Microsoft’s naming convention for the new generation of Xboxes is confusing. The subtle branding difference between the Series X and Series S has been a pain point for users since they were announced. It immediately led to sales for the Xbox One X to spike on sites like Amazon, indicating that potential buyers may have been confused about which is which.
A recent patent filing at the end of December from Microsoft is only making matters worse. The company recently submitted a trademark for Xbox Series XS, dredging up months of confusion once again. Now, Xbox owners are left wondering if another new variation on the latest round of consoles is imminent, or if the answer is much more boring than that.
Is there a new Xbox model?
Let’s get the more fun speculation out of the way first. There’s plenty of evidence and rumors to support the theory that another Xbox is coming. The "Series" branding makes it clear that Microsoft is thinking of this console more like an iPhone than an Xbox. In a long interview with Kotaku back in October, Xbox chief Phil Spencer made it clear that more variants were on the way.
“I think, like you’ve seen in past generations, that we will iterate on hardware. We’ve already started, right?” Spencer told Kotaku. “Our team doesn’t go away, when we kind of lock the spec. Some of it is cost. That’s always the important thing. How do you drive down the cost of the console in the parts that are there, but also just looking at areas in terms of what are the next iterations that you might do?”
By that nature, it seems clear that players can expect a new version of the system somewhere down the line. That’s been common practice for Microsoft over the years and there’s no reason to think it would change here.
What would a new Xbox model entail?
When it comes to possible upgrades, there’s a lot that a theoretical Series XS could do to improve on the Series X. The most obvious play would be to offer a version of the Series X without a disc drive. Currently, only the Series S is discless, but that console isn’t as powerful as its bigger counterpart. Allowing players an option to save an extra $50 to $100 on a disc-free Series X could be enough to get new players into the door.
The Series X also has somewhat of a storage problem, though it's not nearly as bad as the Series S. The Series X has about 802 GB of usable storage. That might sound like a lot, but consider that we’re only at the start of this current generation. Historically, game file sizes tend to balloon as generations go on. That’s especially true for live service games like Destiny 2, which tend to pile on more data with each update.
Design-wise, Microsoft could offer something that’s halfway between a Series X and Series S. At the moment, the Series X is perhaps the least appealing console visually. It’s a large, black tower that looks a little awkward next to a TV, and even worse when placed horizontally. When fans were speculating about what the “Lockheart” (the codename that became the Series S) would look like, fans drew up a pretty aesthetically pleasing white console that looked like a pint-sized Series X. If the Series XS turns out to be real, here’s hoping that it takes a similar approach.
The party pooper answer
With all the fun speculation out of the way, here’s a much more boring reality: Series XS might just be meant to trademark how Microsoft talks about its new consoles. At the moment, Microsoft tends to use Series X|S to talk about its systems. An XS trademark might just be a matter of linguistic ease.
That said, this doesn’t mean everything else is out the window entirely. Regardless of what this specific trademark refers to, it’s still incredibly likely that a new Xbox model is coming out eventually. Granted, right now would be weirdly early for such a thing to come through trademarks. It usually takes companies a few years to release a new model of its hardware. It’s unlikely that any new form of Xbox would come this year, which makes the trademark seem more like a formality.