For quite some time, there has been no denying that Microsoft has the most powerful console on the market with the Xbox One X. Because of that, the X alone has become synonymous with strength; with being for the elite. It's a console for the most diehard console gamers only, maybe just a step below a PC enthusiast.
It's been a natural step this generation for Microsoft, a company known for its association with all things PC-related otherwise. The Xbox One X was all about bringing that top-end gaming experience players with a lot of money to burn on building a PC to something more accessible: into an at home box to plug into a TV. It makes sense for the company to carry on the X going forward.
On Thursday evening, Microsoft unveiled its next generation console at The Game Awards—a baffling marketing decision when you consider it could have just owned a whole news cycle if it decided to drop on another day. Its new console is called the Xbox Series X; it doesn't roll off the tongue, but the X immediately sounds familiar. The X implies that yeah, Microsoft isn't giving up its "most powerful console" reputation.
More than its name, its monolithic appearance inspired waves of discussion. It's a sleekly designed console—a vertical skewing brick with a clearly visible disc drive and power button. It looks to be a more aerodynamic build, considering the holes at its top. Its new controller even has a screenshot sharing Share button. (Finally!) In its reveal trailer, you could almost hear the iconic score from 2001: A Space Odyssey and picture apes beating up on it. On social media, it inspired a wave of gags of people poking fun at its large appearance. It left one question at the tip of everyone's tongue: How the heck is this going to fit in my entertainment center?
To me, the design looks actually quite similar to a PC box. The tagline for the console, promising it to be the "fastest" and "most powerful" console on the market, sounds like something someone would build as a PC. It's basically exactly the black box I have sitting underneath my desk at this very moment—except maybe a bit shorter and wider. It may look awkward out of context, but I imagine people will be able to rest it behind their TV, or even tilt it horizontally. It'll be an interesting conundrum for sure, but I applaud Microsoft for saying to hell with standard design expectations for its new home console. The audacity to say "no dear players, stand this up vertically. Make this a centerpiece for your living room," is a sentiment that takes confidence.
In this generation more than any other before we saw the barriers between consoles falling down. Sony and Microsoft have both waded into crossplay. Microsoft doesn't really do anything that's exclusive just to Xbox One anymore, with most of its games being playable on PC now too. Nintendo still exists on its own plane. Companies don't quite trade insults like they did even at the top of this current console generation.
They're even working together now. Earlier this year, Sony, Microsoft, and more formed the UN alliance Playing for the Planet, a group endeavor for companies across the games industry to drastically reduce emissions, advance energy conservation, reduce plastics in packaging, and more. To me, efforts like these are the most important thing to watch going into the new generation. The Earth is headed toward an early grave, and game companies need to do their part to help stop it.
It's an interesting time to watch the next-generation console race because of all this. Sony's riding off an excellent generation stuffed with exclusives, with a console that often lagged behind the Xbox in terms of performance. What Xbox lacked in exclusives, it made up for with its cross-platform first-party games and its excellent Game Pass subscription service. Both companies have obvious strengths in other places, and it will be fascinating to see if either one tries to adopt one of the other's strong suits as we roll into holiday 2020. For now, we just have to prepare our entertainment centers for the Xbox Series X's arrival. Get that saw ready, and obliterate those shelves!
Major Game Releases: December 16 to December 20
Here are the major releases for the week of December 16 to December 20. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Wattam [December 17 for PlayStation 4, PC]: Wattam was announced way back in 2014, and it was once even set to be published by Sony. Then it got dropped by Sony, and was eventually picked up by Annapurna Interactive. Tomorrow, Keita Takahashi's long term passion project will finally be released, and luckily, it's pretty great! It's, dare I say, his best game since We Love Katamari. You can read my review of it, if you're still on the fence.
- Untitled Goose Game [December 17 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One]: Untitled Goose Game has flown the coop (yes, I'm aware this is a chicken thing). Back in September, the Hitman-like released just on Nintendo Switch and PC, and now, the rude goose will grace the PS4 and Xbox One. This is sure to be a hit to play around family during the holidays if they haven't seen it already. You can read our review of the year's best goose game here.
This Week's News and Notes
- The Game Awards happened on Thursday. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, in an upset, won the top prize. As I've been playing it in hopes of beating it before the end of the year—I doubt I will—I think it's well deserved. Like Bloodborne before it, it's an excellent twist on the soulslike formula. You can read the full recap of all the news that came from the night, and all the awards here.
- Mike talked with the folks at Amazon to get the lowdown on what's changed about its upcoming MMO New World since it was in alpha. Turns out: quite a bit!
- Last week I sat down with the creative leads on Life Is Strange 2 to learn more about the decisions behind the episodic game's many endings, and to hear why they think it didn't hit quite as hard as its predecessor did. You can read the full postmortem Q&A here.
- A new MechWarrior came out last week, but we wouldn't blame you if you weren't aware. Kat wrote about the series legacy on PC, and why it still matters today.
- The Witcher premieres this Friday on Netflix. We here at Team USG are pretty excited about it, even with the news that it won't be developing storylines from the games. Boo! Please have an episode of Geralt retrieving a pan for an old mean woman!
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was still the best-selling game of November, but Death Stranding made a strong debut on the NPD charts at Number 7.
- Axe of the Blood God: On this week's Axe of the Blood God, Kat and Nadia are joined by special guest... Me! (Caty!) Join us as we discuss the Year in RPGs, from BioWare's rough year to our favorite RPGs of the year, like Disco Elysium and Pokemon Sword and Shield. Subscribe and tune in here!
- And that's that for Starting Screen in 2019! We look forward to joining you in the new year, and we all hope you have a happy holiday season!