On Sunday evening, a floodgate opened about Microsoft’s next-gen console launch plans. Multiple reports, along with a telling video snippet, put an exclamation point on the company’s leaked aspirations to launch the “Xbox Series X” console (announced in late 2019) next to a cheaper, smaller “Xbox Series S” model by year’s end.
And while some details could change—particularly the reports’ guesses of $299 for Xbox Series S and $499 for Xbox Series X—we suspect that this leaked design for a smaller, next-gen Xbox is accurate.
Longtime Microsoft-tracking reporter Brad Sams kicked off the flurry of Sunday news with a screenshot showing an apparent Xbox Series S design, colored white and roughly half the size of an Xbox Series X, next to a price: $299. Sams did not offer an explanation for where he sourced his image, but he has repeatedly reported on the Series S’s existence while it was in development under the code name Lockhart, alongside the Series X (codenamed Scarlett).
S marks the spot
If previous reports pan out, Series S will debut with many of the same technical leaps found in Series X—and these could include features like “Velocity Architecture” for faster game loading or fancy graphical effects like ray tracing. But Series S would offer those “next-gen” perks at lower maximum power, meant for either lower pixel resolutions (like 1080p) or lower frame rates, to reduce the console’s price. Sams and other reporters have estimated a peak rendering level of roughly 4 teraflops for Series S, compared to the 12 TF power and 4K resolution aspirations of Series X.
In August, Ars Technica was able to confirm the cheaper console’s name, thanks to sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans and an early launch of its controller (whose “compatibility” list mentioned “Xbox Series X / S”).
Shortly after Sams’ report went live, Windows Central reported the same price point for the Series S, along with a claim that Xbox Series X will launch at $499. WC’s report, citing “sources,” claimed both consoles will launch on November 10, but the report didn’t clarify which regions that launch will encompass. (Microsoft had previously confirmed a “November” console launch for Series X.)
While that combination of date and prices could very well change ahead of whatever announcement Microsoft is planning, the Series S design seems to have been confirmed by both reports citing the same design—next to a leaked snippet of the Series S’s reveal video, as shared by Twitter user “_h0x0d_.” This four-second video includes a slick animation of both new consoles placed side-by-side, followed by the Series S sliding into a transparent version of the Series X chassis to emphasize the size comparison. At that point, a narrator describes “how small it is.”
What the narrator doesn’t say in that brief clip is that the Series S appears to be missing a disc drive on its front face or the other visible sides. Whether a disc drive might exist on any other sides remains unclear, but that’d be a huge design departure for Xbox, which has placed disc-drive slots on the same side as its console power buttons for years. Hence, skipping the disc drive as a way to get the price down to $299—and further emphasizing digital-download subscription packages like Xbox Game Pass—seems likely.
Instead, the video shows off a top array of holes that resemble the dot pattern found on the edges of Xbox One X, along with a dotted, all-black circular panel on one of its sides—likely meant to enable more venting. Other than the big circle-vent thing, the console’s design similarity to Xbox One X isn’t exactly surprising, considering Microsoft delisted all Xbox One X consoles earlier this year—which prompted us to guess that Xbox Series S might be taking its place in the Xbox hierarchy.
Windows Central’s report includes a suggestion that Series S will launch with a $25/month “Xbox All Access” financing option while Series X will be available for $35/month. Exact terms of such a contract, and whether it might include perks like Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass, have not yet been confirmed.
Representatives from Xbox and Microsoft did not immediately respond to questions about the apparent leak of Xbox next-gen plans. [Update, 2:14 a.m. ET: Shortly after our story went live, the official Xbox Twitter account posted the “monkey puppet” meme with no other commentary attached, as if to express shock or exasperation about a certain story making the rounds.]
Listing image by h0x0d