The next generation of gaming consoles launches at the end of this year with the Xbox Series X and PS5. In a sea of leaks and rumours, here's what we know so far about the next gen Xbox.
This story has been updated since its original publication.
Xbox Series X: Release Date & Price
An Australian price hasn't been announced yet, but Microsoft has announced that the Xbox Series X will launch in "Holiday 2020". Traditionally, this has always been around mid to late-November: the Xbox 360 and Xbox One both launched on November 22.
New Xbox & Xbox Series X: Specs, SSD
That the next gen Xbox would support 8K was revealed in Microsoft's official Xbox reveal, and later confirmed by Phil Spencer on his Twitter account. His current avatar shows this photo, apparently depicting the Xbox's System on Chip (SoC):
As you may notice, there's a big '8K' print in the bottom left corner, and 'Project Scarlett' on the right. This detail was also included in Microsoft's E3 conference, where 8K capabilities were confirmed, as well as up to 120fps support for games. Further information about the chip is currently unknown.
This detail was revealed in Xbox's E3 showcase, where brief but tantalising details were revealed about the next gen Xbox before we'd even seen the new box. In it, Microsoft revealed that, using SSD as virtual RAM, the new Xbox would see a 40x performance increase over the Xbox One.
Later reports form TweakTown indicated that Microsoft would be using a customised SSD alongside new GPU and CPU hardware to supercharge loading speeds and console power. These changes let next gen Xboxes use storage as "a VRAM buffer" that allows direct access to data blocks and speeds up overall data processing.
This will allow the next gen Xbox to support "hardware accelerated ray tracing", according to Microsoft. As we all know, ray tracing is all the rage now, and the increased processing power afforded by the new SSD technology will enable the new Xbox to take full advantage of its capabilities and push its photo-real potential.
The generation is just called Xbox
In an interview with Business Insider in December, a Microsoft representative clarified that rather than be called the 'Xbox Series X', the console would simply be 'Xbox'.
They also added that:
“Similar to what fans have seen with previous generations, the name ‘Xbox Series X’ allows room for additional consoles in the future.”
So while the next gen Xbox was announced with the name 'Xbox Series X' this appears to be a form of subtitle, and not the name of the console - although the actual name is unclear.
Know how everyone was making jokes about what the next Xbox would be called, and it turned out to be the Xbox Series X? There's just one problem - it's not called that, with Microsoft clarifying in a new interview that all future iterations of their console will simply be called "Xbox".
There are two new Xboxes coming
When Microsoft announced Project Scarlett in June of 2019, it was also strongly rumoured that it was working on a disc-less companion to its next gen Xbox, codenamed Lockhart. This name had been rumoured since 2018, although exact details of the console were sparse.
In June, Microsoft announced Project Scarlett, a new iteration of the Xbox that the company said would “set a new bar for console power, speed and performance.” What Microsoft didn’t say is that it is also working on a lower-cost, disc-less version of Scarlett, code-named Lockhart, according to four people briefed on the company’s plans.
Sources speaking to Kotaku U.S. in December confirmed the development of this secondary next gen Xbox alongside the Xbox Series X, with the disc-less console being compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro in terms of "raw graphical power."
Lockhart is said to have a solid-state drive and a faster CPU than any current video game console — although this is to be expected for a next gen device. It's likely that the disc-less Lockhart console is designed for use with Xbox Games Pass and the xCloud streaming service.
Xbox Series X Design and Hardware
The next gen Xbox isn't like most consoles. Rather than going for the traditional horizontal look, it resembles a PC tower — but those afraid they won't have space for it can breath a sigh of relief, because the next gen Xbox has been designed to support both vertical and horizontal orientation, with no impact on performance.
It's a good thing, too, because most standard TV cabinets won't be able to house its thick chassis standing up.
Xbox Series X's ideal target performance is 4K / 60fps
This standard was revealed to Kotaku by the developers that revealed the existence of the second, disc-less next gen Xbox. The leaked information stated that the ideal target performance for the new main console (the version already revealed) would be 4K resolution and 60 frames per second, with the second, disc-less console aiming to run at 1440p resolution and 60 frames per second.
While that doesn't mean every game will be able to hit those performance benchmarks, this is the target that Microsoft aims to hit.
The Xbox controller is getting a refresh
When the Xbox Series X was announced, we got a sneak peak at the the Xbox's next gen controller — and while it's fundamentally similar to the Xbox One controller, there are some key differences. At a glance, there's a brand new share button which allows better screenshot capture, and a more complex D-pad inspired by the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller.
Microsoft also detailed in the announcement that its shape has been refined to accomodate a wider range of people, although how exactly this has been implemented is unclear.
The new Xbox controller will also be compatible with the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs — and will come bundled with the next gen Xbox, as is standard.
Xbox Series X Confirmed Games
At the 2019 Game Awards, Hellblade 2, sequel to the excellent Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was revealed with a mysterious new trailer. The footage released was our first glimpse at the capabilities of the next gen Xbox, with all footage being captured in-game.
Other games confirmed to be coming to the next gen Xbox include:
- Halo Infinite
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Gods & Monsters
- Rainbow Six Quarantine
- Two mystery Ubisoft titles
- Untitled Battlefield sequel
The list is minimal at the moment, and it's likely that Microsoft has many, many more surprises hidden up its sleeve. We can expect more announcements in the months to come.
But no exclusives at launch
In a recent interview with MCV, Head of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, indicated that the next gen Xbox would not have an exclusive titles that couldn't be played on other devices, seemingly including the Xbox One in that statement:
As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices,” Booty explains. “We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.
This means that most or all games released for the next gen Xbox are likely also coming to the Xbox One and PC, at least over the next one or two years.
The next gen Xbox will have backwards compatibility
Alongside these new releases, the next gen Xbox will still support Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games via backwards compatibility, as confirmed in the initial launch announcement. Xbox made a point to confirm that all four generations of Xbox would be playable on the next gen console.
Xbox Game Pass works on the next gen Xbox
In that same launch announcement, Microsoft confirmed that the stellar Xbox Game Pass service would be available on its next gen console.
The new Xbox will support a subscription model
Subscriptions are the future of gaming. Already, mainstream services like Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Online are becoming essential tools for the average gamer - and even consoles are joining the subscription fray, with Telstra offering bundled console subscriptions via Xbox All Access in Australia.
So consoles as a service are a thing in Australia. And if you don't want to pay any upfront cost then maybe a once a month payment is actually a good deal. But it's not the cheapest way to grab a console in the long term, especially when we don't know what the cost of Project Scarlett is like. So instead of paying several hundred dollars or more over the long term, here's all the other options available.
Xbox All Access offers a range of options, including bundles that include an Xbox One X, Game Pass Ultimate and digital game download for $38 a month when signed up to a Telstra phone contract. There's also a cheaper, $27 per month tier which includes an Xbox One S. Both plans run for 24 months.
On the official Xbox All Access page, Microsoft confirmed that anyone signed up to Xbox All Access that had made at least 12 payments on their original Xbox All Access contract could upgrade to a contract that included the next gen Xbox, although pricing was not announced.
For those unable to make a one-off payment, a month-by-month subscription for the next Xbox could be a solid alternative. We'll have to stay tuned to see how the console's subscription model pans out.
As we approach the release of the next gen Xbox, we're likely to see more solid information pop up about the console, including exact technical specifications and pricing - and we'll keep this post updated as we learn more.