French website JeuxVideo is reporting that Microsoft is planning to unveil plans for their next Xbox at their press conference this year during E3. But is that really a possibility, and what does that mean for the Team 2020 crowd?
This information was translated by one of the users from ResetEra, and talks about how there’s supposed to be two different SKUs falling under the umbrella of “Xbox Scarlet”, the codename for Microsoft’s next-gen console. The first one is Lockhart, the basic device which will be missing a disc drive and be digitally focused. The second is Anaconda, which will be a more traditionalist, high-end device and supposedly be aiming for the Xbox One X in terms of price range.
JeuxVideo also lists some rumored spec leaks from back in January, but did not confirm the specs themselves, only claiming that both models of next-gen consoles would have Solid State Drives. Lastly, there’s talk that Halo: Infinite is a cross-gen title for release at launch, while recent Xbox acquisition Ninja Theory (Hellblade) will be launching their first title in early 2020.
So, let’s talk about what this means. Is any of this accurate, or is someone pulling an elaborate practical joke? Well, I wouldn’t be mentioning it here if I thought it was a hoax, unless I could confirm it was fake with some proof. First off, let’s clarify something: I can’t begin to speculate what the specs of the next Xbox will look like–frankly, technology hasn’t advanced from 2013 to 2020 as much as it did from 2005 to 2013, especially if we’re going to keep costs low. That massive leap in power we saw in the last two generations is unlikely, though whatever we get will undoubtedly still look insane compared to what we have now.
Instead, what I’d like to talk about is our headline: Microsoft revealing the next Xbox at E3. That part, I believe to be true. (And I’m not the only one.) Yes, the last time Microsoft revealed it’s new console it happened the same year the console itself came out. But six years is a long time, and Microsoft isn’t in the same position it was back then. When they launched the One, the 360 was king of the hill. Microsoft had gotten into it with Sony and managed to come out with a significant portion of the mindshare in America, and even sell roughly evenly with Sony when it came to LTD console sales. But thanks to a number of early missteps–a more expensive console, poor messaging for their vision of next gen, nearly everything Don Mattrick said–they wound up on the backfoot. Now we’re six years into the generation, looking at a possible launch for both Sony and Microsoft in Fall 2020, and estimates place the Xbox One at around 40-42 million consoles sold…while the PS4 is over ninety million already. This…has had an affect on Microsoft’s Xbox division, especially during E3.
Since 2014, the company has been keen on giving fans a view of the far future. 2014 showed off games like Scalebound, Halo and Gears 5, and more. This is typical of companies when they don’t feel secure in their position in the gaming world, like how Nintendo had their legendary “panic button” Direct where they told us about everything on the books for the next year and a half. The goal is to give fans something to look forward to–not the casuals, but the die-hards. This is the position Microsoft has found itself in for the last several years, and it’s why the last few E3s for them have been so entertaining. They’re jam-packed with games–both their own and those of third-parties, because they need you to know there are games on the console, and more are coming. It’s why last year they announced the acquisition of seven studios, because they need you to know they understand the complaints of the devout–that there aren’t enough reasons to own an Xbox–and they’re working on fixing it.
It was that reasoning which lead to them revealing the Xbox One X the same year as Sony’s PS4 Pro…even though the PS4 Pro was coming that year and the one X was a year off. They need to give you as many reasons as possible to care about the Xbox brand. And it’s that reasoning which will lead to us hearing about the Xbox Scarlet this year. There’s no chance we’ll learn anything about the pricing or a launch line-up. They’ll give us a better look at Halo: Infinite, and confirm there it’s cross-gen, which everyone suspected anyway. And they’ll likely explain Xbox’s new vision for the future. I’m not a betting man, but if I were that future involves an Xbox Game Pass no longer tied to the PC architecture or Xbox hardware. Sony doesn’t appear to care to play nice, but this could mean Xbox games on the Nintendo Switch in the future, as insane as that sounds. They’re already allowing players to put Xbox Live on the Nintendo Switch–this opens up an entirely new world of monthly subscribers.
Gaming is going to reach a saturation point sooner or later, but staving that off involves being willing to make certain changes. One of those changes is lowering the barrier to entry–rather than forcing people to buy an Xbox console, you allow them into the ecosystem for a low monthly fee. This is also a large part of why I also believe two Xbox SKUs is going to be a necessity: maintaining a streaming-only model for those who want in for cheap, while creating a monster system for people who simply want to own the most powerful machine possible will cater to two completely different, diverse groups but mean one thing: they’re both giving Microsoft money.
I can’t promise all of this will happen at once. The Switch bombshell in particular might be held off until 2020, if they even get the go-ahead to do it instead of having the idea nixed somewhere along the way. But this is absolutely the most interesting time to be a fan of Microsoft in a long time, and for the sake of competition? I hope it stays that way.
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