Microsoft is betting big on the Xbox Series X, the next-gen console set to launch later this year and rival the PS5.
While Sony has mostly played coy about its console's specs and design, Microsoft has been bullish about giving gamers what they want: we already know the specs, design, controller, many of the games, and even how specific details like backwards compatibility will work on the new hardware.
Here's everything we know so far.
When will the Xbox Series X be released?
Microsoft has confirmed that the next-gen Xbox Series X console will ship "Holiday 2020", which means we could be waiting until the end of the year to get our hands on it. It's not surprising as the Xbox One had a similar release window, and that's also what Sony is aiming for with the PS5.
The console might be aiming for a Thanksgiving release - 26 November - according to a banner found on some international versions of the Series X product page on Microsoft's website.
It appeared on the site in the UK and some other regions, but not the US. Once it was picked up online Microsoft quickly moved to replace the images though, and on Twitter Xbox Live's director of programming Larry Hryb (better known as MajorNelson) described the listing as 'inaccurate'.
How much will the next Xbox cost?
Unsurprisingly, this far ahead of launch Microsoft has remained tight-lipped regarding pricing.
There were some suggestions of $600 as a ballpark figure, but that was widely panned as that sort of pricing would not be competitive at all.
A more realistic price would be something close to the Xbox One X's RRP of £449/US$499. There is a feeling Microsoft would consider a lower-specced device for those reluctant to spend so much on a console, similar to the Xbox One S, but we'll probably have to wait until 2021 for that.
While it might end up retailing for more than the RRP of the Xbox One X, we'd estimate a launch price might be similar to Microsoft's current-gen consoles.
Xbox head Phil Spencer told The Verge that unlike with the Xbox One, this time around the company "will not be out of position on power or price.”
We're also still expecting Microsoft to reveal a cheaper Xbox Series S variant - codenamed Lockhart - which might drop the disc drive to keep prices lower.
What should we expect from Xbox Series X?
On 16 March 2020, Microsoft revealed full specs for Xbox Series X on its website. The big news is the custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, which is combined with a 12 teraflop, 52 compute unit GPU.
There will also be native support for expandable storage up to 1TB, while there will also be a 4K Blu-ray drive and USB 3.2 external HDD support.
Regular output will be at 4K 60fps, although this can be scaled up to 120fps.
See the full list of specs below:
- 8-core 3.8Ghz custom CPU
- 12 teraflop, 52 compute unit 1.825Ghz GPU
- 16GB GDDR6 memory with up to 10GB bandwidth
- 1TB custom NVMe SSD
- Expandable storage up to 1TB
- USB 3.2 HDD Support
- 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
- 4K 60fps target performance - up to 120fps
Alongside this announcement, two videos were released to demonstrate the performance enhancements over the Xbox Series X. Firstly, there was one on loading times:
It then followed this up with a demonstration on the new Quick Resume technology:
The console is powered by a custom AMD chip on Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures. It's capable of providing four times more computing power than the original Xbox One, and a whopping 12 teraflops of GPU performance - more than eight times the original One, and double the more powerful One X.
In practical terms, that translates to support for 120fps, hardware accelerated DirectX ray-tracing (and even new tech Microsoft is calling audio ray-tracing), and support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) over HDMI 2.1.
Along with vastly improved graphical support, the console is set to get an upgrade in the storage department. Current-gen consoles come with mechanical hard drives as standard and as such, gamers are left with noticeably long loading times. That's set to change with the next-gen console, which will offer a fast SSD as standard. Improved Quick Resume features will help too - the console will let you jump back into a game right where you left off even after a reboot.
Its tall, thin chassis will be able to be placed on its side as well as upright, so should be able to blend into your existing home entertainment setup. There's no denying that it looks like a PC tower, but that might not be a bad thing as Microsoft finally tries to bridge the gap to desktop gaming.
The large fan grille will be important for temperature control. but we hope the loud whirring sounds aren't present every time you play a graphics-intensive title.
A major lure will be backwards compatibility. Microsoft has already said that at launch the Series X will be capable of playing "thousands" of games from the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox. They'll all run natively on the console hardware, with no downclocking, meaning they should run better than they ever have before, especially given the faster load times of the SSD.
Even better, Microsoft has build in platform-level tech to add HDR to older titles that never had it, and a "select set" of games will even benefit from frame-rate enhancements that could see frame-rates double from 30fps to 60fps, and even from 60fps to 120fps in some games.
Perhaps more importantly, a program called Smart Delivery will ensure that if you buy a compatible game once you'll be able to play it on either Xbox One or Xbox Series X and play the right version for the console you're on at the time. All Xbox Game Studios titles will be included, along with some third-party titles like Cyberpunk 2077.
The controller has also been updated, but it looks remarkably similar to the one currently available. We'd expect the ergonomics to be improved, but Microsoft hasn't said much about it yet.
Xbox Series X games
Microsoft has confirmed that the upcoming Halo Infinite will be a Xbox Series X launch title - but surprisingly it won't be an exclusive.
That's because the Xbox Series X won't have any exclusives in its first few years - at least not from Microsoft itself. The company has confirmed that for the next two years at least, every new game published by Xbox Game Studios will be playable on any Xbox or PC - meaning all the first few Series X games will also released on the Xbox One. They'll also be cross-compatible thanks to the Smart Delivery program mentioned above. Third-party publishers may take a different approach, however.
That doesn't mean that this will always be the case - at some point Microsoft will likely have to cut off Xbox One support - but it will take the pressure off upgrading straight away. It helps that the Series X will also be backwards compatible, so any new Xbox One games you buy in that time will still work on the Series X whenever you upgrade.
We also now have a first look at some proper gameplay footage in the special Inside Xbox stream that happened on 7 May. Games showcased on this stream included:
- Bright Memory Infinite
- Dirt 5
- Madden 21
- Vampyre the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2
- Call of the Sea
- The Ascent
- The Medium
- Scarlet Nexus
- Second Extinction
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Assassin's Creed Valhalla
Assassin's Creed Valhalla was the only major title featured on this stream - sadly we'll have to wait until July's Inside Xbox to see more from Halo Infinite and other Xbox Game Studios titles. Xbox also stated that "hundreds of games" will be on the way in 2021, with every major publisher working on something Xbox Series X related (obviously with the exception of Sony and Nintendo).
You can check out the full stream and gameplay footage below: