Microsoft Formally Unveils the Xbox Series S at $299

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The Xbox Series S has been the worst-kept secret at Microsoft for some months now, but up until today, the company refused to let a little thing like reality spoil its desire for secrecy. Today, Microsoft finally gave up and admitted that it’s launching a lower-end Xbox Series X, formerly codenamed Lockhart, for the very reasonable price of $299.

This news leaked via Thurrott.com, at which point Microsoft seems to have thrown the towel in. The image below shows the console and its features, though Thurrott claims it’s also capable of upscaling games to 4K (Microsoft’s image does not address this claim):

If the “up to 1440p” is actually a reference to 4K, it implies that the Xbox Series S would use checkerboard rendering or another similar bandwidth-saving technique to hit this target. This console doesn’t explicitly target the 4K segment, but it’ll still run with a 4K television. The majority of the television install base is still at 1080p or below, so targeting this demographic makes sense. It’s also the smallest console Microsoft has ever built, in terms of physical footprint.

I think it’s interesting that Microsoft is apparently marketing this as a solution for <4K rather than calling it a basic 4K experience with the Xbox Series X offering the best-in-class option. The company may have decided it would be better served by targeting a strong 1080p solution for the platform as opposed to a 4K stretch goal. The price — $299 — is also excellent for a launch console. It’s so low, it raises the question of why Microsoft intends to keep the Xbox One around a while longer.

The implication here is that the Xbox One could be in for its own price cut. Either that, or Microsoft was feinting when it discontinued the Xbox One X and Xbox One Digital Edition but kept the disc-based Xbox One around.

The Xbox Series X now seems likely to run at least $500, and I’m not convinced that higher is out of the question. Ever since the Xbox One, Microsoft has made it a mission to beat Sony’s hardware specs, and the Xbox Series X SoC likely costs more than the PlayStation 5 equivalent based on die size alone. Microsoft could believe that launching an excellently priced Xbox Series S at $299 gives them some leeway to charge more for the Series X, or it could be planning to continue the Xbox One X’s strategy of packing very aggressive hardware for its price point.

Now that we know how much the Xbox Series S will cost, this would be an excellent time to make that information available about the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 as well. Most people do not make a spontaneous decision about which $300 to $700 piece of gaming hardware to purchase and might want some weeks to either consider the question or save up funds. November isn’t exactly far away.

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