Opinion: Microsoft is Rumored To Announce The Next Xbox At E3 2019. Here’s Why They Should Launch It This Year.

Opinion: Microsoft is Rumored To Announce The Next Xbox At E3 2019. Here’s Why They Should Launch It This Year.

With rumors rising that Microsoft may reveal their next-generation Xbox at E3 2019, here is why I think they should release it this fall.

The next-generation Xbox from Microsoft is rumored to make an appearance at E3 2019. The same industry whispers suggest that we should expect to see two new Xbox next-generation consoles: an entry-level (maybe even drive-less) version code-named “Lockhart” that is expected to be on par with the current Xbox One X, and the second being a more powerful, traditional console code-named “Anaconda.” All signs are pointing to an announcement this year with the actual hardware not arriving until 2020. If we do in fact see Microsoft kick off the next generation with two new Xbox consoles, here’s a few reasons why they shouldn’t wait and take the head start by launching in holiday 2019.

Online services and a head start worked wonders for the Xbox 360.

The Xbox One was an important (and costly) lesson for Microsoft. The console struggled early on, and its stumble out of the gate put into motion a generation where Sony and the PlayStation 4 were in the driver seat. The PS4 has maintained a historic sell through rate that will (eventually) place it over 100 million consoles sold when it is all said and done.

Outside of the initial (and disastrous) messaging around the Xbox One–a focus on TV, “always online,” and force bundling the Kinect sensor early on–Microsoft missed a key component that helped its previous console, the Xbox 360, achieve the level of success that it had. Namely: a one-year head start on store shelves before its competitors.

By arriving an entire year ahead of the PlayStation 3, this allowed the Xbox 360 to cement itself with an initial install base of 10 million units, which proved pivotal as it catapulted Microsoft’s Xbox Live service to become the definitive place for multiplayer games on consoles at the time. While Sony was still trying to wrap its head around online gaming, Xbox Live became synonymous with the biggest titles in the world: Call of Duty, MaddenFIFA, and more.

Xbox Live E3

Sony, while having a much stronger first-party exclusive pedigree, was not even in the same conversation with its PlayStation Network, as you know it today, being very much in its infancy. Xbox Live, as a service, was a true way for Microsoft to differentiate itself early on in the Xbox 360’s life cycle.

Fast forward to the present, and the company finds itself in somewhat of a similar situation leveraging services. With the recent success of its “Netflix for Games” Xbox Games Pass service–and the upcoming xCloud–Xbox is transforming itself from a physical item that you buy to an activity that you do, accessible to anything with an internet connection. The company is so committed to this plan that we’re even hearing rumors of Xbox Game Pass (and xCloud) making its way to competing hardware like the Nintendo Switch.

Microsoft is once again going to rely on services to pave the way for its future. With this in mind, if the company is confident enough to announce new hardware, they should also be ready to deliver it sooner rather than later. They should capitalize on the one year head start to get people invested into the echo system story that they are telling with Xbox.

Bigger, Louder, Faster: Next-Gen doesn’t appear to have any “hooks” outside of horsepower, yet.

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 used the inclusion of social media, streaming and content creation as one of the “hooks” or reasons to upgrade at the start of this generation. Yes, consoles that came before it dabbled with Facebook and Twitter, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the current generation that players could share moments in real time, whether that was capturing gameplay footage or sharing screenshots instantly. Xbox One and PS4 ushered in a new era of creators by providing the means to curate, share, and broadcast content without the need of expensive equipment like a powerful PC, capture card, and editing software. The idea of sharing epic moments and experiences in games (outside of the new games themselves) was enough to make people run out and buy new hardware.

Some might think (or hope) that virtual reality will be the next big selling point for the generation to come. And I hate being the bearer of bad news, but no, VR will not be the reason for early adopters to rush out and buy next-gen machines either. While the format might not be as gimmicky as say 3D or motion controls, it has yet to make the mainstream splash everyone believed that it would by this time. While Sony’s PSVR made arguably the biggest impact through its accessible price point, the developers making games for it are still sort of finding their way.

Source: Jeuxvideo Xbox “Lockhart” Xbox “Anaconda”
CPU Custom 8 Cores – 16 threads zen 2 Custom 8 Cores – 16 threads zen 2
GPU Custom NAVI 4+ Teraflops GPU Custom NAVI 12+ Teraflops
RAM 12 Gb GDDR6 16 Gb GDDR6
Storage SSD 1To NVMe 1+GB/s SSD 1To NVMe 1+GB/s

Virtual and augmented reality is still something that needs to be physically experienced to be understood. And because of that barrier, the VR renaissance isn’t in full swing just yet. Even the team at Xbox understood this and pumped the breaks a bit with their own VR ambitions for the Xbox One X. As Xbox continues to shift its focus to services, it’s hard to see VR (if it does come to the platform) being much more than a box to tick on the specs sheet rather than a primary selling feature.

Without any clear ‘hooks’ in the foreseeable future in sight, next-gen is going to be all about the horsepower pushing games while driving more pixels on screen. If the Xbox One X is to be considered “the floor” for next-gen, it seems that it would be a safe bet to assume that when the rumored “Anaconda” hardware arrives, we can (hopefully) get closer in performance to high-end PC video cards from 2017 (and early 2018). But again, the biggest gains that will make you say “OK, this is a next-generation video game” will probably stem from just an increase in overall raw performance. And that’s OK, especially if the extra resources go to things you can’t actually see, like A.I. and physics enhancements, which can potentially make the overall experience and immersion in a game that much better.

Xbox One X

Microsoft successfully sold the Xbox One X based on theory, not games.

When “Project Scorpio” eventually became the “Xbox One X” at E3 2017, Microsoft doubled down on its “games play better on Xbox One X” messaging. They didn’t have any new standout console-exclusive titles to push that holiday. Instead, they talked up “True 4K” resolution, performance updates to existing games, and sold consumers on an idea. An idea that going forward, multi-platform games will perform their absolute best on Microsoft’s machine. And so far, the company has managed to deliver on that promise.

If current rumored specifications prove to be true, the beefier and more expensive “Anaconda” version of the next Xbox is, on paper at least, slated to have double the GPU horsepower of the current Xbox One X. While I personally doubt the “Anaconda” (or the PlayStation 5 for that matter) will see any bleeding-edge enhancements like Nvidia’s latest high-end PC graphics cards and their ray tracing technology, if Microsoft is able to double the horsepower of a machine that already pumps out 4K visuals at fairly decent frame-rates, that alone will be enough to sway many into upgrading.

Why wait until 2020 if there are no exclusive games to wait around for?

From a first-party and exclusive perspective, outside of Gears 5 coming this year (which is also coming to PC, like every Xbox Game Studios release) there’s nothing that’s worth hanging around and holding back next-gen Xbox hardware for.

As Sony and the PS4 are looming–almost menacingly over the industry–with its clip (still) loaded with a handful of PS4 exclusives to close out the current generation and possibly merge into the next, Sony’s upcoming absence from E3 2019 creates a great opportunity for Microsoft and Xbox to draw attention and focus to its shiny new hardware, and bundle it with the services that will fuel it.

With the Xbox platform being both backward and “forward” compatible, there really is no reason to hold back any new hardware, especially when taking into consideration that once xCloud launches (following this year’s public trials), it becomes super important to get people invested in the Xbox ecosystem, and a physical (and substantial) hardware purchase will help to drive exactly that.