Unpacking Xbox

The stage is set. Xbox has outlined the rollout for their next wave of console and services. The Series X and S have been unveiled and we are on the road to launch day. There’s a lot to unpack here, from service upgrades to naming conventions to hard drive space. Team Mega Dads is going to give you our highs and lows for Microsoft’s Xbox strategy. We’re going to tell you what we like and what we don’t like, if we’re buying in to the next generation, and an overall grade for their strategy towards next gen.

Adam Leonhardt

The Good: The messaging from Team Xbox has been on point for years now. Every player who is tuned in to the industry side of things knows this boat has been in the middle of a course correction via a WIDE and slow turn ever since Captain Spencer took the helm. Via Game Pass, All Access, X-Cloud and other high profile initiatives, Microsoft has made it clear that the future is all about accessibility.

The biggest feather in their cap outside of the obvious Game Pass library being an unmatched value is All Access. While nobody likes the idea of going on a payment plan (it calls to mind credit cards and layaway), Xbox has made All Access a very cool and easy way to get into the next generation. This to me is the biggest card they have to play to get folks into the next series.

The Bad: Unfortunately the bad is now what it has always been with Xbox. The games. There is no killer app for the Series this holiday season. The problem they face is there is no flagship game they can point to to get people excited about spending more money on hardware. They tout the extensive Game Pass library being instantly available which is true, but it’s also true if you stay put on the One. It cannot be understated how having no killer app to launch this next set of boxes makes buying into next gen a non-starter for many people.

Am I Buying?: No. I waited to jump into the One era for quite a while for the same reason that I’m looking to hold out here. There still is not a single Xbox franchise that I care about enough to justify a hardware purchase on its own. The Medium comes very close for me, but it’s not enough. I will wait and see how things go, but as for now there’s just too much to get excited about with the PS5 to have me consider buying the SX.

Final Grade: B. Microsoft has done absolutely EVERYTHING right with this consoler rollout in terms of proposition value, options, accessibility, programs and putting the gamer first. However looking back on my purchase of a 1X, I still ultimately don’t feel it was worth my money. There just haven’t been the games, and I still don’t see the games coming.

John Wahl

The Good: As someone who has no interest in gaming on PC, the decision to purchase a next gen Xbox was an easy one. I enjoy gaming with a controller, on my couch, on my 60″ 4K TV, and the Xbox Series X is going to be the best way to do that. It’s the most powerful next gen console so the 3rd party titles (which are mostly what I play) will look and play the best on it, plus with services like Game Pass Ultimate I’m able to save hundreds of dollars on my hobby and play loads of games that I might not have tried before.

Also, if I’m able to do it with my pre-order, the ability to purchase my Xbox using All Access will save me even more money, freeing up funds to maybe get both an Xbox and PlayStation at launch. Features like xCloud and Backwards Compatibility are all just icing on the cake.

The Bad: The only bad that I can think of for the launch of the Series X/S is that it’s missing a AAA launch exclusive. With Halo Infinite delayed they are missing that big marque title. That being said, I’m as excited for The Medium as any other game coming this year, and getting to play Gears Tactics and (hopefully) Microsoft Flight Simulator means that there are plenty of awesome looking exclusives to satisfy me.

Am I Buying?: Absolutely. They have nailed pretty much everything they have gone for during the lead up to this launch, and despite it rolling out in a staggered, leaky, manner, I’m incredibly excited to get my hands on this thing. I’ll be refreshing my computer on September 22nd in anticipation.

Final Grade: A. Comparing this launch to the launch of the Xbox One is staggering. The messaging this time around is clear, the policies are consumer friendly, it’s affordable, it’s the most powerful, and it’s going to have a slew of games at launch. The delay of Halo is the only blemish on what has been a nearly flawless lead up to next gen.

Nick Edwards

The Good: From day one, the messaging from team Xbox has been consumer first and they really backed it up with the price point and plans for both the S and the X series, with Game Pass and EA Play included. Xbox is now able to not only compete against Sony to be your 1st choice as a console but also your second choice by going after Nintendo. Even with the crushing leak ruining what was probably months of planning and work, Microsoft pivoted excellently and rolled with it by putting the consumer first and owning the situation. 

The Bad: In the time since their big reveal event last month, what was Xbox’s big AAA title launch title, Halo Infinite, has been pushed back to 2021 and to be honest I really don’t think it is the draw that it used to be. Some of the shine on that star has been tarnished in recent years and with nothing else on the horizon that can’t be played on other systems or test driven on cloud gaming it is hard to justify the 25 or 35 a month just to play older or smaller games. Because I know I will treat it the same way I treat Netflix after I’ve binged the stuff I actually want to watch.

Am I Buying?: Not now but I can see the appeal once games like Fable start coming out. Microsoft bought up tons of studios the past few years but those are still a way off from offering possibly worthwhile system sellers

Final Grade: A for their marketing team for all the work they have done, the consumer-friendly lingo like “Smart Delivery.” A for the pricing team that realized not everyone can fork out $500 flat right now. I grade (virtually) on a curve though and those two A’s only can only do so much lifting. I think back at the multiple 360’s I bought that red ringed. I think back at my One that sat and collected dust. I think about the push to digital, the small hard drive and the proprietary external hard drives that are going to be pushed and I think about the games I know are coming and how far off they are and how many games have been micromanaged or flat out cancelled and I think that I can comfortably give Xbox an overall B…so far.

Chris Berto

The Good: Microsoft has been on an absolute winning streak when it comes to consumer-friendly services. The initial launch of Game Pass was a rousing success; MS could have left it the way it was, and it would still have been an amazing value. About a year later they added Game Pass for PC and instantly hooked players like me who like franchises like Gears of War and Halo, but did not want to get it on the One X. Today, MS took a swinging-dick approach and just announced that subscribers to Game Pass Ultimate are also getting access to EA Play… FOR NO ADDITIONAL FEE! What?!

If that wasn’t good enough, Phil Spencer released today Microsoft’s vision and plan to get the Series S and Series X into as many households as they can with Xbox All Access. For a nominal fee, families who may not have, or may not want to drop $299/$499 for the Series S and X respectfully, All Access provides an interest-free way to make 24 monthly payments (and includes Game Pass Ultimate) while keeping your system of choice when your payments end. These are incredible consumer first moves, and other console manufacturers better start taking note!

The Bad: Look, I like Xbox. I really do. Some of my favorite franchises exist on that platform, but the bottom line is, they are not present at launch or near the launch of their biggest console (smallest ever) launch ever. Microsoft is on the defensive this generation and NEEDED some major titles at launch. I know how badly COVID-19 has sucked the wind out of everyone’s sails, and I know how much it must have hurt to delay Halo Infinite (which I agree needed to be delayed), but to not have anything else in reserve from first-party is going to be a problem, even with all the great Game Pass stuff and forward/backwards compatibility available between generations.

Also, (and this is the big one) the Series S has a huge glaring problem that apparently no one else can see or has an issue with but me. The 512GB storage solution on the Series S is a total deal breaker. Many AAA games are pushing 80-100GB file sizes (before updates and patches) and unless the speed of these custom NVMe drives allows developers to crunch down on files sizes, those numbers are only going to increase. A next-gen system with less than 1TB (or at least close to a TB) of usable space is unacceptable.

Am I Buying?: Not a chance! Here’s the deal, Xbox is absolutely killing it right now, but there simply isn’t a reason for me to move into the Series S/X right now, or possibly ever. Here’s the thing, that’s not a slam against the systems. Minus my hang-up on the SSD issue, both consoles appear to be absolute bangers at an incredible price/performance. 4K/60 with raytracing for $499; that’s a crazy deal proposition considering what it would cost to get those numbers on a PC. Therein lies the problem. I am a PC guy at heart and with Game Pass Ultimate PC + EA Play already at my fingertips, my 2080ti equipped PC is going to play all those same exclusives at the same framerates.

Final Grade: B-. For all the good MS and Phil Spencer are doing, they lack the one thing that I think truly moves new hardware, and that is exclusive to your platform GAMES. Game Pass is an incredible value and I could sing its praises for days, but Game Pass isn’t a reason to upgrade to a new console if you can already enjoy it’s benefits on your current One S or One X. Also, that damn SSD is too small!


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