Is the Xbox Series X ‘too much of an upgrade?’

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Shawn Farner

Lordy. Okay, so what you’re about to read is not a joke. It’s also not something scraped from the PlayStation subreddit, or a Twitter comment plucked from a die-hard PlayStation fan. It’s a statement made by someone who covers video games for a site I actually really, really like.

“When you have an Xbox One X, the Xbox Series S does not feel like an upgrade and the Series X feels like too much of an upgrade. I feel like I’m in this weird wasteland created by Microsoft’s bad decisions for the last 7 years.” You can attribute that quote to GameIndustry.biz‘s Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Handrahan, who uttered those words on the site’s latest podcast.

That sounds ridiculous, right? Some people, like Windows Central‘s Jez Corden, have called it out for being a “legendarily” bad take. I, as someone who writes for an all-Xbox site, am here to tell you this: that cut-out looks bad on its own, but the argument that surrounded it was actually pretty sound. Here’s why.

What Microsoft attempted with the Xbox One X was a mid-cycle upgrade — kind of like going from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6S. The way the company went about this, however, bridged this generation with the next one in a way that wasn’t ideal.

In a perfect world, the Xbox One X would’ve been what the Xbox Series S is now; a console that slightly ups the resolution and can play games at much higher frame rates. Then, when the Xbox Series X arrived, there wouldn’t have been a need for two next-gen Xbox consoles. Microsoft would’ve had the lower end covered by the One X, and the higher end covered by the Series X.

Instead, Microsoft sold a $500 machine that, just three years later, was discontinued. Microsoft left everyone who owns an Xbox One X holding the bag a little bit.

Which new Xbox do you move to now, having just spent $500 three years ago? The Xbox One X is not considered “next-gen.” Support will go away at some point. What Microsoft is asking is for you to cough up another $500 to have the next-gen machine that can do 4K. To play the newest games at that resolution, you will need the newest top-of-the-line machine. There is nothing below the Series X capable of doing that.

The Xbox Series S certainly looks like a worthy system, but it dials things back. It can do the same 60 frames-per-second in titles as the Series X, but it is meant to play games at 1440p. In terms of resolution, it can’t do what the Xbox One X can. In terms of what is “next-gen” and what is not, however, the Xbox Series S will have support for years to come. The Xbox One X may not.

I honestly feel for those who purchased an Xbox One X. Microsoft touted 4K as the future of video games, and then changed course a little bit leading into the next generation. Now 4K isn’t the focus so much anymore — it’s all about the “feel” of games and getting those higher frame rates.

The Xbox One X — a console that was top-shelf just three years ago — isn’t even in the conversation. It isn’t a step below the Xbox Series X, which is what you’d expect. Instead, it’s flat-out not being manufactured anymore. Microsoft is essentially making it disappear. That’s not how a mid-cycle refresh is supposed to work.

Anyway, that’s where I think GameIndustry.biz‘s Matthew Handrahan is coming from. It’s easy to single out that one quote and ridicule it. GamesIndustry.biz‘s Twitter account certainly didn’t help matters by highlighting it. It’s a lot harder, as someone who is an Xbox fan, to admit the Xbox One X wasn’t handled all that well.

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