Microsoft dropped a bombshell at The Game Awards last night when it actually revealed it’s next generation console. Called the Xbox Series X, the new console is the Project Scarlett that Microsoft has been talking about since E3. While most people were expecting both Sony and Microsoft to hold separate reveal events during the first quarter of 2020, this surprise announcement has thrown the ball into Sony’s court now.
However, despite the actual reveal, Phil Spencer remained rather tight-lipped about the console. The only messaging from Microsoft was that this is the most powerful and the fastest Xbox console ever. And, with games in development at over a dozen Xbox Game Studios, the company is determined to take the fight to Sony for the next-gen supremacy.
There is no doubt about the fact that the Xbox Series X has a peculiar name. Most people were expecting it to be called something like Xbox Infinite after Microsoft announced that the name will be congruent to the console’s purpose. However, the name is not the only peculiar thing about the new Xbox as Microsoft has also opted for a very unconventional form factor for a gaming console. So, let us take a deep dive into the Xbox Series X and dissect all aspects of the new console.
Over the years, Xbox has slowly evolved into a much simpler and minimalist look. With the Xbox Series X, however, it seems like Microsoft has gone all in with the idea as the new console is arguably the cleanest looking yet. With its soft corners and uniform design with almost no interruptions, the new Xbox exuberates class and sleekness.
However, it is not the corners or the matte black that makes this console look so different. The Xbox Series X is a vertical rectangular box, unlike most other consoles before it. While this may look weird to some at first glance, there is a good reason for it. As we know, consoles have been slowly morphing into traditional PCs and this is just another expression of that direction.
The Xbox One X was designed very much like a PC and moving forward, Microsoft hopes to continue on that path. The Xbox Series X, therefore, looks much more like a mini ATX gaming PC. This opens up a lot more room for better cooling thanks to a larger surface area for vents. In addition to that, this also somewhat makes things easier for game developers as the closer a console is to a PC architecturally, the easier it is to port games between platforms.
What we’ve seen of the Xbox Series X though is still a render from Microsoft’s trailer and it would be interesting to see how the console would actually look inside a living room. As it looks a lot like an air purifier or a Bluetooth speaker, it probably won’t turn out to be an eyesore.
New Xbox Controller for Series X
Other than the console itself, Microsoft also revealed the new controller for the Xbox Series X. The new Xbox controller looks pretty much exactly the same as the Xbox One controller with the addition of a share button and better grips around triggers. However, we still don’t know whether Microsoft has made some internal changes to the controller or not.
While some people might be disappointed over the lack of changes to the controller, Microsoft has probably done the right thing as the current Xbox controller is arguably one of the best controllers ever and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Furthermore, the Xbox Series X will be backwards compatible with Xbox One controllers and peripherals so it only makes sense to not stray too far from the original design for better compatibility in games.
While the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, didn’t talk much about specifications or the console’s power apart from the fact that it is the most powerful Xbox console (which is a given), we still have a pretty good idea of what is powering the Series X. According to Microsoft, the Xbox Series X will be capable of native 4K gaming at 60 FPS or more with ease. In addition to that, the console is also compatible for 8K gaming. The Series X is also dubbed to have hardware ray-tracing support.
These are some tall claims coming from Microsoft but they’re not entirely false. The jump to this generation will arguably be the biggest we’ve seen yet in terms of raw power. Why? Because AMD has finally managed to catch up to Intel and NVIDIA after an extremely long period of staying in the shadows. As AMD provides custom hardware for both Xbox and PlayStation, we can expect the latest and greatest from AMD to be inside the consoles.
Firstly, the CPU for the Xbox Series X will be a custom 8-core Zen 2 based processor from AMD. The CPU manufacturer has really taken the fight to Intel this generation with its processors presenting a much better value for the performance they offer. The processor in the Xbox Series X will be running at around 3.5 GHz with slightly higher boost clocks. The CPU is said to be 4 times as powerful as the Xbox One X.
As far as the graphics card is concerned, that is arguably the most unknown thing about the next Xbox. However, we do know that it will be capable of hardware raytracing and will be based on the latest Navi Radeon graphics cards from AMD. Furthermore, we also know that the console will be capable of producing 12 teraflops of computing power. In comparison, the Xbox One X can produce around 6 teraflops of performance. So, there are some massive gains in the graphical department as well.
However, according to Microsoft, the real game changer for the new Xbox will be the inclusion of the SSD. The Xbox Series X apparently has a proprietary NVMe SSD, which is even faster than the ones we see on gaming PCs these days. The SSD will help with drastically reducing the loading times in most games to mere seconds. And, to combat growing sizes of games, players will presumably be able to download specific parts of the game with the eventual goal being a complete shift to streaming with Project xCloud.
Other than that, there’s some pretty standard stuff in store with 16GB of RAM, 13 of which will be reserved for games. However, the SSD could also be potentially used for some additional virtual RAM if needed. With the Xbox Series X design, Microsoft is really hoping for a smooth launch with no cooling issues. The console has tons of space for cooling and there are also rumours saying that the Series X will go for liquid cooling. This would make the console even quieter than the already quiet Xbox One X.
According to Microsoft, the console will be so powerful that users will be able to pause, swap and then resume multiple games simultaneously.
Despite all the hardware updates, a gaming console can never be successful without good exclusive games. With the Xbox One, Microsoft made a mistake of not putting games in the forefront. However, ever since Phil Spencer took over after the disastrous Xbox One launch, Microsoft has essentially done a 180 with the company making amends by prioritizing games over everything else.
The Xbox Series X, likewise, will be solely focused on games. Microsoft has acquired a number of massive studios like Obsidian over the past few years to flesh out their game library for next generation. According to Phil Spencer, all 15 of these Xbox Game Studios are working on titles for the Xbox One and the Series X.
As far as the launch titles are concerned, we know that the Xbox Series X will launch with Halo Infinite, currently in development at 343 Industries. It was also announced at The Game Awards that Ninja Theory is indeed working on a sequel to the fan-favorite game, Hellblade in addition to also getting close to shipping Bleeding Edge.
It would also be safe to assume that Turn 10 studios is currently working on a Forza Motorsport title for the Xbox Series X. Other than that, we have Everwild from Rare, Grounded and other projects in development at Obsidian and an undisclosed AAA title in development at The Initiative. We can expect Microsoft to share a lot more details about some of the upcoming games at the 2020 E3.
While these are the upcoming games for Series X that we know about, the other studios are working on tons of projects as well. Playground Games, for example, is apparently working on a Fable game and if that game turns out to be a launch title for the Series X, it would really make the Xbox launch lineup extremely tough to beat.
Furthermore, as with the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X will also be compatible with most Original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles so the console’s library will already be massive at launch. And, when you add Game Pass and xCloud into the mix, the future looks even brighter for the next Xbox.
Pricing and Launch Date
Arguably, the only thing that we don’t have a solid idea about is the pricing and the launch date of the Xbox Series X. While it is rumored that the console will have a launch price of around $500, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if it is even higher, considering the specifications. However, anything above the 500 dollar mark would probably be a bad idea.
Other than that, there are also rumours of a lower-powered Xbox Series S being in the works which is touted to have a price tag of around $350. It would be interesting to see how a lower tiered console would divide the market and how Microsoft handles that at launch.
Codenamed Lockhart, the lower powered Xbox Series S will be the most affordable entry point into the next generation. However, whether the console is fully supported throughout the life cycle of the next generation remains to be seen. Microsoft could potentially turn it into a Project xCloud machine at later stages of the generation. Nothing is concrete yet though so take these rumours about a Series S with a grain of salt.
As far as the release date is concerned, we can expect the Xbox Series X to launch around mid-November of 2020, in time for the Holiday period. We can expect a lot more announcements from both Sony and Microsoft throughout 2020 leading up to the eventual launch.