Microsoft kills off its Xbox 360 gaming console, but Xbox 360 games will live on thanks to Xbox One

Remember when Ben Kenobi was killed, but turned into a ghost and never really died? It's kind of like that.

The Xbox 360 is dead. Long live the Xbox 360.

Microsoft said Wednesday that the company has ceased production on its last-generation Xbox 360 game console, which launched just more than 10 years ago in November 2005.

Microsoft announced the news in a blog post, which noted that Microsoft had simply decided to focus its production on its latest console, the Xbox One. “Xbox 360 means a lot to everyone in Microsoft. And while we’ve had an amazing run, the realities of manufacturing a product over a decade old are starting to creep up on us,” Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox for Microsoft, wrote. “Which is why we have made the decision to stop manufacturing new Xbox 360 consoles. We will continue to sell existing inventory of Xbox 360 consoles, with availability varying by country.”

The decision isn’t entirely unexpected; Microsoft said in 2013 that the Xbox 360 was expected to last until 2016.

Why this matters: Normally, the demise of a beloved game console is cause for mourning. And for Microsoft, the Xbox 360 dominated the game console space for a generation. But Microsoft softened the blow last year when it added Xbox 360 backward-compatibility to the current Xbox One, allowing gamers who own the old Xbox 360 discs to keep on playing at least some of their games on the latest console.

Xbox 360 will live on

Microsoft said that, collectively, gamers spent 78 billion hours gaming on its console, and 25 billion more hours using apps like Netflix. That itself is noteworthy, given that the Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 were the first consoles to be capable of streaming movies and television shows from the Internet in addition to playing games. Ironically, Microsoft allowed streaming and other apps to become the initial focus of the Xbox One, but the company beat a hasty retreat when gamers protested.

While Microsoft will halt the manufacture of the Xbox 360 console, its services will continue unabated, for now. Xbox Live services for the 360 will continue, and the servers that support Xbox 360 such services as multiplayer gaming will remain online and active, Spencer said. (Spencer didn’t say, however, how long those services will remain viable.) Gamers will be able to buy more than 4000 existing Xbox 360 titles either via the Xbox Store or through retailers, at least until supplies run out. Microsoft will also continue to support the console through its warranty program.

Finally, Microsoft said that it plans to continue the Deals with Gold and Games with Gold programs; the latter offers one of the best deals in gaming: If a gamer subscribes to the Xbox Live service, he or she receives four free games per month: two for the Xbox One, and two for the Xbox 360. All Xbox 360 games are playable on the One via the backward-compatibility program.

With the Xbox 360 being phased out, Microsoft’s focus will now turn to the Xbox One and its integration with Windows 10. Spencer promised that over the next few weeks and months, the company will share more of the company’s plans for gaming on “Xbox One, Windows 10, and beyond.”

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Mark Hachman

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