June 20, 2024

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Microsoft’s Xbox update can’t compete with the leaked roadmap

Microsoft’s Xbox update can’t compete with the leaked roadmap

Microsoft showed off three new Xbox models yesterday at Summer Game Fest 2024, but anyone following last year’s mass of leaks might have been surprised by how little changed in this mid-cycle update.

In case you didn’t follow the FTC-Microsoft trial last year, things went well for Microsoft, ending with the company acquiring Activision Blizzard. The only thing that didn’t go well was the retouching. Among the court files are a trove of internal documents, including one about the future of Xbox — or at least one possible future, which Microsoft is considering in May 2022.

Xbox chief Phil Spencer told the FTC in October 2022 that the Roadmap to 2030 document was “a presentation from our hardware organization to the gaming leadership team,” and said he disagreed with some of its predictions. The slide deck outlined the team’s plan to refresh the console mid-cycle, codenamed Fairhaven, as a next-gen console. Basically, the pitch consists of some things that were definitely happening and others that would need funding to become a reality.

Let’s take a look at what was (un)advertised:

Historically, May 2024 was scheduled to be the first month for Sebile, the codename for the brand-new console. The Sebile will ship with new wireless technology, which the document referred to as “Xbox Wireless 2,” and Stadia-like cloud connectivity to reduce input latency when playing games on the Xbox Cloud. Even more exciting for gamers, it will also feature advanced haptics like the Switch and PS5 controllers, and Stadia-like direct cloud connectivity to reduce input latency on Xbox Cloud Gaming.

A new Xbox console is proposed from a May 2022 chipset that leaked last year.

Sebile, a new Xbox console proposed from a May 2022 chipset that leaked last year. (Microsoft)

Then, the big Xbox Summer Show 24 (which happened yesterday in the real world) will bring a pair of new Xbox consoles. First up is the redesign of the cylindrical Xbox Series Second is the Ellewood, a $300 Series S update with 1TB of storage, with the same improved wireless connectivity and Sebile controller, but without a major redesign.

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A proposed new SKU for the Xbox SeriesA proposed new SKU for the Xbox Series

Brooklin, a proposed new SKU for the Xbox Series (Microsoft)

The document noted that all three of these devices were “funded” but also gave two possibilities: one that would “limit Fairhaven’s investment” and one that would advance “Fairhaven’s full vision.” The first would downplay the new console’s features and cloud communications, but would presumably include a new industrial design.

A proposed new SKU for the Xbox Series S from the May 2022 chipset that was leaked last year.A proposed new SKU for the Xbox Series S from the May 2022 chipset that was leaked last year.

Ellewood, a proposed new SKU for the Xbox Series S from the May 2022 chipset that leaked last year. (Microsoft)

Fast forward to Summer Game Fest 2024, where it looks like we don’t get any of those futures. We already speculated that the Series S wouldn’t be updated, given that Microsoft has been selling a $350, 1TB version since last fall. But Microsoft’s vision for the Series . If there’s improved wireless connectivity, Microsoft hasn’t mentioned it, and we’ve currently heard nothing about Sebile; The new consoles were announced using standard Xbox controllers.

Taken alone, they are good updates. But Microsoft was in the unenviable position of competing not only with Sony and Nintendo, but itself, in the form of those leaked plans.

Microsoft's Xbox 2024 update lineup.Microsoft's Xbox 2024 update lineup.

Microsoft actual Xbox 2024 update. (Microsoft)

The $450 1TB All-Digital Console and $600 2TB Special Edition are disappointing compared to the Brooklin, $500 2TB All-Digital Console with a shiny new controller that the leaked Surface was touting. The $450 console is almost a markup, given that Microsoft and third-party retailers regularly sell the original 1TB Series (It’s worth noting that Sony has already increased the price of the PlayStation 5, with the discless model priced at $450 versus the $400 it cost at launch.) The $350 1TB Series S is essentially the same console we got It was released last fall, but that’s also poor value compared to the leaked $300 update.

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Plans change, especially plans dated May 2022. But how they change could give an idea of ​​how Microsoft is thinking about Xbox right now. Back in 2022, Series X and S sales were largely keeping pace with Xbox One sales. This is no longer the case. The total number of Xbox Series consoles sold since its launch in November 2020 is estimated to be between 28 and 29 million. Even in the United States – Microsoft’s strongest market ever – retail analysts Circana say… Xbox Series consoles lag behind the Xbox One by 13 percent.

One particularly interesting slide in the May 2022 document predicted that between 25 and 29 million consoles could be sold mid-cycle within three years. Starting today, that will mean doubling the platform’s lifetime sales. At the time, Microsoft’s hardware team probably wasn’t expecting sales to be as bad as they are currently. Microsoft finished the last generation of consoles with about 58 million Xbox One consoles sold, which was a significant decline from the 85 million Xbox 360 units that moved.

The slide suggesting sales volume will depend on how much investment Microsoft makes in the mid-gen Xbox refresh.The slide suggesting sales volume will depend on how much investment Microsoft makes in the mid-gen Xbox refresh.

A leaked slide from May 2022 suggests that sales volume will depend on how much investment Microsoft makes in the mid-gen Xbox update. (Microsoft)

Microsoft doesn’t talk about console sales numbers unless it has something positive to say, but third-party analysis suggests that a typical week for Xbox in 2024 includes moving 60 to 80 thousand consoles, with Nintendo doubling that number and Sony often tripling it . In plain words: Xbox lags further and further behind each week. We’re unlikely to know what Microsoft’s expectations are for the updated consoles, but it’s probably not 25-29 million.

The tough thing for the Xbox team is that Sony and Nintendo are going their own way on a large scale and doing a good job of it. Sony has sold 58 million PlayStation 5 consoles and is preparing to launch a pro version that will be much more powerful than the Xbox Series Nintendo has sold more than 140 million Switch consoles, regularly outsells Xbox, and has previously announced a supplemental console that should be able to handle current-gen games (including Call of Duty!) with fewer discounts. Meanwhile, Microsoft is struggling to sell its existing consoles, stumbling in its plan to boost Game Pass subscriptions and seemingly crushing its hardware team’s dream with a bold mid-cycle update.

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The only thing you have is that game developers make games. Aside from the disappointing new SKUs, Microsoft’s big summer gaming festival was a reminder of how big of an industry it now has, and how many games it currently has in development. We got the updates myth, Perfect darkness And the future of Gears of War. We’ve got a new Call of Duty and a new Doom. There are still countless developers under its wing who do not have an “announced” project, and previously announced big games that have not yet appeared, such as Marvel Blade From the corners of Lyon, Outer Worlds 2 from obsidian, everwild From Rare and Hideo Kojima Organizational development. Microsoft’s game studios have a lot of advantages, but with all of their titles coming to PC (and many to PlayStation and Switch), great games may not turn into big sellers on consoles.

Phil Spencer has spoken about last year’s leaks several times. He almost immediately took to Twitter to say: “A lot has changed“-And this was clearly true, although perhaps not for the best. Separately, he told the court something very strange Microsoft is likely to leave the gaming business If Game Pass doesn’t get a better mix of players by 2026 or 2027. Game Pass’s growth, as of February of this year, has started to taper off significantly, so… uh?

I don’t believe for a minute that Microsoft will spend the bulk of $100 billion on developers to get out of gaming, but I honestly believe that its console business is on life support, and that it doesn’t need shiny new hardware to make a lot of money on games. The gaming leadership team pitched to Sebile, Ellewood and Brooklyn in May 2022 clearly agrees.