News travels fast – after leaks on Monday night revealed the Xbox Series S, Microsoft took control and officially announced the slimmed down console that will in part succeed the Xbox One family of devices. Today, Microsoft takes the reveal further, fully announcing its next gen plans for both the premier Xbox Series X and the Series S models.
The Xbox Series X – effectively the headline model, capable of true 4K gaming and with a disc drive for both games and 4K UHD Blu-rays – will retail at GBP £449.99/USD $499.99, while the lower spec Series S will set players back £249.99/$299.99. As was rumoured, both consoles will now launch on 10 November, with pre-orders starting on 22 September.
Microsoft is also expanding its Xbox All Access program to 12 countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, UK, and the US. This allows gamers to get their hands on either of the new consoles upfront and pay only a monthly fee. The scheme will cost GBP £28.99/USD $34.99 per month for the Xbox Series X, and £20.99/$24.99 per month for the Series S. In the UK, the financing is being supplied by the credit service Klarna.
The financing ties users into a 24-month contract, but it’s at 0% interest and includes a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate, which offers a rotating library of 100+ games on console and PC, plus accesss to Microsoft’s cloud gaming service. A brand new console and an instant collection of games may make for an attractive option to anyone who may not want – or be able to – drop £450/$500 in one go.
Game Pass is also getting even more expansive, with access to the EA Play service – generally a separate subscription – being extended to Ultimate members. This will add more than 60 games from the publisher to the Game Pass library, starting “this holiday” – no specific date has been provided, so this may be slightly after the console’s launch.
With the upfront cost of buying either of the new consoles being lower than some industry analysts projected, and the expansion of low-cost financing deals to more countries, this is an aggressive move from Microsoft to establish dominance in the next console generation. The question is: how will Sony respond when it comes time to reveal PS5 pricing?
Sony’s reveal of its PS4 successor has been more of a drip-feed of information compared to the regular torrents of info that Microsoft has provided, and while the Japanese company is unlikely to hold off much longer now that its biggest competitor has revealed pricing, Microsoft’s offer is going to be hard to beat. If PS5 costs more than Series X – or the PS5 Digital Edition more than the Series S – then Sony may have trouble justifying that cost.
For one, Sony’s comparable services currently feel underwhelming. PlayStation Plus offers a handful of free games per month, making it a weak alternative to Game Pass, while its streaming service PlayStation Now still feels like an afterthought. Sony’s early announcements regarding PS5 have also tended towards the overly technical – it may have a faster SSD hard drive than the Series X, but the average consumer is unlikely to care much about such granular details.
Where Sony might have a lead though is on discrete software. Two months away from launch, and it’s hard to think of any standouts for Xbox Series X, especially with Halo Infinite being pushed into 2021. A lot of buzz is being given to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla being a launch title, but it’s also multiplatform. Conversely, PS5 already has considerable hype building around the likes of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the Demon’s Souls remake, and Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart.
The common wisdom when it comes to the games industry has traditionally been that each generation is “won” by the platform with the best software, not hardware. This is 2020 though, so by coming out of the gates early with surprisingly affordable hardware and a top-class subscription service, Microsoft could regain the throne it ruled from in the Xbox 360 era.