Over the summer, information about Microsoft’s next-gen console came out slower than self-serve frozen yogurt. We knew the name (Xbox Series X), broad release date (“Holiday 2020”), and some specs. Then Labor Day weekend happened, and the floodgates opened. Now, we have a release date, a price tag, some detailed information about the long-unconfirmed disc-less model (the Xbox Series S), and a delayed Halo Infinite. With launch just a few weeks away, here’s everything we know about Microsoft’s next-gen offerings.
[This posted originally ran on 6/16/2020. We’ve bumped it up after more information about the Xbox Series X has become available.]
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 1TB of solid state drive (SSD) storage—double the 500GB 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 1TB expansion card, which will cost $220, 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 16GB GDDR6 with 320 mb bus. To put it plainly: This thing is fast.
- Some games can run at a max of to 120 frames per second (FPS). (According to Microsoft, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is getting that next-gen frame-rate boost in a November 17 update.)
I’m assuming the Xbox Series S is rated for fewer teraflops.
You assumed correctly. Its GPU can manage 4 teraflops. For those keeping score, the Xbox One X, an officially discontinued machine, clocked in at 6. However, its GPU is based on older tech so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with the Xbox Series S’ newer GPU.
Weird. Is the Series S less powerful than the Series X in other ways?
Some, yes. Kotaku’s Ethan Gach rounded up the full breakdown, but if you just want the SparkNotes, here they are:
- For internal storage, the Xbox Series S will have a 512GB SSD.
- The CPU runs at 3.6GHz—slightly slower—while for memory it’s equipped with 10GB GDDR6.
- Like the Xbox Series X, it’ll support the 1TB expandable storage card.
- Games can run at up to 120 frames per second, but the Xbox Series S is targeting a resolution of 1440p at 60 frames per second, rather than the Xbox Series X’s 4K at the same frame rate.
Still, despite the lower horsepower, Xbox head Phil Spencer has high hopes for the Series S. In an interview with Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo from earlier this month, Spencer said he thinks the Series X will sell better at launch, but that the Series S will pick up steam and outsell the X in the long run.
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.
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 backward compatibility?
Nope. Backward 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. You’ll also be able to plug an external Xbox One drive into the Series X or S and run your backward compatible games from day one.
Microsoft has said that every game currently playable on the Xbox One, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles—but with the exception of some that require Kinect connectivity—will be playable on these new consoles. Beyond that, Microsoft plans to have 30 cross-gen titles “optimized” for the Xbox Series X, meaning, basically, that they’ll look better and play smoother than their Xbox One counterparts. A good two-thirds of those games—including Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Gears Tactics, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and this month’s fascinating Watch Dogs: Legion—will support Smart Delivery as well. (Here’s a full list.)
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—but only on the Xbox Series X.
The Xbox Series S, of course, won’t be able take advantage of that machine’s considerable horsepower. Speaking to Eurogamer, Microsoft confirmed that backward compatible games would be capped at a resolution of 1440p, consistent with that machine’s hardware. Though less than the enhancements capable with the current-gen Xbox One X—which offers 4K resolution—the Series S still offers some bona fides over that console, chiefly in that potential frame rate boost. What’s more, the Series S will still bring some older games up to par. Some, for instance, that ran at 480p on the original Xbox or 720p on the Xbox 360 could see resolution boosts to 1440p on the Series S. In short, the Xbox Series S plays upgraded versions of Xbox One S games.
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 backward 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 backward 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.
In advance of the next-gen launch, Microsoft made cloud saves free for Xbox 360 users, too.
Are my favorite 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, so it’s a bit of a bummer to see the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X launch without Master Chief leading the charge. Halo Infinite, originally a planned launch title for the next-gen Xbox consoles, was delayed to an unspecified date in 2021. Still, there are plenty of other terrific-looking games coming to these machines.
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.)
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 in the coming months. The Ascent, a cooperative, isometric action-RPG full of neon and body mods, is scheduled for release early next year. (Both Cyberpunk 2077 and The Ascent are also coming to Xbox One.)
In July, Ubisoft announced that Assassins Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs Legion, and Far Cry 6 will come out for Xbox Series X. What is this, the tail end of the Xbox 360 generation? (All three games will be coming to the 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 the $70 NBA 2K21, the last of which will retail for $70 on next-gen consoles—are coming to Xbox Series X. Here’s a longer list of games that will be available for both consoles:
It sure seems like a lot of Xbox Series X games are coming to Xbox One.
That’s because a lot of them are—but not all. In a July 23 digital showcase, Microsoft lifted the curtain on a bunch of upcoming first-party titles, including the much-anticipated Halo Infinite, a new Forza, and a new role-playing game from Obsidian called Avowed.
Earlier in the year, Microsoft stated that new first-party games would release on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X for the first year or two after the Series X launched, but the July showcase muddled things. Some games released with trailers listing both Xbox One and Xbox Series X as available platforms, while their websites only listed Xbox Series X. Five games, including the new Fable (yes, development on a new Fable has been confirmed!), didn’t even have Xbox One listed in their respective trailers at all. It was confusing.
When reached for comment, Microsoft told Kotaku that “future Xbox Game Studios are being developed natively for Xbox Series X” and that playability on Xbox One would, essentially, be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. By the end of the day, two games shown in the showcase, Everwild and Avowed, had references to the Xbox One scrubbed from their digital listings.
On the plus side, all of the games shown during the showcase—and, more generally, all Microsoft first-party games—will release on Game Pass at launch.
Can I get any of these games on launch day?
Yes! Yakuza: Like A Dragon will be available from day one. The next Destiny 2 expansion, Beyond Light, will also be available (and through Game Pass, at that). Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was also bumped up by a week to launch on November 10. Gears Tactics, the terrific XCOM-ish tactical shooter, will finally see a console release—including on these next-gen machines—November 10. And that’s just the tip. Here’s a full list of everything coming to the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X at launch:
How does xCloud tie into this?
Though it’s currently in beta, starting in September, members of Game Pass Ultimate (which costs $15 a month) will have access to xCloud, Microsoft’s game-streaming service. That means you can stream any games from the Game Pass library directly on an Xbox Series X, Xbox One, or a mobile device. Hooray for not having to go through a 50GB+ download just to realize that Monster Hunter: World isn’t for you!
Will Game Pass be available on Xbox Series X at launch?
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:
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.
Meanwhile, the Xbox Series S looks like… Well, Kotaku’s Luke Plunkett said it best when he described the thing as a “piece of indestructible space exploration tech.”
Pretty spot-on, right? What’s more, Microsoft calls the Xbox Series S the “smallest Xbox ever,” touting that it’s nearly 60 percent smaller than the Xbox Series X. Of course, the console’s sleek design and diminutive size didn’t protect it from internet teasing. As soon as it was announced, this thing was memed straight to oblivion.
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.
Some of us at Kotaku have had our hands on these machines for a few weeks now. It turns out that, yes, they’re big, but not quite as big as buzz would have you believe. In person, a horizontal Series X is about the same width as a launch-edition Xbox One, but twice as tall and half as deep. And the Series S is hilariously tiny—about half the size of a PS4 Pro.
As for how we’ve set them up, that’s an easy one: Horizontally. Even the head of Xbox agrees. In that same Kotaku interview, Spencer revealed that his Series X is on its side. “I’ve just always been a console sideways kind of person,” he said.
What are we calling them for shorthand?
As a phrase, “Xbox Series X” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Same for “Xbox Series S.” Still, as yet, a consensus alternative hasn’t emerged yet. There’s “Series X” or “Series S,” both of which are easy to say but also sound lik knockoff Tesla models. There’s “Nextbox,” which is both terrible and also doomed to a short shelf-life. (What happens when Microsoft announces the generation after this?) On social media, you’ve probably seen “XSX” or “XSS.” Yes, those acronyms are hard to say out loud, but they’re short, snappy, and immensely satisfying to type out. Seriously. Try it out.
Me? I’m going with XSX Tricky. And I’m just hissing whenever I need to say the other one.
Okay, how much is all this gonna cost?
The Xbox Series X clocks in at $499, while the Xbox Series S will be available for $299. If you adjust for inflation, the Xbox Series X is cheaper at launch than both the Xbox One and the Xbox 360. Better yet, you won’t have to pay for them in one lump sum.
Through the Xbox All Access program, you’ll be to pay a monthly fee over a two-year period to finance these consoles. In some cases, you’ll be able to trade in your current-gen Xbox for a new-gen one. The Xbox Series X plan is set at $35 a month, while the Xbox Series S is set for $25 a month.
For just the console that’d be a ripoff, but Xbox All Access also includes monthly access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, itself a $15-a-month service. Next week, xCloud, the game-streaming service, will become available to members of Game Pass Ultimate. (Those at the standard tier won’t be so lucky.) Later in the fall, EA Play—a $5-a-month games-on-demand subscription that grants access to EA games, like Battlefield and Dragon Age, while also allowing players to test-drive new games for 10 hours—will be packaged into Game Pass Ultimate at no extra charge.
Sound too good to be true? Well, there’s a fairly big catch: All Access is financed through an external company. Read the terms of service closely before signing!
When can I get my hands on these things?
They’ll be available on November 10. Preorders are currently open, but, fair warning, they’re sporadic, and have been somewhat of a mess thus far.
Okay, what don’t we know?
At this point, much of the fog has cleared. We know the price, the release date, and the specs. We have a good understanding of what new features will be available. We know the tentative launch lineup.
But one distressing quandary remains. To date, Microsoft still hasn’t shown what the inside of a next-gen disc case looks 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 as the way things should be. With the Xbox Series S and X, will Microsoft repeat this travesty?
Update: 10/29, 2:30 p.m.: We’ve updated this post with information about the launch lineup, cross-gen compatibility, external storage, and some insight from Xbox chief Phil Spencer.
Update: 9/21, 6:30 p.m.: We’ve updated to include information about how backward compatible games perform on the Xbox Series S versus the Series X.
Update: 9/9, 8:45 p.m.: After a hurricane of leaks and press releases, Microsoft answered pretty much every outstanding question surrounding these next-gen consoles. We’ve updated the post accordingly.
Update: 7/29, 7:30 p.m.: We’ve updated the text throughout, and added information about upcoming games, including the very pretty Halo Infinite, and the upcoming full launch of xCloud. We’ve also contextualized some of Microsoft’s comments about cross-gen games. We still don’t know the price—or the release date.
Correction: 6/16, 12:52 p.m.: A previous version of this article failed to note that the console can stand both vertically and horizontally.