Rich and John discuss it on the latest DF Direct.
It seemed like forever before Microsoft finally decided to unveil its long-rumored second-generation console – the compact, budget-friendly Xbox Series S. And yet, when the reveal came this week, it was ahead of schedule when Microsoft got confused to respond to a leak in its form factor and price.
Digital Foundry’s Rich Leadbetter and John Linneman were first introduced to the machine over six months ago when they traveled to Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington for an exclusive look at the Xbox X Series. Now you can finally break your silence on this most unusual novelty console in a special episode from Digital Foundry Direct that you can watch in the embed below.
With segments filmed in Redmond in March, plus a conversation taped this week that has the latest information – including Microsoft’s pricing and positioning of the S Series – there’s plenty to read in the video. (As an added bonus, check out the Crimewatch-style reconstruction when the Series S was revealed to the couple in Richmond – when a Microsoft employee crafted the tiny console out of a handbag.)
Despite the unplanned outing, the S Series received a pretty warm welcome this week – and no wonder. It’s an attractive little machine that offers compelling value – and dates back to an earlier age of gaming consoles, both in terms of price (the same starting price as the PlayStation 2 and the first Xbox) and in terms of its neat, stylish form factor. It’s also surprisingly fully featured, taking advantage of the fast memory, ray tracing hardware, and next-gen CPU technology from the X-Series to deliver lower-resolution (and much more energy-efficient) images. This week we’ve seen some decent footage of games that supposedly also play on the Series S – including Gears 5 at 120 fps.
The compromises? Aside from the lack of an optical drive, the 8 GB of memory will be a tight squeeze for games designed for the next generation – as will the 500 GB of onboard storage. In addition, there is a lot we don’t know yet, and it is difficult to say how the gaming experience could affect the Serie S. In Microsoft’s talk of the S Series’ 1440p target resolution, it should be noted that the famous Unreal Engine demo on the much more powerful PlayStation 5 also ran 1440p. Could S deliver something like that? We will see.
What we now know is that Microsoft’s pitch for the Xbox Series S – and to some extent for the Series X – is very different than it is for a new generation console. Instead of wowing the core gamers with new experiences, it appeals to a much broader market and talks about the value that the Game Pass and all-access subscription offer – and the affordable, adorable S Series fits that message perfectly, in particular in the current business climate. It could be just the right console at the right time.