Maximizing Your Experience with Microsoft's Xbox

Maximizing Your Experience with Microsoft's Xbox
Maximizing Your Experience with Microsoft's Xbox
Jun 26, 2024

At Summer Game Fest 2024, Microsoft unveiled three new Xbox models yesterday. However, those who followed the extensive rumors from the previous year might have been startled by how little this mid-cycle upgrade altered.

In case you missed the FTC-Microsoft lawsuit last year, Activision Blizzard was acquired by Microsoft after a rather successful outcome for the firm. Redaction was one aspect of the process that went wrong. A treasure trove of internal docs, one on Xbox's future (or at least one possible future that Microsoft was considering in May 2022), was tucked away within the court files.

The Roadmap to 2030 document, according to Xbox CEO Phil Spencer, was "a presentation from our devices organization to the gaming leadership team," and he disagreed with several of the study's assumptions, he told the Federal Trade Commission in October 2022. The team's plans for both its next-generation console and its mid-cycle console upgrade, codenamed Fairhaven, were laid out in the PowerPoint deck. Basically a pitch deck, then, with certain things that were certain to happen and others that need financial backing to materialize.

Examining What Was Unannounced

Chronologically speaking, Sebile—the codename for a brand-new controller—was supposed to make its debut in May 2024. According to the leak, Sebile would be equipped with new wireless technology known as "Xbox Wireless 2." Aside from having improved haptics similar to the Switch and PS5 controllers, it would also include a direct-cloud connection akin to Stadia for lowering input latency on Xbox Cloud Gaming, making it more engaging for gamers.

Microsoft's Xbox

Then, two new Xbox systems would be unveiled during Microsoft's massive summer '24 event, which took place yesterday in real life. The first was a cylinder Xbox Series X makeover called Brooklin, which was supposed to be an all-digital $500 gadget with 2TB of storage, WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, and an integrated Sebile controller. Second, Ellewood, a $300 Series S update that comes with 1TB of storage, the Sebile controller, and the same enhanced wireless connection, but without a significant makeover.

Although all three of these devices were described as "funded," the paper also included two possible outcomes: one that would "limit Fairhaven investment" and the other that would realize the "full Fairhaven vision." While it would ostensibly have a fresh industrial style, the former would reportedly have less functions and cloud connectivity than the new controller.

Time travel to Summer Game Fest 2024, where it seemed that none of these scenarios will materialize. Since Microsoft has been selling a $350 1TB version of the Series S since last autumn, we previously assumed that it wouldn't be updated. However, Microsoft's plans for the Series X were not quite apparent, so we were left with two somewhat strange options: a $450 1TB all-digital Series X console and a $600 2TB special edition Series X with a disc drive. Microsoft has not disclosed any information on enhanced wireless connectivity, and as of right now, Sebile is unheard of; the new consoles were shown to come with normal Xbox controllers.

On their own, these are great refreshers. But with those revealed intentions, Microsoft found itself in the awkward position of competing not just with Sony and Nintendo but also with itself.

Compared to Brooklin, the 2TB $500 all-digital system with a brand-new controller that the leaked deck was promoting, a $450 all-digital 1TB console and a $600 2TB special edition are underwhelming. Considering that Microsoft and independent merchants frequently offer the old 1TB Series X for that much, the $450 console almost seems like a price rise. (It should be noted that Sony has raised the price of the PlayStation 5—the discless model is now $450 instead of the $400 it was originally priced at.) Though it's basically the same system we received last autumn, the $350 1TB Series S is also a poor deal when compared to the $300 update that was revealed.

100+ Free Xbox & Gamer Images - Pixabay

Plans vary, particularly those that are from May 2022. However, how they alter can provide insight into Microsoft's current perspective on Xbox. Sales of the Series X and S were about keeping up with those of the Xbox One back in 2022. That's not the situation anymore. Between 28 and 29 million Xbox Series consoles have been sold worldwide since their November 2020 release, according to estimates. Retail experts Circana report that even in the US, Microsoft's largest market by far, the Xbox Series consoles are lagging behind Xbox One by 13 percent.

A particularly revealing slide from the May 2022 paper projected that in three years, 25–29 million mid-cycle consoles will be shipped. That would more than double the platform's lifetime sales as of right now. It's likely that Microsoft's hardware team did not anticipate such low sales at the time. Approximately 58 million Xbox One systems were sold by Microsoft at the end of the previous console generation, a significant decrease from the 85+ million Xbox 360 consoles it had previously sold.

Microsoft doesn't release console sales data until it has something good to report, but according to independent research, an Xbox normal week in 2024 would see 60–80K units sold, with Nintendo and Sony sometimes triple that amount. Stated differently, each week Xbox lags more and more behind. Microsoft's projections for the updated consoles are definitely not 25–29 million, but it's doubtful that we'll find out.

The challenge for the Xbox team is that, for the most part, Sony and Nintendo are paving their own path and succeeding in it. After selling 58 million PlayStation 5s, Sony is getting ready to release a pro model that will have a lot more power than the Xbox Series X. It has just revealed a game that will be available on the Nintendo Switch and is going up for publication on PC. Nintendo has pre-announced a successor system that will presumably be able to run current-gen games (including Call of Duty!) with less compromises. Nintendo has sold over 140 million Switches and consistently outsells Xbox. Microsoft is having trouble selling its current consoles, is having trouble expanding Game Pass subscriptions, and looks to have put an end to the hardware team's ambitious mid-cycle update plan.

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It does have one thing, though: game developers. Microsoft's large Summer Game Fest served as a reminder of just how much of the industry it presently controls and how many titles it currently has in production, aside from the disappointing new console SKUs. We received updates on Perfect Dark, Fable, and the next Gears of War. We received both a new Doom and a new Call of Duty. Numerous creators remain under its care without having a project that has been "announced." Notable titles that were previously announced but were never released include Marvel's Blade by Arkane Lyon, The Outer Worlds 2 by Obsidian, Everwild by Rare, and OD by Hideo Kojima. With all of its games coming to PC (and a few to PlayStation and Switch), Microsoft's game studios have a lot going for them, but excellent games might not translate into great platform sales.

Phil Spencer has discussed the leaks from last year on a few occasions. He almost immediately said on Twitter, "so much has changed," which was undoubtedly accurate if not necessarily in a positive way. In a different statement, he gave a judge some somewhat bizarre information about Microsoft possibly quitting the game industry if Game Pass didn't attract a more diverse user base by 2026 or 2027. As of February of this year, Game Pass growth has been steadily declining, thus...

Though I firmly believe that Microsoft's console business is in terminal decline and that it can still earn a sizable profit from gaming without investing almost $100 billion in developers, I don't think the company would give up the gaming industry for nothing. It is evident that the gaming leadership team that pitched to Brooklin, Ellewood, and Sebile in May 2022 concurs.