This Week's Xbox Series S Reveal Has Me Feeling Optimistic About Microsoft Again

This Week's Xbox Series S Reveal Has Me Feeling Optimistic About Microsoft Again

THIS WEEK IN BUSINESS | Microsoft's Series S reveal caps off an intriguing strategy for upending the console market.

I go back and forth on Microsoft and how well they're going to do this generation.

For the first half of the year or so, I thought Microsoft had all the momentum. I thought its efforts to build the console around Xbox Game Pass, its first-party studio acquisitions, and the All Access subscription plan to get people an expensive next-gen console with no upfront cost and no outrageous rent-to-own style markup were all winners. Having Project xCloud on-demand streaming wrapped up into Game Pass was a nice touch as well, giving even the harshest of streaming skeptics a reason to try out the tech if they're already subscribers.

I didn't so much love the proclamation that there would be no Xbox Series X exclusives for a while, because I'm skeptical people would invest that much in new hardware if everything they could play on it already runs on the stuff they own.

And then Microsoft had its Series X game showcases, and none of it really wowed me. Halo Infinite looked like something Halo fans might like, but nothing that would move the needle in the bigger picture. And then Halo Infinite got delayed, and I started to wonder if it was really worth it pushing the next Xbox out the door this year at all.

This week has me feeling a bit more optimistic on Microsoft again. The Series S at a $299 price point should help get fence-sitters in the door, and the limited hard drive space, All Access promotion, and lack of a disc drive should give new owners plenty of incentive to get an Ultimate Game Pass subscription. The fact that EA Play is rolled up in there now is just a bonus.

And on the other side, there's Sony, which still hasn't said anything about launch date or price (as of this writing). From my perspective as someone who writes about the industry for a trade website, Sony's been pretty boring this year.

The PS5 is actually the next-gen machine I'm currently expecting to buy, and games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Demon's Souls, and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart are all more appealing to me than anything I've seen for the Xbox, but Sony's strategy so far has just been boring me to tears.

As the market leader, that's to be expected. They don't want disruption when the status quo is very clearly working for them. But Microsoft is in the role of scrappy underdog, the platform holder coming off a clear failure, and that's where the fun ideas come from.

That's when you get a handheld-portable hybrid like the Switch, an indie-friendly approach like the late PS3 and early PS4, an off-the-wall experiment like the Wii, or systems that lean into ideas like online gaming before the market was established for them, like the Xbox 360 and Dreamcast.

I don't doubt the PS5 will sell and Sony will do well this generation. But that's the status quo. If you want to look at what could shake up the industry (for better and for worse), the Xbox Series S and X is where the interesting bets lie.

QUOTE | "I am fully committed to leading the change at Ubisoft, and to ensuring we always uphold and exemplify our core values. In the company, in the industry, the community, and in our games." - Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot squashes any idea that he might be ready to resign as a result of his leadership failures reflected in the publisher's recent scandal in which top executives reportedly abused and harassed employees over years while the HR department looked the other way.

QUOTE | "We hear you, due to timing constraints, we chose to release the video as a standalone message before our #UbiForward event, but we are working to ensure it will be available in full in the VOD versions of the show." - Ubisoft's Twitter account explains why Guillemot's pre-recorded video statement from Thursday morning would not be included in the pre-recorded Ubisoft Forward video event Thursday afternoon, as if Ubisoft had to follow anyone's schedule but Ubisoft's on this one.

QUOTE | "Oh hey, look at that, they didn't even bother putting Yves' statement in the VOD version of the show. Your inability to follow-through on a promise that costs you nothing besides potentially taking the glow off your hype circus does not instill in me confidence in your ability to follow through on promises to reform engrained cultural problems that originated at the top of your truly massive global organization and filtered through to 77 offices and more than 13,000 employees." - Me, after fruitlessly scrolling through the two-and-a-half hours of the Ubisoft Forward video archived on the company's official YouTube page looking for any trace of Guillemot's video statement.

STAT | $299 - The launch price of the Xbox Series S, which was been met with general applause and awe for how inexpensive it is for a next-gen console.

STAT | $299 - The launch price of the Nintendo Switch, Wii U, and Xbox 360 Core system, and for a long time, the absolute highest you could set the barrier to entry on a new console and still have a successful launch until the PS4 launched at $400.

QUOTE | "We couldn't find anything matching the term 'farewell from kotaku uk' on Kotaku" - The message currently given to users when they try to visit the farewell post from Kotaku UK. The site's EIC Rich Stanton posted the news Monday morning. That post, along with apparently everything else Kotaku UK ever published, has been taken down after a licensing agreement between Future Publishing, which ran the site, and G/O Media, which owns Kotaku, expired Wednesday.

QUOTE | "It is abundantly clear from your feedback that integrating ads into the replay and overlay experience is not welcome" - An EA representative responding to players upset real-world ads being thrown in the middle of replays in its UFC 4 game seems surprised that people who paid $60 for a new game didn't like having a bunch of ads shoehorned in there on top of that, especially given the ads were patched in after reviews had gone live so people wouldn't be able to factor it into their purchasing decisions.

QUOTE | "Knowing that our EA Sports experiences are platforms for players to create, we want to make Madden NFL a place that reflects Colin's position and talent, rates him as a starting QB, and empowers our fans to express their hopes for the future of football." - EA announces that NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been unable to find employment with an NFL team for the last three years after kneeling during the US national anthem in peaceful protest of police brutality, will appear in Madden NFL 21 as a free agent.

STAT | No. 2 - Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which was just announced last week, is already the second best-selling game of 2020 on Amazon's US storefront, behind only Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

QUOTE | "In the end we realised that we don't have the experience, and the people who we hired didn't have the experience either." - Bloober Team founder Piotr Babieno explains what became of the studio's first game, the 2006 Wii horror title Sadness that had a well-received trailer but never made it to release.

QUOTE | "I'm a big player of Rust, Ark [Survival Evolved] and games like that, but I can understand the frustration where if your mind is not ready for that kind of experience where you're going to get harassed, it's not enjoyable." - In talking about the design decisions behind Life Beyond, Darewise co-founder and CEO Benjamin Charbit underscores how harassment has become accepted as part and parcel of the online gaming experience.

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Brendan Sinclair

North American Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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