The next-gen consoles feel real for the first time in a while. After months of spurious rumors, wild speculation, and an, at times, painfully slow reveal pace, we have some hard, tangible facts about at least two of the next-gen consoles – the Xbox Series S and Series X.
After revealing the $299 Series S yesterday, Microsoft confirmed today that the Series X launches on Nov. 10, priced at $499, with pre-orders opening on Sept. 22 . The gaming giant blinked first and through a wise strategy of affordability, value, and the gamble of throwing caution to the wind, arguably struck an early victory against the PS5.
And what a day to do it on. After all, today is 25 years to the day that Sony made its first concerted push into the console realm with the release of the original PlayStation in the US .
Some top-level trolling on Xbox’s part, if it was indeed intentional – Tuesday morning’s leaks precipitated Microsoft’s reveal , but there’s a sense it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s comments about not believing in console wars are harder to take seriously than ever before.
Those who’ve paid heed to the pricing debate to date will know that $499 falls roughly in the middle of the more level-headed estimations – it’s not cheap, but it’s not blisteringly expensive either. A happy middle ground that should please those fearing for the worst and one that can be stomached by those hoping for a lower price tag.
It’s not so much the price that secures Microsoft an early led here, but the glut of peripheral announcements that came alongside today’s news.
Chiefly, through Xbox All Access, would-be owners can pick up either a Series S or Series X at launch for $25 and $35 a month, respectively, for 24 months. The deal comes bundled with the console, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and Xbox Gold Live. It’s unheard of for the average player to lay down $35 on day one, walk home with a next-gen console and have over 100 games to play out of the box.
Then, there’s the seismic news that Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is expanding to include EA Play at no additional cost. The best value video game subscription just got even better. That $25/$35 a month now includes over 60 of EA’s games.
Finally, third-party publishers are stumbling over each other to announce a slew of games now launching alongside Microsoft’s two consoles: Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion , Dirt 5 , and Gears Tactics , with more announcements presumably on the way. The Series S/X launch line-up suddenly looks far more enticing than previously.
By spilling the beans first, Microsoft has passed the burdensome baton of pressure to its rival. Attention is now on Sony to see how it will respond.
The proposition crafted by Microsoft is quite simply phenomenal, and it’s hard to decipher how Sony can retort on value alone. A $399 PS5, even the all-digital disc-less version, seems firmly anchored in the realm of impossibility.
Sony won’t be able to undercut Microsoft by $100 this time around as it did in the pre-release PS4-Xbox One head-to-head . Exclusives, brand allegiance, and a more unified next-gen marketing can only carry Sony so far. A disc-less PS5 at $449 is conceivable, but it’s a far cry from the $299 Series S.
A confession: partly due to the exclusives and partly due to familiarity with the PlayStation ecosystem cultivated over two decades, I’ve never seen the appeal of Xbox or owned one.
It would be a lie to say I’ll 100% buy an Xbox come November, but for the first time, I’m genuinely considering it. I’d wager I’m not the only person who’s morphed overnight into a fence sitter thanks to Microsoft’s strategy.
Hats off to Microsoft. Over to you, Sony.