Everything you need to know about Microsoft’s Xbox Series X

Halo-heads are going to be stoked.

The Xbox Series X is months away from sending gamers into the next-generation of console gaming. Microsoft’s upcoming gaming system will go mano-a-mano against Sony’s PlayStation 5 at the end of the year, both of which will give gamers access to more computational and graphical power than any other console in history.

But when is Microsoft’s Xbox Series X being released? How much will it cost? And how will it stand up to Sony’s beefy roster of exclusive games?

Microsoft has revealed many more details about the Series X compared to Sony, who is expected to peel the curtain back on the PS5 on June 11. The Series X’s full specs were announced back on March 16 and Microsoft revealed the console’s official name and final design at the December 2019 Game Awards.

The Series X has a bit of an early lead when it comes to transparency leading up to its launch. It could also end up being more affordable than the PS5, which might be the most expensive console Sony has ever launched.

All of this early momentum bodes well for Microsoft, as it attempts to mount a comeback in the heavily-contested, next-gen console war. As it stands, the Xbox One is estimated to be lagging behind the PS4 and the fact the Microsoft stopped releasing Xbox sales numbers in 2018 didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

The company has some ground to make up, but with a new console comes new opportunities to win gamers back. Here’s a roundup of everything we expect from the Xbox Series X.

The Xbox Series X will be taller than any Xbox before it.Microsoft

When is the Xbox Series X release date?

Microsoft announced at E3 2019 that the Xbox Series X will launch ahead of the 2020 holiday season, but has yet to reveal an official release date.

The company has launched all of its previous Xbox models in November, which suggest the Series X could follow the same timeline barring any significant delays, which could happen if production is stalled due to the coronavirus pandemic

Microsoft has stuck by its release date window, but multiple analysts and supply chain reports have suggested that delay in Series X production is likely. The console maker plans for most of the hardware manufacturing for the Series X to happen in China, which was an early focal point for the coronavirus outbreak. As governments and institutions around the world try to halt the spread of the disease that has already killed thousands, quarantines have disrupted the workflows and schedules of all sorts of tech and gaming companies.

But if Covid-19 doesn’t end up affecting Microsoft’s launch schedule, a late-November launch is most likely.

The Xbox One was released in North America on November 22, 2013; the Xbox 360 dropped on the same date in 2005, and the original Xbox launched on November 15, 2001. Microsoft has never broken its release date tradition, but this year could be the first time that changes due to coronavirus.

Late-November seems like the most likely time for the Xbox Series X to launch.Unsplash / Glenn Carstens-Peters

How much will the Xbox Series X cost?

Polls indicate that the price of the Xbox Series X will be the most important factor when gamers are deciding between Microsoft's next-gen console or the PS5. There’s no official word on how much the Xbox Series X will cost but Xbox chief Phil Spencer has long been offering hints about what to expect

In a June 8 interview with the BBC, Spencer noted that he was well aware of how important a reasonable price point will be this year with the economic hardships that have befallen many people around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"[The] strategy is centered around the player, not the device," he said. "We see the impact of people getting furloughed and layoffs. It's tough. And we are a leisure activity. We're not a requirement ... So we want to be really tuned in to that as we launch. How can we make it as affordable as possible? How can we give buyers choice?"

But what could the final price be?

VentureBeat's Jeff Grubb suggested that Microsoft could be preparing to sell the Series X at a loss. The reporter claimed the company's decision to shutter its Twitch-competitor, Mixer, and close all of its brick-and-mortar shops seemed like signs that it was preparing to offset selling the Series X for less than it costs to make.

In theory, Microsoft could pull this off as most of its profits come from other ventures that have nothing to do with Xbox. But when might the company let gamers know its price plans?

In an earlier interview with IGN on April 1, Spencer revealed that gamers should expect a price announcement "later in the summer." The executive also hinted that Microsoft seems willing to wait for Sony to announced the price of the PS5 so that Microsoft might undercut it with a lower price on the Series X.

"You have to set a price target at the beginning for yourselves," Spencer said. "And then you see the competition come in and start to do your go-to-market planning.

The Series X's price remains a mystery, but we can make some estimates based on the release price of the Xbox One X.

The One X is Microsoft’s most capable console available today and was launched in July 2017 for $499.99, plus the first Xbox One released with the same price tag. The Xbox Series X’s specs will blow the One X out of the water so don’t expect it to be any cheaper than $499.99 at launch.

That might be more than some gamers want to spend on a new gaming system, but there have been rumors that Microsoft might also launch a lower-cost console to appeal to consumers with a budget.

The Xbox One X next to the Xbox One S. Microsoft might offer two options for its next-gen Xbox straight out of the gate.Microsoft 

Will there be a second next-gen Xbox?

Spencer seemed to have quashed speculation that Microsoft planned to release a cheaper, all-digital version of its next-gen Xbox, codenamed “Lockhart,” back in June. But various reports and unearthed patents have served as compelling evidence that Microsoft's next-gen consoles plans are far from over.

The patent in question revealed that the unannounced Xbox might be called the Xbox Series S, which would line up with rumors that have been circulating online about the potential launch for over a year.

Four anonymous Microsoft sources also told Kotaku that the company still intends to launch a lower-cost console alongside its premium system. Lockhart’s graphics are said to be similar to those of the PlayStation 4 Pro. The console will include a solid-state drive and forgo a traditional disc drive, just like the Xbox One S All-Digital that was released in May 2017.

A mockup of how the Xbox Series X might look like.Windos Central

To top all of this off, a leaked document that was only supposed to be circulated to Xbox game developers was leaked which referenced Project Lockhart in the fine print. So it's looking more likely than ever that the Xbox Series S could be announced soon.

An alternative, more affordable option to the Series X could attract gamers that don’t want to shell out $500 for a new console and it could leverage Microsoft’s Game Pass service that gives subscribers access to a massive digital library of games.

Xbox Series X features and specs

Microsoft revealed just about everything there is to know about the Xbox Series X in a March 16 Xbox Wire post.

The Xbox Series X specs sheet.Microsoft

Here are other standout features that Spencer previously announced:

  • More comprehensive backward compatibility than the PS5, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games.
  • The Xbox will support ray tracing, a graphical rendering technique used by high-end gaming PCs that let games look more lifelike than ever.
  • Quick Resume will let gamers continue multiple games from where they last left off instantly, no lengthy loading screens required.
  • Dynamic Latency Input (DLI) will supposedly further decrease any lag gamers might have experienced when using their wireless Xbox controllers.
  • Smart Delivery will let gamers buy a game once on any Xbox console and let them play it across the platforms without repurchasing it.

What Smart Delivery games will be optimized for the Series X?

Developers who launched games on the Xbox One and offer their titles as part of Smart Delivery will have the option to upgrade their games' graphics so it uses the Series X's hardware upgrades to its full potential.

It'll be up to the individual developer to decide whether or not they want to essentially remaster their title for the Series X. Here is the current list of Smart Delivery games that will have improved textures and graphics when players run them on the next-gen consoles.

  • Halo Infinite
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla
  • Destiny 2
  • DiRT 5
  • Scarlet Nexus
  • Chorus
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines 2
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  • The Ascent
  • Call of the Sea
  • Gears 5
  • Second Extinction
  • Metal: Hellslinger
The Xbox Series X's graphical capabilities will be crisper than ever.Xbox

Xbox Series X launch titles

Halo Infinite will be the Xbox Series X’s marquee launch title, Microsoft confirmed at E3 2019 last June. While this year's event would have been a likely opportunity for further updates on the next installment of the iconic space shooters, E3 2020 has been canceled due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Expect to learn more about Halo Infinite via Xbox's digital channels in the weeks ahead.

Microsoft has also shown off a bloodcurdling teaser for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and a trailer for EVERWILD, a brand-new IP that looks like a highly stylized fantasy adventure.

A new installment of Forza Motorsport is also widely expected to be a launch title for Xbox Series X, after the franchise’s 2019 hiatus. The racing simulator has been an Xbox staple since 2005 and Microsoft Game Studios has already teased it’s cooking up a new racing game.

Those are the only Series X launch titles we have strong evidence for, though there have been hints that a new installment of Fable could be on the horizon as well.

Games YouTuber Anton Logvinov, who accurately predicted the Hellblade 2 reveal during the 2019 Game Awards, claimed the Series X would at least triple this count, so the company could be preparing for a massive batch of reveals very soon. Of course, the escalating global coronavirus pandemic has thrown a lot of release dates in the gaming and entertainment worlds into question.

Other titles likely to be released on the Series X shortly after it goes on sale include:

  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake (April 2021)
  • FIFA 2021
  • PES 2021
  • Gears 5
  • Call of Duty
  • Minecraft Dungeons
  • Spiritfarer
  • Battletoads
  • Wasteland 3
  • PsychoNauts 2
  • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • 12 Minutes
  • Way to the Woods
  • Dying Light
  • Phantasy Star Online 2
  • Crossfire X
  • Tales of Arise
  • Elden Ring
The Xbox Series X will tout more comprehensive backward compatibility than the PS5.Unsplash / Arturo Rey

What is Smart Delivery on Xbox Series X?

If you're thinking of holding off on purchasing current-gen games that will likely straddle two console generations, like Cyberpunk 2077 and Gears 5, you're in luck – Series X's new Smart Delivery feature means you can buy the Xbox One version, then get the enhanced Series X version for free once it's available. It's a welcome change from what's previously been the industry standard, namely having to buy multiple copies of the same way. (We're looking at you, Nintendo.)

Xbox Series X will be released sometime in late 2020.

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