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News | Business | Tech: Xbox Series X: 'When gamers are ready for next-gen consoles, we're here'

Steffan Powell

6-7 minutes - Source: BBC

Xbox Series Ximage copyrightMicrosoft

Seven years ago Xbox One was released, bringing titles like Halo 5, Forza Horizon 4 and Minecraft into around 60 million households worldwide.

Now it's time to see what's next - as Xbox introduces its next generation of console worldwide today.

"This will be an era where games feel tremendously better than before," Phil Spencer, the boss of gaming at Microsoft, tells Newsbeat.

Phil says the real difference will be all about "speed and feel" with games being "much more responsive to players".

The new console launches just ahead of Sony's PlayStation 5 which has a different vision for the future of games.

'If it's not time to buy a new console, that's fine'

Phil's confident about the potential of both the Xbox Series X and its digital-only little brother the Xbox Series S but is acutely aware of the world into which these machines are being released.

"We're at a time of a lot of uncertainty for families," he says.

"Gaming is playing a really important role, and I don't want to downplay the investments people have already made in Xbox."

He promises Microsoft will carry on making games for the consoles people already have in their homes, despite the new launch.

"If this isn't the right time for people to make a multi-hundred pound investment in the next generation, that's fine with us - we'd rather just keep them playing."

Phil Spencer at E3image copyrightMicrosoft

image captionPhil Spencer is the head of gaming at Microsoft

The new consoles

If gamers choose to spend £450 on an Xbox Series X they'll be getting what Microsoft claims is the most powerful console on the market.

"We have new hard drive technology which loads things tremendously faster, so less waiting when you click a button," Phil explains.

"How fast things happens on screen is going to be much more responsive than in previous generations.

"The box is just snappier and the convenience factor is going to be incredibly high. I'm looking forward for people to experience it."

xbox series x and simage copyrightMicrosoft

image captionThe Xbox Series X (left) and the Xbox Series S (right)

The Xbox Series S is a digital-only version (where games are downloads, not on disc) which offers similar graphics and speed for £250.

Offering player choice is Microsoft's strategy for this generation of consoles. Phil says there has been a move from "device focused to player focused" in the games industry.

"Let's meet the them where they are, whether that's on our current console, our next console, on the PC, or even on their phone, let's allow them to play Xbox, wherever they are," he says.

"And when they're ready to buy our next generation of consoles will be here ready for them."

The games

The elephant in the room is the lack of a Halo title on release day - something that was originally promised.

Despite fans' frustration, Phil seems comfortable playing the long game: "I'm a big Halo fan, and the opportunity to have it as a launch title was special.

"But we're in a different world today, we're dealing with teams of hundreds of people that are working from home and I think the health of our teams has to be paramount.

"That wasn't a decision we wanted to make but it was the right one."

A lack of big-hitting exclusive titles is one reason why some believe Microsoft was outsold by Sony and Nintendo in the previous generation of consoles.

Halo Infiniteimage copyrightMicrosoft

image captionThe Halo franchise is one of Xbox's most popular

Microsoft are trying to make up for it this time around and has bought many games studios to make titles under the Microsoft banner - including award-winning Fallout creators, Bethesda Games.

But games from those companies aren't available yet, which begs the question: what can people play on the new consoles now?

Phil explains: "We've invested in backward compatibility, so we're actually we're going to be launching this console with thousands of games.

"That's the first time we've ever done that, and this will be the largest catalogue of games available on the launch day of a console.

Gears 5 screenshotimage copyrightMicrosoft

image captionOlder titles like Gears of War 5 will be available to play on the new consoles

Backwards compatibility means current Xbox games like Gears of War 5, Sea of Thieves and Forza Horizon will be playable on day one of the new consoles with some improved visuals.

Non-exclusive new games like Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Call of Duty: Cold War, will also be available.

He says "demand is exceeding supply", so this lack of unique next generation titles on launch day doesn't seem to have affected Xbox's popularity

"That'll be true this holiday as well, I think our consoles will be in the market, but you're going to have to work hard to find one."

The names

The previous generation consoles were called the Xbox One X and Xbox One S and some people have found the new names difficult to distinguish from their predecessors.

Phil says he "understands the feedback" but insists "coming up with a name was something we thought hard about."

"Really we just think it's Xbox, that's the console that you buy and there's different variants of it."

"That was the thinking behind it. There is a plan!"

The competition

Gamers who missed out on pre-orders will now be choosing which console to invest in - and comparisons between Microsoft and Sony's offering are inevitable.

Phil says he "respects" the work of Sony's teams adding they've done an "amazing job" on the PlayStation 5 but that the offerings this time are very different.

In the end he says: "The players will decide".


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