Microsoft's surprising (and random) Xbox Series X announcement shows refreshing confidence

Xbox Series X Short Specs
Xbox Series X Short Specs (Image credit: Microsoft)

Randomly and without a huge amount of fanfare, Microsoft today revealed that the Xbox Series X will be 12TF, confirming our previous leak from last year. In a written address to Xbox fans, Microsoft gaming lead Phil Spencer closed out the piece on the Xbox Series X specs by expressing the desire to be transparent with fans.

Microsoft is a company that generally has been a bit hit-and-miss when it comes to relaying information to the public, although they have gotten a lot better at it in recent years, taking a more open posture. Not only is it a sign of the times, but it's also encouraging that Microsoft seems to be getting with the times.

Exuding confidence

The Xbox Series X announcement cycle has been a bit of an odd one and stands at stark contrast to the way the Xbox One was revealed back in 2013. The Xbox One was announced with a slew of features that pitched it as an entertainment center, rather than game console, in an address that felt more like it was aimed at shareholders rather than customers. Today's Xbox has very different ideas.

The Game Awards is rapidly becoming one of the most important dates in the video game year, with more and more developers and publishers using it as a way to showcase upcoming games alongside the show's flagship awards.

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Microsoft used The Game Awards to show off the Xbox Series X's design, out of the blue, completely without warning and far ahead of Sony's PlayStation 5, which has yet to be glimpsed.

Microsoft has also been forthcoming with the Xbox's specs in recent years, allowing Digital Foundry to do a full deep dive on the Xbox One X, and now revealing details about the Xbox Series X in a blog post, rather than waiting for a more marketable event to piggyback on. The approach comes across as less "forced" to me, and speaks to the confidence Microsoft has in its product here.

The "Direct" approach

Source: Windows Central Phil Spencer addresses the audience at E3. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This shift can also be seen in other companies, most notably Nintendo, whose "Nintendo Direct" YouTube deep-dives have become almost like mini-events of their own. The recent Pokemon and Animal Crossing Nintendo Direct shows seem to capture the imagination of the game's fans in a way that some of the more old-fashioned showcases simply don't.

Being upfront and to-the-point is something Microsoft often struggles with. PR-heavy language and overthought marketing has often typified Microsoft's showcases, which in my opinion, often comes across as lacking in confidence. I feel like some of Microsoft's Inside Xbox shows have fallen a little on the side of being "overproduced," in some ways, with tons of filler. Although there are signs Microsoft is improving its approach here too.

Microsoft and Ninja Theory unveiled Project Mara randomly via a video deep-dive, much like Nintendo's direct-style showcases. Microsoft has also been doing some developer diaries for the upcoming Minecraft Dungeons in much the same way.

Let's have more of this

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

The fact Microsoft is being so upfront about the Xbox Series X exudes a level of confidence that simply wasn't there for the original Xbox One launch back in 2013, where the company seemed to spend more time apologizing for it than anything else. The direct-to-customers approach with increased transparency helps us get an idea about what's on the horizon, without having to wait for E3, The Game Awards, or specific shows to hear information.

I'd love to see this approach extend to games, which are now abundant within Microsoft's 15-studio-strong stable at Xbox Game Studios. Why wait for an overload of information at a single time in the year? It would make far more sense to drip feed us information as soon as it's ready, building faith in the platform over time, alongside the Xbox Game Pass subscription that relies on rolling monthly payments.

Either way, let's have some more of this transparency across the board Microsoft. Yeah?

Xbox Series X/S

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Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

26 Comments
  • I don't think MS is going to dictate terms to it's first party studios like that, and it would be wrong of them to do so. Transparency has a cost in time, effort, and resources. It doesn't always make sense. Xbox leadership should be empowering their studios to do what they feel is best for their products and teams. If that's being super transparent, they should be supporting and encouraging that, but if it isn't, they should be supporting that too. Let the individual studios run their own PR strategies based on their individual needs. Xbox Game Studios isn't a monolith, it shouldn't be treated as one.
  • Studios don't run their own PR, ever, lol. Unless they're independent. Studios create, they might have input on PR, but it's not their primary concern to do PR and marketing. I think you're misunderstanding what I'm asking for here. Holding back all the info specifically for an E3 or X0 or Game Awards would be more of a burden than just shipping the info as and when it's ready imo.
  • Yeah what Jez said. I didn't get what the other poster got from the article at all.
  • What Jez is asking for is that developers take on more work so that he can get more news more quickly. That isn't free. It shouldn't be expected. And it definitely shouldn't be a decision imposed on their game studios by Microsoft. Even with regard to the hardware reveals Microsoft is doing more work. They're not skipping E3, so by doing Game Awards, they had to prep for two events, not just one. They had to pay all the marketing costs associated with that reveal video, and they're going to need to have just as many marketing videos at E3. It's all added cost. They feel it's worth it, and Phil isn't giving up as much as a developer would to do that. But it has a cost. The article acts as if the decision is all about timing. It isn't. It's about how many resources are devoted to marketing; It isn't a decision to be more open, it's a decision to spend more resources on being more open. In the case of the games themselves that's also going to eat into the resources devoted to development, because the only people capable of doing the work to generate the information to share are the developers. And their time is zero sum. Every minute spent on an interview or going over a press release for accuracy is a minute not spent making the game.
  • Maybe the poster didn't even read the article to begin with.
  • Microsoft is not telling Ninja Theory to put out the video that you just referenced in your article and they're certainly not making it for them. Ninja Theory is doing that because it's how they did things prior to acquisition. Microsoft is not micromanaging the Rare Sea of Thieves dev diaries. They're not getting in the way of Double Fine doing their own behind the scenes video content either. And all of those things are being done using developer resources because sitting down to put that together is time taken away from other work. Information on the state of a game isn't something that just gets generated passively. It isn't something that naturally reaches a point where it's ready and can then just go out. Anything that's being communicated is the result of people doing work so that it can be communicated. Even a simple press release requires time and effort on the part of numerous people. There's always an opportunity cost to that. That decision should be left to the teams. You personally wanting more news outside of events shouldn't matter to game devs if it doesn't make sense for them to provide it. Devs should do what makes sense for their projects. If that's only having news at big events, that's what they should do. And that's going to be different on a team by team basis.
  • Well this recent confirmation completely makes the 4chan leak incorrect. And makes the AMD leak completely accurate. 12tflops officially confirmed. RDNA 2.0 Navi confirmed. (not 1.5 as 4chan claimed) By comparison current high end Navi PC GPU 5700XT is RDNA 1.0 and 9tflops. Confirmed Series X is built with
    Variable rate shaders into the metal of the console. (this could be a big game changer from what many are saying about this) Hardware accelerated Direct X Ray Tracing. Among other things the tweet and subsequent Xbox wire article talk about. Customized SSD so on and so forth. The new PC Navi RDNA 2.0 cards are a month or 2 away from retail. And the first benchmarks of the 5900XT(placeholder name) are 30% faster GPUs than an RTX 2080TI. So IMO Series X is faster than any current gaming PC out there. And will beat an RTX 2080TI PC quite handily. It looks like we finally will be back to the days when consoles released with specs higher or matching the best the PC had to offer at the consoles release.
  • Don't forget you can have more than one of these 2080 GPU in a PC... I get your point but if you have the cash you'll always be able to have a better PC rig than a console at launch... Why do you think they call themselves the "pc master race"... Now that being said... Most people don't have high end PC rigs
  • Yeah but very few PC games take advantage of dual GPUs. And in some instances cases more problems than its worth. But yeah I see your point also. Upto the Xbox 360 and PS3 console releases were always using cutting edge specs. Even doing things that hadn't been seen on PC yet. Especially in the case of N64 and Xbox Original. (bare in mind I'm talking about when it launched. Not years into its life.) I've estimated myslef before that Series X this Gen will be one of the biggest leaps in console Gens for awhile. I'm more excited it's using RDNA 2.0 Navi than I am about the Floating point operations. The very fact it's RDNA 2 right there means it will be more powerful than any current PC Navi card or RTX card on the market today. That Hellblade 2 trailer where it said realtime engine. That is absolutely possible. In fact expect better than that by Gens end.
  • Here's the key... If I can get all the 'flops, SSD, and customized everything for around $500, then I'm good. I know that PCs can beat the performance, but at what price?
  • I disagree, there will not be a console gen leap as substantial as SNES era to N64, it just simply won't happen because we are at the point where things aren't as clearly obvious. The more important advances need to be in the way we play games, not the way games look. This generation dabbled with it a bit but most games were just a coat of paint rather than mixing up the way we experience games. I suspect that the next gen is going to be more of the same, there will be indie developers pushing the boundaries of what a video game can be, and blockbusters are going to be, for the most part, fun but shallow.
  • Well obviously nothing will compare to 2d - 3d change. Nothing. But this will be much bigger than 360 to Xbox One. As I said Hellblade 2 is totally possible. And will beaten.
  • Yeah, I think if we take the One X out of the equation the One/S to the SX is definitely a huge leap. I'll be keen to see what they do with the CPU mostly because it's a big upgrade.
  • "Don't forget you can have more than one of these 2080 GPU in a PC"
    True, and the price goes up.
    What is being missed here is that you might be getting X Series at the price of 2080 GPU only, now you save the price of the PC.
    Notes:
    EVGA - GeForce RTX 2080 Ti XC Ultra Gaming 11GB GDDR6 PCI Express 3.0 Graphics Card =$1,249.99 on bestbuy. Regular 2080 GPU = $799.00 (So, 2 of these =$1600)
    I doubt the most powerful of the X Series will be more than $1000 GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition
    GPU Architecture Turing
    RTX-OPS 60T
    Boost Clock 1800 MHz (OC)
    Frame Buffer 8 GB GDDR6
    Memory Speed 14 Gbps
    11.3 TFLOPS GeForce RTX 2080
    GPU Architecture Turing
    RTX-OPS 57T
    Boost Clock 1710 MHz
    Frame Buffer 8 GB GDDR6
    Memory Speed 14 Gbps
    8.9 TFLOPS
  • My guess is it wont be faster than any current high end gaming PC. TFLOP does not determine graphical prowess and is merely marketing. The Xbox One X claims 6TFLOP yet performs as good as a GTX1060 which is rated at around 4TFLOP. A Vega 64 card is rated at just under 13TFLOP yet performs as well as an RTX2070 (7.5TFLOP). TFLOP is just good in comparing the next generation of consoles with one another, not with different platforms (PC) because there are so many other factors to take into consideration. My guess is the series X will hover between an rtx2070 super and an rtx2080 (9-10TFLOP) in terms of graphical prowess which would be good if they can keep the price down.
  • Great to see coms like this from MS. Looking like a beast. I think PS will have a slight edge on SSD speed. But, I'm all in on Xbox. Hope they retain the family sharing-esque features. I buy way more games due to that. We have two Xboxes in the house, so it helps massively. This gen, the hardware will be so close, it almost won't matter which you buy, but I'll be sticking with Xbox. Can't wait for the price reveals.
  • It might not happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if the PS5 has higher specs than the SX, simply because Sony know what they need to beat. That being said TFLOPS don't mean that much (it's the other metrics of the card that really matter, like memory bandwidth, what memory is being used, how many RT cores, etc), I mean technically if you just look at that figure it's only twice the power of the One X, whereas the Xbox One X was over four times more powerful than the Xbox One. That doesn't denote a very significant advance for a new system (obviously the Sony camp is in the same boat). It's undeniably going to be better, but it isn't as significant as past console releases, that's why there is such a focus on other software advances instead. That's what will make or break.
  • Impossible. PS5 is already locked down. Nothing will change inside either machine. Save for maybe an extra bit if ram. Both PS5 and Series X are locked in hardware wise. Production lines have been finalized. Sony can't change anything about PS5 without delaying it a year. MS knows this which is why we have details now. PS5 will be the same as the AMD leak. Just like the Series X is the same as the AMD leak. But that will all become visible when Sony catch up to telling the consumers what's going on. Your right about TFLOPS though. The more exciting this is its RDNA 2.0. That's guarantees a huge jump in power. Tflops actually are not the best thing about this news to people who know.
  • Yeah, I'm excited about RDNA 2.0 as well. I'm also really keen to see what they can do physics and AI wise with the spec boost.
  • Could you imagine buying ps4 game and having it auto uograde when you play it on ps5.
  • https://youtu.be/qTYuYvD_TU0 Mic Drop. This console is an absolute monster.
  • Still no mention of HDMI in. PS5 is looking better and better every day.
  • But PS5 hasn't got that announced either??!!
  • And there won't be.
  • For good reason, It ain't happening.
  • Yeah, Playstation has never had HDMI in, that's a weird thing to say.