Microsoft is gearing up to launch the Xbox Series S, aka Lockhart, a low-end version of the company's next-gen console. The Series S will be available at a cheaper price point than the more powerful Xbox Series X.
While we could talk all day about how Microsoft needs to come out swinging against the much-hyped PS5, you could argue that the idea of an Xbox Series S does little to quell fears that Microsoft is getting left behind in this particular era of the console war.
READ MORE: When will the Xbox Series S launch?
How much worse is Xbox Series S than Xbox Series X?
According to a leak cited by The Verge, the rumoured Xbox Series S specs include "7.5GB of usable RAM, a slightly underclocked CPU speed, and around 4 teraflops of GPU performance".
For comparison, the Xbox Series X has 12 terfalops and the PS5 has 10.28, which means the Xbox Series S will be quite far behind its next-gen console peers in this regard. And if you're wondering what is a teraflop, it's a techincal term that equates to how much data a console or PC can compute.
Even the Xbox One X has 6 teraflops, which makes it sound like the Xbox Series S will be a little less capable than Microsoft's current generation of high-end consoles. That doesn't sound too appealing, does it?
However, the Xbox Series S will have an SSD - something that the Xbox One X lacks - which means it does have some upgrades. The SSD could well mean faster loading times and seamless moves between worlds... but wouldn't most players rather save up a bit more to get the full next-gen experience with the PS5 or the Xbox Series X?
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Why is the Xbox Series S a bad idea?
If the rumours about Teraflops are true and Microsoft is planning to position the Xbox Series S as a significantly less powerful alternative to the Xbox Series X, you could argue that this is a bad idea - from a certain point of view.
Although some players will rejoice at the idea of playing next-gen games on a more affordable console, the reality of creating games that can run on both the Xbox Series S and the Xbox Series X could well cause headaches for game developers - and that's before you factor in the Xbox One, or Xbox Game Pass for PC, both of which Microsoft is still supporting.
Leaving one foot in the past with a low-spec console could potentially cause some developers to compromise their vision for next-gen games. If they can still put games out on low-end consoles, will developers reach for the stars with big new ideas that have amazing graphics? Or will they decide to play it safe with less demanding titles that can ship to a wider audience?
If the latter becomes true, the Xbox Series S could mean that Microsoft's slate of next-gen games ends up looking a little less futuristic than Sony's PS5 offering. If you're prone to worrying, you might think a scary thought like this: the existence of a cheaper console could stifle the potential of Microsoft's next-gen games.
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What is Sony doing differently?
Microsoft seems to be employing a "no gamer left behind" strategy with projects like 'Smart Delivery', 'Optimized For Xbox Series X' and now the Xbox Series S. All of these projects point to the idea of offering a next-gen experience to everyone - even those gamers that can't afford to buy an Xbox Series X.
This sounds great on paper, but in reality, it could mean that Microsoft and its game-development partners pour a lot of time, money and effort into making downgraded versions of next-gen games that will run or older and/or less powerful hardware. And this could have a knock-on effect on the games, making Microsoft's next-gen offering look less shiny and new than Sony's.
Speaking of Sony, the PS5 manufacturer has taken a totally different tact, shouting loudly that the PlayStation 5 represents a new generation of gaming and will have truly exclusive PS5 games as a part of this strategy.
There will be a cheaper version of the PS5 console, called the PS5 Digital Edition, but it's specs are believed to be the same as the PS5 Standard Edition - the cheap one just doesn't have a disc drive.
To put this difference in strategy into terms of actual games: Sony's next-gen titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West will ONLY work on a PS5 console, while Microsoft is committed to giving the likes of Halo Infinite a sprawling release across Xbox One, PC, Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S.
As an outsider looking on from the sidelines, it seems like Microsoft is spreading itself quite thin. The Xbox overlords are trying to appeal to everyone - gamers that can't afford to upgrade their console, and those that simply don't want to fork out on new hardware, are being catered to just as much as Xbox Series X early adopters.
You could argue that Sony is doing more to make its new console look like an essential purchase, whereas Microsoft is choosing instead to offer a multitude of ways to play its new games - whether you want a new console or not.
Of course, only time will tell which strategy achieves the biggest financial results. But for now, we're yet to be convinced that the Xbox Series S is a good thing...