The Nintendo Switch Is Going to Teach the Xbox One X a Hard Lesson

OPINION | If you build it, they won't come unless they have a damn good reason to.

Opinion by Nadia Oxford, .

We're at E3 2017 covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2017 hub!

Microsoft's Xbox press conference for E3 2017 is over and done, and it was a monster that clocked in at nearly two hours. And, to give Microsoft due credit, most of those two hours were packed with games.

There was a nice balance between trailers and live gameplay footage, plus there was little time wasted on extended play sessions between esports competitors [cough] or musical performances by one of those hip bands the kids love.

Also, we learned Cuphead is *finally* on his way to save us all.

But there was still a six teraflop-sized elephant in the room that threw a shadow over the reveal of Assassin's Creed Origins, made us temporarily forget the excellent news about Minecraft's cross-platform play, and interrupted our mourning for the sad baby owl in Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Microsoft's "Project Scorpio" 4K upgrade for the Xbox One, now officially called the Xbox One X, has a hefty price tag attached to it: $499 US dollars.


The instant, easy response to Xbox One X's price point is, "Who wants to pay that much money for a system that has no games?" That's disingenuous, though. Microsoft's conference demonstrates a lot of great games are coming to Xbox One. And while not every game we saw today needs to be experienced in 4K, I can certainly see the appeal for people who intend to pick up Forza 7 Motorsport.

Here's the rub, though: Nearly every Xbox One game we saw today is also coming to Windows 10 and / or the PlayStation 4. Most players who cherish peak game performance already have great gaming PCs. They don't need an $499 Xbox One, liquid-cooled processor or no.

Price aside, I appreciate how cute and smol the Xbox One X is.

The Xbox One X just doesn't have enough exclusivity to lure people in. If we can learn anything from the success of the Nintendo Switch – and the success of Nintendo portables in general – it's that impressive-looking console hardware numbers don't mean a heck of a lot to 95% of the gaming population. People generally don't care if a game system is powered by a hamster running on a wheel made of toothpicks and chewing gum; they just want to know what that system can offer over every other system on the store shelf. Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8, and the Switch's portability won people over almost instantly even though the system's hardware isn't very powerful, and its software is under-cooked.

Again, the games we saw at the press conference today looked great. But I already know they're not locked out of the vanilla Xbox One (which would be an incredibly silly thing for Microsoft to do, of course), so I don't have to dish out $499 to play them. My Xbox One will suffice, plus my PC runs Windows 10. Simply put, there's no reason for me to buy the Xbox One X even though I'm an avid game player, and I doubt I'm alone on this one.

Never smile at a crocodile.

Another problem for the Xbox One X: Sony beat Microsoft to the console upgrade punch by over six months with the PlayStation 4 Pro. Sony hasn't been forthcoming with sales numbers for the PS4 Pro, but the tittle-tattle in the industry is that it's doing pretty OK, maybe. As Mike points out in his review of the system, the PS4 Pro serves a small niche – probably a little smaller than Sony hoped, if it's not offering up any numbers.

What's this have to do with the Xbox One X's future? Well, consider that PlayStation 4 is currently outselling the Xbox One by quite a large margin, and the lukewarm response to the PlayStation 4 represents a niche in a sizeable fanbase. According to reports, the PlayStation 4 is outselling the Xbox One two-to-one in North America – and maybe even three-to-one in Europe.

So, halve the PlayStation 4's user base, and you have the Xbox One's user base. Then cut out a small slice of the already-diminished pie to represent the people who might be interested in a 4K / processing upgrade. Remove the (potentially) enticing prospect of a proprietary VR headset that's engineered to take advantage of that extra processing power. Then charge $499 for the whole shebang -- $100 over what Sony asks for the PlayStation 4 Pro.

1 "like" on this story = one prayer for Ori's sad owl friend.

When you finish adding the sums and carrying the 1's, you get an idea of how hard Microsoft needs to work to sell us on the Xbox One X. From my angle at this point in time (shout-out to any future-Nadias reading back on this), there's no reason for the Xbox One X to exist.

The darker, conspiracy-driven chamber of my heart wonders if Microsoft doesn't realize this, too. There's a long-running rumor that Microsoft wants to drop the Xbox entirely, after which it could theoretically focus on making games for Windows 10. If the Xbox One X spins out, it'd be a great excuse to pull out of the console market and dedicate those six teraflops of power to PC development.

It almost sounds reasonable at first blush. Then again, so did "Nintendo should go third-party" in the GameCube era.

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Comments 26

  • Avatar for PsychicPumpkin #1 PsychicPumpkin 8 months ago
    I expect my next console purchase will be another Nintendo Switch. The second being for my son.
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #2 KaiserWarrior 8 months ago
    Microsoft pushed 4K Really, really hard.

    Only problem with that is that my TV is not 4K, it's not going to be 4K any time soon, and even aside from that I'm aware of the realities of video game development -- which is that almost nobody is actually going to be producing 4K-quality assets as opposed to 1920x1080 assets running at 4K resolution.

    The console's major selling point is a no-go for me. And they made the dire mistake of talking about Supersampling -- I would MUCH rather have higher framerates than Fake 4K.

    Then again, that's why I have my PC. Because for all of Microsoft's talk of "MOST POWERFUL CONSOLE EVAH", the simple fact is that it's still nowhere even remotely close to a decent-quality gaming PC.

    If I want power, I use my PC. If I want a console, I go for something that's not wasting a bunch of horsepower trying to pretend that my TV is 4K when it's not.
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  • Avatar for Knurek #3 Knurek 8 months ago
    Vapor chamber is not exactly liquid cooling.
    Just a better way of getting the heat off of the CPU die. You still need fans or actual liquid cooling system to disperse it out of the chassis.Edited June 2017 by Knurek
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  • Avatar for metalangel #4 metalangel 8 months ago
    Wait, the reasons for the Switch to exist are two WiiU games? I don't really count the portability as a thing when both the 3DS and my smartphone exist.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #5 donkeyintheforest 8 months ago
    I think the real thing is that they're like one day you'll have a 4k tv... it may be in a few years, but if you're in our ecosystem, eventually all your games will be playable with enhanced performance eventually... also Xbox 360 games and original Xbox games (yay!). So if you want, buy a Xbox One S now, and when the price on this thing drops in a few years, buy it. Or buy it now. Whatever you want guys, we're in it for the long haul.

    Also, they even featured the Switch during the Minecraft part of the presentation to show everything will be compatible! I don't remember that happening before!
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  • Avatar for Thetick #6 Thetick 8 months ago
    I think you are missing a very important point of the x. It is there to show everybody MS now has the best console. Every third party game will be "best" on xbox x. That is the message they want to get across, no matter how much it is going to cost them. It won't sell a lot of consoles, just like the pro isn't selling that great. It's not going to save this gen for them and they know it. But you better believe it that they will tell you at every opportunity how they have the greatest and fastest console.
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  • Avatar for matthewcooley77 #7 matthewcooley77 8 months ago
    that is a nonsense conspiracy theory if I ever heard one
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  • Avatar for Lane #8 Lane 8 months ago
    @KaiserWarrior You assume that everyone who is in the market for a console is also in the market for a gaming PC.

    You and I may have gaming PCs that put the 1X to shame, but there are many gamers who want the latest and greatest hardware, but have no desire to wade into the PC waters.Edited June 2017 by Lane
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #9 Kuni-Nino 8 months ago
    Idk. There's a little too much doom and gloom going on right now about this console. It's not like if you buy it you're getting short changed for the future. You'll still be able to play great games on it and it's prepared for when you upgrade to a new television.

    The cynicism surrounding the X is too much. I don't get it.
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  • Avatar for Meho #10 Meho 8 months ago
    For me a mid-gen update that costs 500 dollars (and no doubt much more where I live) and requires a 4K telly (still non-standard and costly) to be justified stinks of decadence. To me this is like Microsoft is saying "OK, we are losing the console race but we can still lose in style"...
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  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #11 UnskippableCutscene 8 months ago
    With the cost of NVidia 10x0 cards being as high as they are and their only competition being pushed out of stock by cryptocurrency miners, and with consoles almost completely being in the $300 space still (1S's price drop to $250 will stick, who knows if Slim's will), only people who have great-googly-moogly amount of money to spend on gaming hardware are interested in a PC and more than one console.

    The old PCMR crowd represents a small market (I once saw a dev whose name will be withheld privately say that Master Racers are "90% of the noise, 10% of the sales") and if the one console they'll possibly buy isn't an Xbox because everything is crossed over, Microsoft doesn't really have much reason to care. The whole purpose of this endeavor was selling games; selling hardware was just a prerequisite, especially back in the old green and black days when Xbox was spilling red ink to be seen above the PS2.

    It's essentially the same kind of product as a Steambox, but it's in a more familiar package. People who are buying these instead of a PC know what they're getting: they can't futz with their settings, they have to pay for multiplayer, etc. On the other hand, there's often a bonus, they still get physical distribution if their internet is slow or capped, and they don't have to have Steam, Blizzards launcher, Origin, Uplay, and new coming launchers from Bethesda and Twitch all installed if they want to play a game.

    Yes, you can do a lot of the "work" you do on an Xbox on a PC, with limitations. That's also true between the iPad Pro and a MacBook (and boy does the iPad have limitations!) But you know what? I bought the iPad anyway; so I guess it's not out of the realm to imagine someone buying an Xbox because they're done gaming at a desk and their family life won't permit them to have a Mini-tower permanently under the television or, worse, coming and going.Edited 3 times. Last edited June 2017 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for thesirkibble2 #12 thesirkibble2 8 months ago
    I suppose I'm in the minority in saying I have a gaming PC but it'd be cheaper to upgrade my Xbox One to an Xbox One X than to upgrade my video card and processor. For that reason, the Xbox One X is still enticing.

    I can't even play Forza Horizon 3 on my PC without decreasing the resolution or decreasing the framerate because my PC is just under the recommended specs. So yes, I can play everything on PC anyway, but it's a much more comfortable experience on the console. Far less hassle as well.Edited June 2017 by thesirkibble2
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #13 NiceGuyNeon 8 months ago
    It's stupid to charge $500 for a midgeneration upgrade.

    But giving the X exclusive content to entice purchases would be stupid because at that point it may as well be the next successor, which it apparently is not.

    PC gaming can and will outpace the X.

    Xbox One games are playable on Windows 10 either through Steam or Xbox Live.

    So if you have Xbox One you don't need X. If you have a gaming PC you don't need X. The only person who really needs X is someone who wants an Xbox but never bought one and doesn't want to get into PC gaming.

    PC gaming is key here: If I'm being honest I never saw Nintendo going third party as a viable strategy for them. But Microsoft abandoning Xbox as physical hardware and turning into a Steam like service (it already is one) to run through your Windows 10 PC? That's a thing I can see happening because it already IS happening. Why manufacture hardware when people can build their own and want to play the games you offer?

    And who better to challenge Valve and their unfriendly grasp on pc gaming than Microsoft with the promise of Halo, Forza, Gears, and whatever exclusives they can muster?

    And if I'm being extremely ambitious, maybe this gets Valve off their lazy asses and gets some more games coming from them in response to MS' exclusives?

    Who knows, but Xbox as a service is making more and more sense considering MS already dipped their toes in the water. In the end maybe Microsoft goes full circle, leaves the hardware business to the Japanese and return back to Windows.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #14 SIGGYZtar 8 months ago
    If there's one thing Microsoft needs to learn from Nintendo, they'd better learn "scarcity" tactics, because all those Xboxes languishing in stock is definitely not good for the bottom line, even when the company can take a big hit.

    Meanwhile, I will be buying an Xbox One S because it's cheaper. However, I don't expect X to be too much of a boost performance wise if we still have to wait half an hour to install a game, and five minutes to load.Edited June 2017 by SIGGYZtar
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #15 mouse-clicker 8 months ago
    @metalangel Can your 3DS and smartphone play Breath of the Wild? Because my Switch can! =)
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  • Avatar for metalangel #16 metalangel 8 months ago
    @ericj.baker43 No, and I don't need them to either. Would much prefer a system that isn't hobbled to make it sort of portable to play games that aren't really intended to be enjoyed properly on the subway... there's a reason the PSP line has withered.
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  • Avatar for metalangel #17 metalangel 8 months ago
    Deleted June 2017 by metalangel
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #18 AstroDemon 8 months ago
    I have a PS4, Xbox, and PC. I'm thinking about buying the X instead of upgrading my video card to a 1080. It's cheaper, and I can still play most PC games without too much trouble. I wasn't ready to upgrade my PS4 to a Pro (Horizon looks amazing regardless), but I might be ready for this much bigger step with the X.
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  • Avatar for ericpatton54 #19 ericpatton54 8 months ago
    A quick counterpoint: The X-Box One X may do well just because, unlike Nintendo, when they release product they are very quick to respond to keep supply that matches demand. Nintendo took the wrong message from the Wii and now thinks limiting supply will continue to create artificial demand and isn't producing models to keep up. Might it be the hot toy for some because it was nowhere for 9 months before Christmas? Maybe. But many parents and adults are a lot more likely to buy the new in stock console than to spend high markups for an out of stock console.

    It's also a bit early to rule out 4k as an influence on console sales as well. It's been a few years since it hit the scene, which means this is the year 4k tvs are going start hitting bargain prices in many regions and many people could end up wanting a new console as an accessory to their new TV. The PS2 sold gangbusters initially because of it's DVD drive; having a 4k blu ray drive and online content may sale a lot of people on this as their companion device.
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  • Avatar for Jericho-GM #20 Jericho-GM 8 months ago
    I would have to agree with this and Kat's post. I just wish they spent all their resources on getting better games, instead of getting better graphics that only some could appreciate.Edited June 2017 by Jericho-GM
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #21 MetManMas 8 months ago
    I'm not gonna say there's no audience for this thing 'cuz I know there's people who'd rather game on consoles than a computer, but for $500 I 'd rather get a decent PC or a Nintendo Switch and games over an Xbone Brand X. Hell, I'd rather get a PS VR set or grab a cheap PS3 and go on a PSN shopping spree over the XboneX.

    Anyway, aside from the price and fumbling the ball early this gen, I think the biggest hurdle to overcome will be buyer confusion. Xbox One X sounds a lot like Xbox One S, the smaller and cheaper version of the base Xbox. It's generally a bad idea to confuse your customers, and seeing how many people didn't realize the Wii U wasn't just a more different Wii, well...Edited June 2017 by MetManMas
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  • Avatar for docexe #22 docexe 8 months ago
    @ericpatton54 The thing is that, even assuming that 4k TV’s will finally gain more traction in the market (which might indeed finally happen this year), Microsoft still faces the issue that their primary competitor is offering a comparable product that is $100 USD cheaper. Sure, the hardcore videophile who wants the best possible image quality on their TV set might choose the Xbox One X over the PS4 Pro regardless of price, but the average customer looking for an affordable 4k TV is more likely to buy the Pro simply because is cheaper and the image quality is “good enough”.

    I’m also not sure that the 4k blu-ray included in the X will necessarily become a primary selling point, mostly because a lot of people these days prefer to use streaming services rather than physical media.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #23 mouse-clicker 8 months ago
    @metalangel Oh man, I love playing Breath of the Wild on public transportation! The way it saves frequently and has a myriad of little things you can do, it's perfect for dropping in and playing 15-20 minutes at a time. In fact, most of the 160+ hours I've spent on the game have been in portable mode for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time!Edited June 2017 by mouse-clicker
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  • Avatar for Super-Boy-Alan #24 Super-Boy-Alan 8 months ago
    Well put, Nadia. For me, there's also the matter that my desktop PC runs not only games, but word processors, spreadsheet software, and so on—all the "boring grown-up" programs that consoles were never really designed for, but which many adults find crucial for their breadwinning. And when I want a break... well, I can just minimize a window and double-click an icon, and it's game time.

    Microsoft hasn't done anything to win me over on the console front this generation. I'll get a PS4 eventually for the exclusives I want, and I'll get a Switch once I'm caught up on my mainline 3D Zeldas, but... well, if things go south with the XBox ecosystem, it looks like they're in a position to pull back to Windows 10. For those getting an XBox One X, more power to them, but it's not really for me.

    P. S. A quick question about a possible typo:

    "Well, consider that PlayStation 4 is currently outselling the Xbox One by quite a large margin, and the lukewarm response to the PlayStation 4 represents a niche in a sizeable fanbase."

    Should the second instance of "PlayStation 4" be "PS4 Pro"?
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #25 LBD_Nytetrayn 8 months ago
    Biggest problem with a gaming PC for me is that I work on a PC, so gaming at that same desk isn't so appealing to me.

    Also, went to "Like" for Ori and the owl, only to find no such option.
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  • Avatar for ericpatton54 #26 ericpatton54 8 months ago
    @docexe It's quite possible on both counts, and I'm not an analyst or in any way involved in anything that would give me an edge in predicting things here.

    However, I don't think it's likely Nintendo is going to fix it's distribution problems this year. I do think Playstation and X-Boxes will probably pace well. And while yes, there are a lot of people who may not use the 4k outputs, there are a lot of casual fans/parents/grandparents who may end up buying the xBonex simply because that's what they're being asked for or advertised. 500 dollars is a sound price point for a lot of people come Christmas.... less than a 1st gen Playstation 3 or a high end phone/tablet, more than a meal out or pair of jeans.

    Regardless, I'm not a fanboy for any of the systems. I just wanted to put out a counterpoint. Nintendo has a long history of being it's own worst enemy, especially in distribution. The fact they launched the Switch in Spring was a good sign, but the fact we're several months in now and you still can't find supply in the slower sales months of early's not a good sign for fall.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #27 brionfoulke91 8 months ago
    You know, if Microsoft really did just drop the X-Box, I think that might be best for the gaming industry. It really just isn't needed in the game industry anymore, it doesn't offer anything unique. Even as a competitor to Sony, it's not really needed... PC's are going to be the real competitor to Sony in the future.
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