Officially dubbed Xbox One X, Microsoft’s long anticipated mid-generation console upgrade – known for the last year under its code name, Project Scorpio – was revealed to audiences at the company’s E3 press conference in Los Angeles on Sunday, and given a launch date of November 7.
Not to be confused with the company’s 2016 Xbox One upgrade, Xbox One S, which introduced minor performance improvements and the ability to watch 4K Blu-ray discs, the Xbox One X is an unmitigated dynamo of a console. It bumps CPU speed by a third, adds 50 per cent more RAM, and quadruples the graphics capability of the original Xbox One. Going by the numbers, it’s the most powerful console ever made, as Microsoft mentioned many times during its event.
What all of this means in non-geek speak is that the Xbox One X can run graphically sophisticated games in native 4K at 60 frames per second. Boiled down even further, if developers take the time to fully optimize their games for Xbox One X (a big if, given the time and resources required), they should look better on Microsoft’s console than any other console currently available. Electronic Arts opted to show BioWare’s new game,
, at Microsoft’s E3 press conference specifically because the game looks best running on Xbox One X. And this is an advantage Microsoft’s new hardware will likely hold until the next generation of consoles emerges several years from now.
So, Microsoft has a new feather in its cap, and it ought to stay there for a good long while. The question that interests me, however, is this: Is it going to make a difference in this generation of consoles? Will it help give the Seattle-based company the bump it desperately needs in its battle against Sony’s dominating PlayStation 4 family?
Make no mistake, the relatively recent trend of mid-generation console upgrades brings with it huge opportunities for manufacturers. They can rectify mistakes made with their original products, further differentiate their wares from those of their competitors, and hone in on and cater to the specific and emerging demands of their customers. Microsoft has done all of this with Xbox One X.
But it’s also made some mistakes along the way.
Releasing the Xbox One S last year was one of them. Enticing a gamer to replace his or her console midway through a generation is already a pretty big ask. When most people buy a game machine, they figure it’s going to last them until its true successor launches seven or eight years down the line. Hence, any Xbox loyalists who already upgraded to an Xbox One S last year probably won’t be interested in buying a third Xbox One this year.
Another mistake, potentially, is the pricing. The Xbox One X will launch at a whopping $600 here in Canada – nearly twice the cost of the most affordable Xbox One S bundle, and a $100 premium over the only slightly less powerful PlayStation 4 Pro* (though, it’s worth noting, Canadian gamers are actually getting a deal compared to their American counterparts once you factor in currency conversion**).
One of the reasons why the console market continues to thrive is that it offers an affordable entry point into the world of high quality games. For just a few hundred bucks people can start enjoying the latest and greatest games. A pricey machine like the Xbox One X, however, seems to be edging consoles toward the premium world of PC gaming.
And, to be fair, Microsoft is unequivocally positioning the Xbox One X as a premium game machine. The company’s executives are making no apologies for its price, spending time with media this week explaining that it is a box explicitly designed for graphics connoisseurs, people who want their console games to look as good as they can, and who have the right sort of TV – one with support for both 4K and HDR – to take advantage of it.
But that narrows down the Xbox One X audience considerably. And if Microsoft’s ultimate goal is to get more Xbox Ones into significantly more people’s hands – which it should be – I’m not sure this will do it. At least not before it undergoes a price cut.
I don’t want to be too much of a party pooper. The jump in graphics quality from a standard PlayStation 4 to a PlayStation 4 Pro is instantly noticeable, and the Xbox One X promises an even bigger upgrade from the original Xbox One. If it delivers the goods – and, based on early reports from E3 attendees, it seems it will – I’ll want to experience all of my future Xbox One games on Microsoft’s new console.
I just have some doubt as to whether Xbox One X will shift much momentum back to Microsoft’s beleaguered games division in the current console war.
* Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro is currently selling for C$500 in Canada, and some have speculated that we could see a price drop at Sony’s E3 press conference Monday night.
** Taking into account currency conversion, it’s actually a better deal to buy an Xbox One X in Canada than south of the border, where it costs US$500. If rates hold from now through the fall, Americans who cross the border to buy an Xbox One X in Canada this November will save around $70.
Source: xbox one – Google News