Next-gen Xbox – Decoding the Future of Microsoft Consoles

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With Microsoft ending this over-drawn game of Next-Gen Chicken with Sony, we got a fairly interesting idea of where Xbox plans on taking their share of the gaming market moving forward. Though both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are set to release within the holiday season this year, Phil Spencer (Head of Gaming at Xbox) has made it clear that the company’s competitors aren’t Sony or Nintendo – but rather the likes of Amazon and Google.

Shifting away from selling the box as the be all end all product, Xbox is instead gearing up to pitch itself as a service – acting as a conduit for gaming on multiple platforms, rather than tethered to a dedicated media device under your TV. The signs were there with Game Pass, a subscription service that grants access to an impressive library of gaming content that can be downloaded or streamed for as long as you pay for it.

The surge of subscription and streaming services has dominated the last decade, with such entertainment providers becoming industry leaders in their medium. Players like Netflix, Spotify, and Amazon Prime have seen major successes in their own fields, and the gaming sphere is catching up to it quickly.

Subscription fees aren’t anything new to gaming. Before, the access and commodity from service to consumer were dedicated to just one game or online pass across the platform, rather than the standard model akin to Netflix of abundant and ever-updating content. Recently we have seen a lot of companies throw their hats into the gaming ring with their different approaches to subscriptions with varying levels of success, namely Apple Arcade and Google Stadia. 

The general consensus is that Apple Arcade is doing sufficiently fine as it is serving as a premium mobile gaming experience, whereas Google Stadia dove head-first into the console pool,. Only to dive-bomb into its open grave as yet another casualty in a sea of headstones in the Google graveyard.

Though maybe the tech & mobile giants couldn’t fully integrate into the gaming market like the big three (PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo), it seems as though Xbox is taking notes learned from observing Google and Apple in their own field. Familiar to those on mobile contract plans, Xbox will be rolling out a financial program for those interested to own an Xbox Series X for £28.99 a month over 24 months – under the guise of “Xbox All Access”.

That and their announcement of a smaller, cheaper variant of the next-gen console is to be available at the same time, the Xbox Series S; which is unorthodox for the expected cycle of gaming hardware, usually spacing console variants within the generation. 

I haven’t neglected the naming conventions for these new lines of Xboxes either, as it’s not just another odd Microsoft moment where they seem adamant to give the marketing division a migraine as some sort of corporate in-joke. What Microsoft (or any company) chose to call their product is extremely telling of how they wish to be perceived as by consumers and shareholders alike. 

Take the “PlayStation 5”; it’s a solid brand, cemented in years of established gaming history – unwavering, familiar, sequential, and focused on gaming. The “Nintendo Switch” is much the same with the company’s name prefixing every console released since the NES; but also that the Switch is a reflection of the consoles’ ability to switch between handheld to home console use, as well as Nintendo’s business strategies have switched as a whole (having entered the mobile market themselves by way of gaming apps, licensing their properties to future films, and the prospective “Super Nintendo World” theme park.)

The Series X and S titles were chosen solely to relay the message that these new consoles are only a platform for the Xbox as a service. Microsoft has had trouble trying to force their way into the console, mobile, and PC gaming markets as of late, and this new direction for Xbox may be the clean sweep Microsoft needs to secure the future of the brand for good. 

The Xbox Series X & S will release November 10th, 2020.

Danielle Winter

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