Next-gen console war heats up as Microsoft reveals the Xbox Series X


With the clock ticking down until the next generation of consoles arrives, Microsoft has chosen to let the cat out of the bag, and we now know what Microsoft’s next-gen console name will be, and how it will look like.

Actually, Microsoft revealed the Xbox Series X at the Game Awards last week as was recently reported on PC World. This means that the console which was previously known as Project Scarlett now officially has a name…

Or rather, shall we say consoles, as it looks like Microsoft will be delivering multiple versions of its upcoming console come Fall 2020. This is because rather than this being a single console like Sony’s PS5, the Series X seems to be a series of machines coming at different price points, and with different specs.

This is something that reminds me of Valve’s ill-fated Steam machines, only there were too many of those boxes (each made by a different manufacturer) and the ensuing confusion and poor marketing led to the failure and early retirement of the Steam Machine…

Microsoft, though, is unlikely to complicate the picture at launch, and will likely ship just two versions of the Xbox Series X: a flagship, more powerful machine designed to compete with the PS5 (a Xbox Two if you will) and a cheaper model providing a more affordable entry point into the Xbox ecosystem (the rumoured Project Lockhart console maybe?).

Looking at the first images of the console and Microsoft’s presentation video it’s hard not to notice how PC-like the console looks – actually, this has the looks of one of those cool modded PC towers nerds are so fond of taking with them to LAN parties…

The flagship Xbox Series X will also be a powerful beast, as according to PC World it will be four times more powerful than the current Xbox One X (and it it’s priced at less than $500 US dollars then it will be a stupendously good deal when compared to a powerful gaming PC).

Microsoft boasts on its website that the Xbox Series X will be capable of 4K gaming at 60 frames per second, which is something that even cutting-edge PCs struggle with at this point in time, and practically nil loading times thanks to a powerful SSD drive.

This means next-gen games truly have the potential to look fantastic – and indeed Microsoft has already given us a glimpse of what to expect from Xbox Series X games with a trailer for Hellblade 2, whetting gamers’ appetites for the new-gen games to come.

But still, no matter how good the Xbox Series X looks right now, I think Microsoft could be shooting itself in the foot with the way it’s marketing its next-gen console, a bit like it did last gen with the Xbox One. Billing the console as a multimedia machine for the living room (with gaming being one of its features), the Xbox Series X could be confusing for costumers, especially those not familiar with gaming PCs.

It’s the “Series” part of the name that could be a problem you see – if Microsoft is indeed going to release several versions of the new Xbox at different price points, it may leave customers scratching their heads when deciding which Xbox to go for, and some may even decide to bide their time and delay a purchase, especially taking into account that both machines will be backwards compatible with Xbox One games, and that the Xbox One X is going to be around for some time still. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there may even be a discless Xbox Series X machine too…

Sony’s offering, however, is more straightforward, like it was in 2013 when the current gen got started. Come next fall, Sony will simply be selling the PS5, a successor to the phenomenally successful PS4 which will almost certainly get a bunch of classy exclusives as has been the case with the PS4. And nothing stops Sony from releasing a mid-generation upgrade (say, the PS5 Pro), when it pleases.

It remains to be seen, then, how well the Xbox Series X can do when pitted against the PS5, also taking into account how large the PlayStation user base is – it’s likely many PS4 users will end up making the jump to PS5 when the time is right. Or maybe they will be drawn by the Xbox Series X looks, power and exclusives, and go with Microsoft this time around… What’s clear, though, is that the next gen will be truly interesting, and I can’t wait to see how the duel between the console giants will play out next year.

Xbox Series X (Microsoft Corporation)