The next Xbox will be the Xbox Series X, and it’s coming out later this year up against Sony’s PlayStation 5.
Microsoft showed the console itself off a while ago, and now we’ve seen how the new Halo and other Xbox Game Studios games will look and play on the next-gen Xbox, with gameplay footage for loads of games now revealed and a hundred playable games promised for launch.
We know a lot about the Xbox Series X already – Microsoft has revealed the specs, design, controller, many of the games, and even how specific details like backwards compatibility will work on the new hardware.
What we don’t know yet is exactly when the Series X will come out, and how much it’s gonna cost.
When will the Xbox Series X be released?
Microsoft has confirmed that the next-gen Xbox Series X console will ship “Holiday 2020”, which means we could be waiting until the end of the year to get our hands on it. It’s not surprising as the Xbox One had a similar release window, and that’s also what Sony is aiming for with the PS5.
The console might be aiming for a Thanksgiving release – 26 November – according to a banner found on some international versions of the Series X product page on Microsoft’s website.
It appeared on the site in the UK and some other regions, but not the US. Once it was picked up online Microsoft quickly moved to replace the images though, and on Twitter Xbox Live’s director of programming Larry Hryb (better known as MajorNelson) described the listing as ‘inaccurate’.
Despite that denial, it may still be the case that the Series X is launching in November. Microsoft CFO Amy Hood told Bloomberg journalist Dina Bass during an investor call that the console is on track for a “November holidays” launch, suggesting it’ll be on store shelves in time for Thanksgiving – and Black Friday, not that it’s likely to see any major reductions right after launch.
Microsoft CFO Amy Hood says new Xbox is still on track for the November holidays launch.
— Dina Bass (@dinabass)
July 22, 2020
Interestingly, the console may have originally been intended to release in August – at least according to industry insider Brad Sams – but that the release has clearly shifted later, as there’s no chance of the console arriving this summer now.
How much will the next Xbox cost?
Unsurprisingly, this far ahead of launch Microsoft has remained tight-lipped regarding pricing.
A realistic guess would be something close to the Xbox One X’s RRP of £449/US$499.
Xbox head Phil Spencer told The Verge that unlike with the Xbox One, this time around the company “will not be out of position on power or price.”
We’re also still expecting Microsoft to reveal a cheaper Xbox Series S variant – codenamed Lockhart – which might drop the disc drive to keep prices lower.
What should we expect from Xbox Series X?
On 16 March 2020, Microsoft revealed full specs for Xbox Series X on its website. The big news is the custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, which is combined with a 12 teraflop, 52 compute unit GPU.
There will also be native support for expandable storage up to 1TB, while there will also be a 4K Blu-ray drive and USB 3.2 external HDD support.
Regular output will be at 4K 60fps, although this can be scaled up to 120fps.
See the full list of specs below:
8-core 3.8Ghz custom CPU
12 teraflop, 52 compute unit 1.825Ghz GPU
16GB GDDR6 memory with up to 10GB bandwidth
1TB custom NVMe SSD
Expandable storage up to 1TB
USB 3.2 HDD Support
4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
4K 60fps target performance – up to 120fps
Alongside this announcement, two videos were released to demonstrate the performance enhancements over the Xbox Series X. Firstly, there was one on loading times:
It then followed this up with a demonstration on the new Quick Resume technology:
The console is powered by a custom AMD chip on Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures. It’s capable of providing four times more computing power than the original Xbox One, and a whopping 12 teraflops of GPU performance – more than eight times the original One, and double the more powerful One X.
In practical terms, that translates to support for 120fps, hardware accelerated DirectX ray-tracing (and even new tech Microsoft is calling audio ray-tracing), and support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) over HDMI 2.1.
Along with vastly improved graphical support, the console is set to get an upgrade in the storage department. Current-gen consoles come with mechanical hard drives as standard and as such, gamers are left with noticeably long loading times.
That’s set to change with the next-gen console, which will offer a fast SSD as standard. Microsoft has gone into even more detail on the tech behind this – which it has dubbed Velocity Architecture – explaining that it’s using a custom SSD with 40x the throughput of the Xbox One hard drive.
This is optimised for consistent, sustained performance as opposed to peak performance, and is combined with hardware accelerated decompression, a new DirectStorage API, and a new system called Sampler Feedback Streaming that helps make sure that textures are only loaded as and when the GPU needs them. That may sound like a lot of tech buzz words, but it’ll translate to faster loading, bigger game worlds, and few tricks like narrow corridors to mask loading.
Improved Quick Resume features will help too – the console will let you jump back into a game right where you left off even after a reboot.
Its tall, thin chassis will be able to be placed on its side as well as upright, so should be able to blend into your existing home entertainment setup. There’s no denying that it looks like a PC tower, but that might not be a bad thing as Microsoft finally tries to bridge the gap to desktop gaming.
The large fan grille will be important for temperature control. but we hope the loud whirring sounds aren’t present every time you play a graphics-intensive title.
A major lure will be backwards compatibility. Microsoft has already said that at launch the Series X will be capable of playing “thousands” of games from the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox.
While there will be supported games from every Xbox generation, more specifically Microsoft is aiming for the Series X to support every single game from the Xbox One, except those that require Kinect to play – as the Series X won’t support Kinect at all.
They’ll all run natively on the console hardware, with no downclocking, meaning they should run better than they ever have before, especially given the faster load times of the SSD.
Even better, Microsoft has build in platform-level tech to add HDR to older titles that never had it, and a “select set” of games will even benefit from frame-rate enhancements that could see frame-rates double from 30fps to 60fps, and even from 60fps to 120fps in some games.
Perhaps more importantly, a program called Smart Delivery will ensure that if you buy a compatible game once you’ll be able to play it on either Xbox One or Xbox Series X and play the right version for the console you’re on at the time. All Xbox Game Studios titles will be included, along with some third-party titles like Cyberpunk 2077.
The controller has also been updated, but it looks remarkably similar to the one currently available, and current-gen controllers will still work on the Series X. We’d expect the ergonomics to be improved, but Microsoft hasn’t said much about it yet.
Xbox Series X games
Microsoft has confirmed that the upcoming Halo Infinite will be a Xbox Series X launch title – but surprisingly it won’t be an exclusive.
That’s because the Xbox Series X won’t have any exclusives in its first few years – at least not from Microsoft itself. The company has confirmed that for the next two years at least, every new game published by Xbox Game Studios will be playable on any Xbox or PC – meaning all the first few Series X games will also released on the Xbox One.
They’ll also be cross-compatible thanks to the Smart Delivery program mentioned above. Third-party publishers may take a different approach, however.
That doesn’t mean that this will always be the case – at some point Microsoft will likely have to cut off Xbox One support – but it will take the pressure off upgrading straight away. It helps that the Series X will also be backwards compatible, so any new Xbox One games you buy in that time will still work on the Series X whenever you upgrade.
Some of the biggest confirmed third-party games coming to the console include Cyberpunk 2077, Observer: System Redux, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
We also now have a first look at some proper gameplay footage in the special Inside Xbox stream that happened on 7 May. Games showcased on this stream included:
Bright Memory Infinite
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2
Call of the Sea
Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Then a second Xbox Games Showcase stream on 23 July gave us even more games and trailers, with a focus on games from the internal Xbox Game Studios:
State of Decay 3
New Forza Motorsport
Tell Me Why
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (XSX remaster)
Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon (DLC)
As Dusk Falls
Destiny 2: Beyond Light
Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
Tetris Effect: Connected
New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2
Xbox also stated that “hundreds of games” will be on the way in 2021, with every major publisher working on something Xbox Series X related (obviously with the exception of Sony and Nintendo).