The Xbox Series X is Microsoft's big next-gen console, built for speed and power, but also to address many learnings from the Xbox One generation. It's no secret that the PlayStation 4 resoundingly triumphed over Microsoft in the console space, selling well over 100 million units, to the estimated 40-50 million Microsoft managed to shift.
The fact Microsoft was able to keep pace at all is a testament to the changes made under Xbox lead Phil Spencer and his team, putting the focus back on gaming and pivoting away from entertainment and smart home features. Now, Xbox is more focused on doing what it does best — gaming — and the future is looking bright.
So, in five bitesize chunks, here are five of the best reasons to give the Xbox Series X some serious consideration, ahead of its planned Holiday 2020 launch.
More investment in games than ever
More so than ever, Microsoft is doubling, tripling, and quadrupling its investment in home-grown games, following some intense criticism from gamers and even more intense competition from Sony and Nintendo, both of whom have been releasing critically acclaimed titles at an unstoppable pace.
Microsoft has had some success stories of its own of course, with Minecraft becoming the most popular game of all time, and games like Forza Horizon 3 and 4, which elevated the racing franchise to all-new heights. Ori and the Blind Forest also won it a heap of praise, with a sequel dropping in March 2020. Xbox fans asked for more, though, and it looks like more they will get.
Microsoft scooped up a legion of new studios, including Ninja Theory, Double Fine, Undead Labs, Playground Games, inXile, Compulsion, and Obsidian. Microsoft also began expanding its own, growing Rare, The Coalition, and 343i, while setting up World's Edge for Age of Empires and the mysterious Initiative studio.
From this vast stable, we're expecting Hellblade II to showcase the full power of the Xbox Series X, with the trailer above showcasing some seriously mind-blowing in-engine graphics. Forza always tends to be a showcase for the power of next-gen systems, with Halo and Gears to continue Microsoft's investment in shooters. Beyond that, Undead Labs is likely to take State of Decay to all-new heights with its next installment, and Playground Games is rumored to be working on an RPG in the Fable franchise of yore.
Here's literally everything we (think we) know about Microsoft's upcoming games portfolio. And what's more, they'll all be available on the cheap and cheerful Xbox Game Pass subscription from day one.
Ray-tracing is a game-changer
The Xbox Series X is a beastly 12TF system capable of running games all the way up to 8K resolution with 120 frames per second, although it's more likely in the short term that most games will be 4K60, taking advantage of most contemporary TVs. Either way, that's a huge amount of overhead for developers to work with, producing smoother and more detailed visuals than previously possible on a console.
Of all of this, the most exciting aspect is DirectX ray tracing, set to be baked into the Xbox Series X with hardware acceleration. Above is NVIDIA's RTX ray tracing example, which Microsoft is building for Minecraft on PC. You can expect similar visual results on the Xbox Series X when it launches later in 2020.
Ray tracing effectively replaces the tired lighting and reflection tricks of current-gen games with dynamic, physics-based methods. This adds a level of dynamism that has up to now been only possible on higher-end PCs and in very limited segments of specific games on console. Real-time reflections, vivid lighting and shadows will add a whole new dimension to games on console for the first time.
Loading screens be gone
Next-gen will place a big emphasis on eliminating loading times, and to that end, Microsoft is leveraging custom NVMe SSD drives to push the near-elimination of loading speeds. We've heard these storage devices can hit anywhere up to 2 GB/s read speeds, and could even exceed that, taking games like Sea of Thieves from a 40 second initial load speed down to 2-5 seconds.
The SSD tech also helps in other areas. Microsoft will enable the Xbox Series X to fast resume from multiple games. You'll be able to leave your games in a suspended state, and instantly resume them at any time. Right now, you can only do that with one game at a time on the Xbox One S or X.
Finally, we've heard Microsoft is working to use Project XCloud game streaming to eliminate download times too. If you're downloading a large game from Xbox Live, you may be able to stream supported titles over your internet connection while you wait.
Revamped controller for the social age
As is typical tradition, Microsoft is iterating on the standard Xbox controller for the next-gen age. This new controller willl work not only on Xbox Series X, but on Xbox One consoles and PC as well, bringing in some much-requested upgrades.
Most notably is the revamped d-pad, which follows some of the stylings from the Elite Xbox controllers, which should make it more tactile and easier to use. Additionally, (and finally, thank god), the Xbox Series X controller has a share button, bringing it in line with the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch controllers repsectively. You'll be able to instantly share your clips and screenshots to social networks far more easily than is possible right now.
It's also possible there are a few other tricks up this controller's sleeves. We'll have to wait to find out more.
Your entire Xbox One library goes with you
Next-gen isn't just about the Xbox Series X, but also Project XCloud and Xbox Game Streaming. The Xbox Series X is designed with streaming in mind, allowing you to pull your games from your home network to a mobile device anywhere in the world, providing there's stable-enough internet.
Additionally, Microsoft has pledged backward compatibility with all the OG Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games currently available in your library. Pervasive backward compatibility means that your entire library will move into the future with you, without having to re-buy anything.
Games can also be upgraded to take advantage of the Xbox Series X's capabilities, like ray tracing, with many developers such as Microsoft and CD Projekt RED have pledged to provide these upgrades for free. Some, however, may opt to charge a fee.
One to watch
The Xbox Series X is shaping up to be an incredible console if Microsoft can nail all of this potential. 12TF of power combined with refined features, insta-loading speeds and more investment in games than ever before makes for some seriously exciting prospects.
The Xbox Series X is slated to launch in the holiday season of 2020, and we can't wait.
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