of price cuts for the PS3 to eventually outsell the Xbox 360. But, at that point, most people had given the Xbox 360 'the W' as far as their generation of consoles goes. Because of this, many had high expectations for the Xbox One when it was first revealed.
Unfortunately, Microsoft overestimated its goodwill with audiences at the time. During the Xbox One's pre-E3 reveal event, Microsoft focused less on the video game aspect and more on the entertainment features of the eight-generation console. To make matters worse, Microsoft ruffled feathers with the Xbox One's high asking price and confusing DRM system, among others.
Things went south so fast for the Xbox brand that Seamus Blackley worried that "it was over" once the Xbox One hit the market.
There was a moment, at the Xbox One launch, when I feared it was over. Honestly.
— Seamus Blackley (@SeamusBlackley) January 8, 2022
Blackley is best known for designing and creating the original Xbox. It's safe to say that, if he's worried about something, it's worth listening. Surprisingly enough, the official Xbox Twitter account replied to Blackley's tweet, effectively confirming that Microsoft was quite worried back then as well. Thankfully, Microsoft has put such dark days far behind them.
According to the most recent estimates, the Xbox One has sold 51 million units throughout its lifetime. This is less than half of the PS4's official numbers at more than 116 million units. But, the Xbox One's failure made Microsoft realize something - it's not about always selling more consoles.
When you take a look at Microsoft's current user acquisition strategy, the company isn't as focused on selling Xbox Series S/X consoles as it is selling Xbox Game Pass memberships.
Back at E3 2021, Microsoft revealed a smorgasbord of games that, at the time, were coming to the Xbox Game Pass at their respective launches. The service's library has only grown since, with Rainbow Six Extraction and Mass Effect Legendary Edition being the latest to join the foray. Not to mention, with Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the Xbox Series S/X can enjoy exclusive titles like The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield going forward.
You could argue that all of these things might not have happened if the Xbox One was not as universally reviled at launch.
At the end of the day, we're just happy to know that the Xbox brand isn't going anyway. PlayStation and Nintendo need the competition. Sony, in particular, probably wouldn't be thinking about Project Spartacus if things had gone Microsoft's way back then.