Microsoft unveils its next Xbox console: ‘Series X’ will debut in 2020, with mini-tower design

The Xbox Series X. (Microsoft Image)

Microsoft revealed the name and look of its next Xbox console on Thursday night, unveiling the new Xbox “Series X” with a hardware design that quickly drew comparisons to a mini PC tower. The new system, which previously went by the code name Project Scarlett, is set to debut in late 2020.

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, introduced the Series X from the main stage at the Game Awards conference in Los Angeles, broadcasting from the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The debut went live alongside a new post by Spencer on the official Xbox blog, detailing the power, specs, and plan for the Series X.

The Series X, as shown at the show and in its new trailer, does look a lot like a tower PC in miniature, though Spencer clarified in the blog post that it will support both horizontal and vertical orientation, in much the same way as the PlayStation 2 and 4 do. It will also ship with a brand-new iteration on the Xbox controller, further evolving on the work done to create the currently top-of-the-line Elite 2 Wireless model, which will include a dedicated “share” button for clips and screenshots.

“Xbox Series X will be our fastest, most powerful console ever and set a new bar for performance, speed and compatibility, allowing you to bring your gaming legacy, thousands of games from three generations and more forward with you,” Spencer wrote. “Its industrial design enables us to deliver four times the processing power of Xbox One X in the most quiet and efficient way, something that is critically important in delivering truly immersive gameplay.”

The Series X is planned to ship with an AMD-created custom processor, and features a “next-generation” solid state drive for fast play and minimal loading times. Microsoft promises 60 FPS, 4K gaming with the potential for up to 120 FPS, with special capabilities for gaming via cloud-based technology.

What’s more interesting is that Microsoft appears to be doubling down on its commitment to backwards compatibility, with the Series X built to allow you to take your achievements and games with you from four generations of Xbox hardware. Spencer writes that the Series X will “set a new bar for performance, speed and compatibility, allowing you to bring your gaming legacy, thousands of games from three generations and more forward with you.”

The most telling part of the announcement, however, was the repeated emphasis on console gaming, as opposed to anything else. Spencer writes that the Series X’s design “signifies our belief that a gaming console should be for just that – gaming.” In other words, Microsoft isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or disrupt the entire industry; it’s still focused on making the Series X an actual gaming system, rather than a glorified cable box or cloud server.

The new system’s public debut puts Microsoft slightly ahead of the pack in the race to begin the ninth generation of video game consoles. Sony has been surprisingly quiet overall regarding its newly-announced PlayStation 5, though one of tonight’s surprise announcements was the debut of Godfall, a multiplayer action game that is officially the first PS5 exclusive to appear in public.

Meanwhile, Nintendo appears intent on simply continuing to ride the Switch to success; one funny note at tonight’s Game Awards was that all five games up for consideration in the Best Family Game category were Nintendo exclusives, showcasing the company’s dominance in that particular space.

The Xbox Series X announcement was immediately followed by the official world debut of a trailer for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, a surprise sequel to the BAFTA-award-winning Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, by the British-based Microsoft studio Ninja Theory. Hellblade II is being built from the ground up for the Series X hardware, and will be a launch title for the system alongside 343 Industries’ Halo: Infinite.

These were among several of the big news items that spun out of this year’s Game Awards, which is both an awards ceremony for the last 12 months’ video game releases and an opportunity for big public announcements by the global games industry. Among other things, Wizards of the Coast debuted the next block for Magic: The Gathering, called Theros: Beyond Death.

Microsoft’s long-awaited Ori and the Will of the Wisps also received a release date, of March 11th, 2020. It will be available on the Xbox Game Pass upon its official debut.

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