Everything We Know About The Xbox Series X

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Photo: Microsoft
Photo: Microsoft

We’re still months away from the “holiday 2020” season, which means we’re months away from the Xbox Series X existing in the wild. There’s a new Halo on the horizon, and we’ve all heard plenty about those teraflops, but beyond that, information has come out slower than self-serve frozen yogurt. With the runup to launch in mind, here’s everything we know about the Xbox Series X.

I heard this thing has a lot of teraflops.

It sure does — 12, to be specific. Microsoft calls it “the most powerful console ever.”

What the heck does that even mean?

Basically, Xbox Series X owners will be able to tell (most of) their PC-playing friends to stuff it. For tech enthusiasts, Kotaku’s Mike Fahey has the full breakdown of what’s under the hood. For everyone else, here are the need-to-know bullet points:

  • The Xbox Series X will have 1 TB of solid state drive (SSD) storage — double the 500 GB included in launch models of the Xbox One.
  • What’s more, an SSD promises faster load times than you’d get from a hard-disk drive (HDD), the type of storage included in the Xbox One. Video evidence we’ve seen thus far corroborates this.
  • Storage is expandable — either through a 1 TB expansion card, or via USB 3.2.
  • The Xbox Series X will have an eight-core CPU running at 3.8 GHz. In the memory department, it’ll rock a 16 GB GDDR6 with 320 mb bus. To put it plainly: This thing is fast.
  • Games can run at a max of to 120 frames per second (FPS).

That all sounds very impressive, but are there any cool features?

The technical guts are certainly a level-up over last gen, but new features are the true hallmark of generational evolution. Microsoft has touted two big ones for the Xbox Series X: Quick Resume and Smart Delivery.

Quick Resume: Thanks to Quick Resume, you can suspend multiple games at any point and resume them whenever you want — without loading screens. We don’t know for sure how this will work with multiplayer games. Will you get booted from that match of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 17? Or will you just sit there, motionless, waiting to get sniped? Only time — and ruined kill-death ratios — will tell.

Halo Infinite (Screenshot: 343 Industries, Microsoft)

Smart Delivery: Simply put, if you buy a game for Xbox One, you’ll also get the Xbox Series X version of that game when you upgrade consoles. Not all games fall under this umbrella, but, notably, first-party games — including Halo Infinite — are included. For third-party games, it’s up to the publisher. Smart Delivery will work equally for digital and disc-based games (again, depending on the publisher). While a full list of available games hasn’t been ironed out, expect to see some of the fall’s biggest releases, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077, support Smart Delivery.

Is Smart Delivery support necessary for backwards compatibility?

Nope. Backwards compatibility is a huge selling point for the Xbox Series X. In March, Microsoft tweeted out that all games currently playable on the Xbox One will be playable on the Xbox Series X. The tweet was quickly deleted, and Microsoft walked back the claim. Still, more recently, the company announced that “thousands of games” — dating all the way back to the original Xbox — will be playable at launch.

One thing we know for sure: Most games from previous generations will see marked improvements on the Xbox Series X. Thanks to the console’s boosted tech, some games could see frame rates jump from 30 FPS to 60 FPS; others could go from 60 FPS to 120 FPS. In certain cases, 4K resolution could be supported. At the moment, we don’t know which games will get facelifts, nor do we know which games are (and aren’t) playable at all. An official list of all backwards compatible games has not been released.

How will I get my save data from Xbox One to Xbox Series X?

Whether you’re playing a backwards compatible game or the Smart Delivery upgraded version, your game progression will automatically carry over. Microsoft hasn’t shared details about how this works on Xbox Series X, but there’s a similar system in place on the Xbox One.

Currently, on Xbox One, as long as you’re connected to the internet and signed up for Xbox Live, your games will save to the cloud. Then, when you sign in again — whether on your home Xbox One or on someone else’s console — you’ll be able to pick up exactly where you left off. (That’s why you may see a “Syncing data for…” notification when you boot up a game.) It’s about as seamless as features get. Here’s hoping it lives on unchanged in the Xbox Series X.

Are my favourite studios making new games for the Xbox Series X?

Probably! In a May episode of Inside Xbox, Microsoft confirmed partnerships with a staggering number of third-party studios. Some true industry heavy hitters are on there, including [deep breath] Epic Games, Dontnod Entertainment, Gearbox, Playdead, Annapurna Interactive, Bethesda, Capcom, THQ Nordic, Square Enix, WB Games, Crystal Dynamics, Bandai Namco, Konami, and Bungie (in, presumably, a non-Halo capacity). For those interested, here’s a full list:

Talk to me about Xbox Series X games.

A new Xbox isn’t an Xbox without a Halo. Good thing, then, that Halo Infinite is a planned launch title for the Xbox Series X. (Halo Infinite is also coming to Xbox One.)

In that May episode of Inside Xbox, Microsoft showed off some third-party games. One visual standout is a first-person shooter called Bright Memory: Infinite. You shoot guns. You swing swords. It’s set in a dystopian future. There’s more lens flare than a J.J. Abrams Star Trek film. Yes, it’s all very pretty, if not exactly envelope-pushing. (Bright Memory: Infinite is also coming to Xbox One.)

Scarlet Nexus (Screenshot: Bandai Namco, Microsoft)

Bandai Namco is kicking off a cool new IP on the Xbox Series X: Scarlet Nexus. Described as “Brain Punk,” Scarlet Nexus features mutants, psionic powers, and some sweet-looking action-RPG combat. (Scarlet Nexus is also coming to Xbox One.)

Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t the only cyberpunk game coming out this fall. The Ascent, a cooperative, isometric action-RPG full of neon and body mods, is scheduled for release later this year. (Both Cyberpunk 2077 and The Ascent are also coming to Xbox One.)

That event also revealed the first glimpse of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla gameplay. By “glimpse,” we really mean “glimpse” — while indeed full of apparent in-engine footage, the trailer was light on actual gameplay. (Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is also coming to Xbox One.)

If Microsoft’s first-party games — the Halos, the Forzas, the Gears — are more your jam, then you likely won’t need to buy an Xbox Series X at launch. For the first year or two, Microsoft plans to release first-party games on both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Sure, Halo Infinite will probably look shinier and run smoother on the latter, but at least you won’t need to sell a kidney to see Master Chief’s next chapter. And, thanks to Smart Delivery, if you end up shelling out for the Series X at some point down the road, you won’t need to repurchase Infinite either.

A recent Sony event, “The Future of Gaming,” showcased a far deeper bench of next-gen games than Microsoft did during the May 7 episode of Inside Xbox. While some obvious first-party Sony games, like Horizon Forbidden West and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, are PlayStation exclusives, many of the showcased games — including Hitman 3, Resident Evil Village, and NBA 2K21 — are coming to Xbox Series X. Here’s a comprehensive list of games that will be available for both consoles:

Will Game Pass be available on Xbox Series X at launch?

Yes.

How will this thing look in my living room?

It’s right in the name: The Xbox Series X will look like a big black box. According to Xbox’s Phil Spencer, the console is designed “to support both vertical and horizontal orientation.” Here’s what it looks like vertically:

No, that's not an upmarket fridge. (Photo: Microsoft)

Why’s it shaped like a jet-black Sub-Zero, you ask? Simple: To help with ventilation. By standing upright, with vents on the top, any heat generated can escape right out of the top.

Fans of the Xbox One controller will be happy to hear that the Xbox Series X controller isn’t much different. The overall shape is largely the same, with a few tiny tweaks. For one, the D-pad is set on a circle and thus will be more dynamic in the directional choices you have. All Series X bumpers have a dotted texture, too, much like some limited-edition Xbox One controller offerings. To the surefire chagrin of some players, one thing will remain unchanged: This controller will rely on AA batteries for power.

Why fix what isn't broken? (Photo: Microsoft)

What are we calling it for shorthand?

As a phrase, “Xbox Series X” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but a consensus alternative hasn’t emerged yet. There’s “Series X,” which is easy to say but also sounds like a knockoff Tesla. There’s “Nextbox,” which is both terrible and also doomed to a short shelf-life. (What happens when Microsoft announces the Xbox after this?) On social media, you’ve probably seen “XSX.” Yes, the acronym is hard to say out loud, but it’s short, snappy, and immensely satisfying to type out. Seriously. Try it out.

Me? I’m going with XSX Tricky.

OK, what don’t we know?

The Xbox Series X is scheduled for a “holiday 2020” release, but we don’t know the exact date. We also don’t know anything about a price point or about any alternate models. Theoretically, a digital-only model — something akin to the Xbox One S — would clock in at a lower price point than one with a disc drive. And, according to reporting by Kotaku, a disc-free version is indeed in the works. Still, Microsoft hasn’t officially revealed any details about that.

But most distressingly, Microsoft hasn’t shed a single particle of light on what Xbox Series X disc cases might look like. In 2013, gamers were roundly and rightfully disgusted that, in Xbox One game cases, the disc slots were on the left, rather than on the right, which we can all accept is the way things should be. With the Xbox Series X, will Microsoft repeat this travesty?

Perhaps some of these questions will be answered later this summer. Microsoft is planning on showcasing first-party gameplay during a digital event next month. Like much else surrounding this machine, the event’s exact date hasn’t been announced.

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Correction: 12:52 p.m.: A previous version of this article failed to note that the console can stand both vertically and horizontally.

Comments

  • I would really like that Quick Resume feature to become available in Windows 10. Especially among multiple games like on Xbox. It looks rad.

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