This week Microsoft released the Xbox One S. It’s pretty cool. It’s smaller, leaner, lighter — all the things you expect from a console redesign. It’s also technically superior. Apparently games will run with a 10 per cent improvement in frame-rate on the Xbox One S. Pretty cool.
But the original Xbox One was huge. Ridiculously huge. Especially when you sit it next to the comparatively diminutive PlayStation 4 and the stupidly tiny Wii U.
Which begs the question: Why the hell was the original Xbox One so big?
There are a few good reasons.
Carl Ledbetter’s official job title is Executive Creative Director, but you might know him better as ‘guy who decides what the Xbox looks like’. He helps oversee the aesthetics of each console, the controllers, the design — all of that stuff.
According to Carl, decisions made regarding the original Xbox — and more importantly its size — were the result of a number of factors. First and foremost: Making sure the goddamn thing worked.
“We all want a product that works,” explains Carl. “That’s the number one principle.”
Understandable, particularly since the Xbox 360 — which was successful by almost every possible metric — was notorious for, um… not always working.
“With the Xbox 360, when it had the red ring of death — that was a big deal,” said Carl. “It was a big deal for our business, it was a big deal for our customers. It did matter. Our response was: we make sure our products work.”
That’s one of the reasons why the Xbox One was so big: Safety. The last thing Microsoft wanted was another console that had issues like the Xbox 360. Reliability was a high priority.
“When we were designing the original Xbox One you have to remember it was all brand new. We had to start from a new chip, a new board lay out, all-new thermal behaviours and characteristics – running an all-new higher resolution games. So we really had to design to the best of our abilities what we thought was gonna be a super reliable and consistent performing console.
“We didn’t really have the luxury of time to iterate. That’s why the Xbox One is what it is.”
The ‘red ring of death’ has changed pretty much everything Microsoft does in terms of consoles.
“Did it impact what we did on Xbox One? Absolutely. It impacted what we’re doing with Xbox One S. It impacted what we did on Xbox 360 S. These are things we learned from.”
By contrast, the Xbox One S is small. Much smaller in fact, and the changes made are changes that might have been risky for the Xbox One upon launch, given the time frame and the new chipset. The power supply unit is now internal (thank God) and — like the Xbox 360 — it’s a console designed to stand vertically or horizontally. I’d have been afraid to stand the Xbox One vertically lest the thing collapse beneath its own weight.
Would I replace the old Xbox One with a new Xbox One S? It’s hard to tell. Depends on budget and how much space you want to free up in your entertainment unit. Given that the Xbox One S has a performance boost, I’m tempted.
This story originally appeared on Gizmodo