On Monday evening, a floodgate opened about Microsoft’s next-gen console launch plans. Multiple reports, along with a telling video snippet, put an exclamation point on the company’s leaked aspirations to launch the “Xbox Series X” console (announced in late 2019) next to a cheaper, smaller “Xbox Series S” model by year’s end.
Hours after the reports went live, Microsoft confirmed that Xbox Series S indeed exists. Described by Microsoft as “the smallest Xbox ever,” this new console will launch at a $299 price point.
Longtime Microsoft-tracking reporter Brad Sams kicked off the flurry of Monday news with a screenshot showing an apparent Xbox Series S design, colored white and roughly half the size of an Xbox Series X, next to a price: $299. At the time, Sams did not offer an explanation for where he sourced his image, but he has repeatedly reported on the Series S’s existence while it was in development under the code name Lockhart, alongside the Series X (codenamed Scarlett).
S marks the spot
If previous reports pan out, Series S will debut with many of the same technical leaps found in Series X—and these could include features like “Velocity Architecture” for faster game loading or fancy graphical effects like ray tracing. But Series S would offer those “next-gen” perks at lower maximum power, meant for either lower pixel resolutions (like 1080p) or lower frame rates, to reduce the console’s price. Sams and other reporters have estimated a peak rendering level of roughly 4 teraflops for Series S, compared to the 12 TF power and 4K resolution aspirations of Series X. Microsoft has yet to offer details about Xbox Series S’s capabilities beyond a vague description of “next-gen performance.”
In August, Ars Technica was able to confirm the cheaper console’s name, thanks to sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans and an early launch of its controller (whose “compatibility” list mentioned “Xbox Series X / S”).
Shortly after Sams’ report went live, Windows Central reported the same price point for the Series S, along with a claim that Xbox Series X will launch at $499. WC’s report, citing “sources,” claimed both consoles will launch on November 10, but the report didn’t clarify which regions that launch will encompass. (Microsoft had previously confirmed a “November” console launch for Series X.)
Series S images in the Monday reports were followed by a leaked snippet of the Series S’s reveal video, as shared by Twitter user “_h0x0d_.” This four-second video includes a slick animation of both new consoles placed side-by-side, followed by the Series S sliding into a transparent version of the Series X chassis to emphasize the size comparison. At that point, a narrator describes “how small it is.”
What the narrator doesn’t say in that brief clip is that the Series S appears to be missing a disc drive on its front face or the other visible sides. Whether a disc drive might exist on any other sides remains unclear, even after Microsoft’s Series S confirmation, but that’d be a huge design departure for Xbox, which has placed disc-drive slots on the same side as its console power buttons for years. Hence, skipping the disc drive as a way to get the price down to $299—and further emphasizing digital-download subscription packages like Xbox Game Pass—seems likely.
Instead, the video shows off a top array of holes that resemble the dot pattern found on the edges of Xbox One X, along with a dotted, all-black circular panel on one of its sides—likely meant to enable more venting. Other than the big circle-vent thing, the console’s design…