My Observations: Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X

What a roller coaster ride that has been. The leaks were made and the speculating is all over. Microsoft is officially launching its next-generation game consoles Xbox Series S (economic all-digital model) and Xbox Series X (premium model) on November 10, 2020 with prices of $299 and $499 respectively! Pre-ordering of the consoles will begin on September 22, 2020.  

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S together!

In an Xbox.com article, Xbox division chief Phil Spencer stated: On November 10, a new generation of console gaming begins. That’s when our vision becomes reality with the most performant, immersive and compatible next-generation console gaming experiences, and the freedom to play your games with your friends, anytime, anywhere.

For the newcomers reading this, the premium Xbox Series X was officially announced many months ago and it was only very recently that the budget-friendly Xbox Series S was officially announced (after the leakages, take note).

So what are the differences between the two? Posted below for your general reference are the official specs from Xbox.com

The most obvious difference starts with the GPU with the Xbox Series S having 32 lesser compute units (CUs) as well as a lower frequency per CU compared with the premium Xbox. This results the Xbox Series S also having 4 teraflops of GPU power or barely one-third of the more powerful one. The $299 Xbox also lesser GDDR6 RAM and lower bandwidth. In terms of resolution, Xbox Series X can render visuals in native 4K resolution (3840×2160) while the less powerful Xbox can do up to 1440P. Both of them, however are expected to deliver similar results when it comes to frame-rates. On storage, Xbox Series S has 512GB SSD (solid state drive) which is roughly half that of the premium console. If you enjoy watching movies on Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray discs, or if you intend to use physical copies of video games, the Xbox Series X has a 4K Blu-ray disc drive while the cheaper Xbox has no such drive at all (note: it’s all digital).

Considering the huge $200 price difference, the two next-generation Xbox consoles will appeal to different kinds of gamers and eventually other consumers who want to improve their home entertainment (or in the case of individuals living away from their families, the personal entertainment) set-up. I can imagine gamers who enjoy playing video games using their PC monitors (at the desks inside their bedrooms or in the house study), who prefer digital downloads over physical media for their games, and looking for bargains will be attracted to Xbox Series S. Gamers who still use optic media for their games, who want to upgrade their movie viewing experience with their 4K TV at home (and start collecting movies on 4K Blu-ray disc format), who want a lot more SSD storage available, and who want the best of 4K gaming will finds Xbox Series X a preferred machine.

Gamers who started their respective Xbox legacies (with Xbox LIVE accounts) for more than one console generation should be happy to know that their old Xbox-related game collection will NOT go to waste as both Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X have been confirmed to be backward compatible with original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles. The beauty with Xbox backward compatibility is that the old games will not only be played, they will have visual enhancements too.

More on the Xbox Series S, the $299 tag price is indeed very enticing especially during this time of pandemic and economic uncertainty. The cheaper console, which has a surprisingly small size compared with other game consoles, is literally a very powerful beast performance wise and (like the premium Xbox) it also has ray-tracing.

Microsoft’s Head of Platform Engineering and Hardware Liz Hamren confirmed the following details: Xbox Series S delivers the same next generation speed and performance that define Xbox Series X. It is similar in CPU and has the identical I/O performance as Xbox Series X, making it easier for developers to deliver the same great performance, while rendering at a lower resolution. Xbox Series S delivers 4x the processing power of an Xbox One console and supports experiences up to 120fps, more immersive and responsive gameplay with support for hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing and Variable Rate Shading. In addition, Xbox Series S includes 512GB of custom SSD storage and is powered by the Xbox Velocity Architecture, delivering more than 40x the I/O bandwidth of an Xbox One resulting in faster loading times, steadier frame rates and Quick Resume for multiple titles.

You’ll also experience the same great audio on Xbox Series S that you will on Xbox Series X with Spatial Sound, including support for Dolby Atmos. What’s more, support for Dolby Vision via streaming media apps like Disney+, Vudu and Netflix will be available across Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X at launch, and Dolby Vision support for gaming will come first to our next-gen Xbox consoles in 2021.

As of this writing, I noticed a number of gamers online expressing concern about the 512GB SSD storage on the Xbox Series S. On face value, 512GB looks insufficient considering the sizes of video games and DLC (downloadable content) today. Like the premium console, the SSD storage of Xbox Series S can be upgraded by means of using the proprietary Xbox Storage Expansion Card which will be a very expensive affair for consumers and the sad thing is that traditional SSDs cannot be used.

When it comes to digital services and subscriptions, Microsoft is really going all-out with brand new offerings via the Xbox All Access program which will start in twelve nations. Take note that the wildly popular Xbox Game Pass is included!

Xbox Prdouct Marketing General Manager Jeff Gattis announced the following details: Whether you’re upgrading to the newest consoles or joining the Xbox family for the first time, with Xbox All Access, you can get everything you need to play — an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — from $24.99 a month for 24 months with no upfront cost. We’re also excited to bring Xbox All Access to more fans around the world this holiday, and to offer existing Xbox All Access members more flexibility in their upgrade option.

With Xbox All Access you not only get the latest consoles, but also an instant library of over 100 high-quality games for console, PC, and Android mobile devices (Beta).  Plus, you get all new Xbox Game Studios titles the same day they release, including Halo Infinite. What’s more, starting this holiday Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Game Pass for PC members get an EA Play membership at no additional cost.

And then there is EA Play!

As if that was not good enough, there is also Dolby Vision for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S! Read the details at Dolby.com

With Xbox Series X at $499 and Xbox Series S at $299 backed with very enticing online offerings and features that promise strong value for customers, it is clear that Microsoft is looking strong with launching the two next-generation consoles even though Halo Infinite has been delayed beyond launch. Times like this, I wish that the Xbox-exclusive The Gunk was launch title.

Without Halo Infinite as the showcase of the next-generation launch, Microsoft will have to rely on 3rd-party video games (both cross-generation and next-generation that will be released along with or shortly after the new consoles’ launch) looking and playing great on the next-generation Xbox consoles to convince gamers to make the technological jump forward early. It’s already confirmed that Ubisoft’s much-awaited Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will not only run at 60FPS on Xbox Series X but also in 4K resolution! Considering the open-world design of the said game, playing it the “4K60” way should be mind-blowing to gamers.

It is also clear is that, with the latest Xbox development, Sony has challenges to overcome when it comes to announcing the prices and offerings related to launching its two PlayStation 5 (PS5) consoles – one with a disc drive and the other without. $299 is a very hard launch price for Sony to match with the drive-less PS5, and it should be noted that PS5’s backward compatibility is limited to PS4 games (in other words, Mark Cerny and his team failed to find ways to make PS1-PS2-PS3 game discs play on their upcoming console). PS5 games look interesting but none of them convinced me to buy Sony’s new console. My choice is Xbox Series X because I know the exclusive games coming out in the next two years will be worth the wait plus I love the Gears of War, Halo and Forza Motorsport franchise of games. I also want the premium Xbox for my Blu-ray movie collection and, eventually, the start of a new collection of movies in 4K Blu-ray discs.

In ending this piece, I recommend you watch the videos from Dealer Gaming, Colteastwood and Digital Foundry.

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Focus on the Xbox-exclusive The Gunk coming in 2021

Before discussing the main topic of this article, let me state that I am disappointed with the delay of Halo Infinite. I was looking forward to playing that game on my Xbox One and replay it as soon as I buy an Xbox Series X console (set for release this November). Now that Halo Infinite won’t get released until sometime in 2021, Microsoft will have to pull off the right moves to ensure that Xbox Series X will launch successfully. As per tradition in video gaming, exclusive games (whether it’s made by a 3rd-party developer or by the console maker’s own game studios) are attractive to consumers who intend to jump into the new console generation.

While Microsoft has Xbox Game Pass and a massively large library of games from the previous Xbox console generations that early adopters of Xbox Series X can enjoy, their potential lineup of launch games for the new console looks very uncertain (as of this writing) without Halo Infinite. Xbox division head Phil Spencer and the rest of Team Xbox still have yet to announce the price of Xbox Series X, confirm the existence of the rumored Xbox Series S, what games will be launching with the new console(s), what related devices will be released, emphasize how beneficial is game optimization for Xbox Series X truly is, etc.

And now for the topic at hand…

With so many games presented during the Xbox Games Showcase of July 23, it was rather easy to overlook certain games. After replaying the showcase, I came across The Gunk which is a sci-fi adventure game made by the same team behind the SteamWorld franchise of games. Watch this official video below.

Developed by Thunderful Development and published by Thunderful Publishing exclusively for Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Windows 10 PC with a September 2021 release (with inclusion in Xbox Game Pass plus support of Xbox Smart Delivery), The Gunk is a 3D sci-fi action adventure game that (based on the above video) will be played in third-person (note: you’ll see your character in the middle) with platforming, running, jumping, exploring and vacuuming a living substance called the gunk off plants in a very exotic planet that’s just waiting to be explored in the game.

Based on available information, The Gunk follows the exploits of a character who arrives on a planet with high-tech equipment as part of a salvaging operation to explore the natural environment and find something good or interesting. What lies ahead and how much gunk from the planet should be vacuumed remains to be seen.

The protagonist?

As to why The Gunk is an Xbox-exclusive, Thunderful Group CEO Brjann Sigurgeirsson explained that his team needed more power to realize their concept in 3D which is something they have not done before. They wanted a game where more is more. Below is an excerpt from the Xbox.com article:

One of our early hurdles was the defensive urge to “hold the game back” to ensure that The Gunk would run comfortably on any platform. It took us a while to understand that we were tasking ourselves with something impossible – we wouldn’t be able to maximize the game while worrying about frame rates. We had to choose, and we decided to go for the grand vision. Mind you, we had pulled off tricky stuff in the past and squeezed outlandish frame rates out of limited hardware, but to realize the full potential of The Gunk we would need real power. And so, we decided to talk to Microsoft and ask about this new hardware they were tinkering with. And now, dear reader… here we are: The Gunk will come out exclusively on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. ~ Brjann Sigurgeirsson

It’s so nice learn from the Thunderful Group that they came up with their first 3D project at a time when Microsoft developed the very powerful Xbox Series X. The Gunk being exclusive for the current and next-generation Xbox consoles just might turn out to be fun-filled hit and it should be noted that the Thunderful Group SteamWorld games not only earned a positive reception from critics and gamers, but also picked up an array of awards.

Nice art style – check. Nice visual effects – check. Mystery – check.

Personally, I really like what I saw in the unveiling trailer of The Gunk. It has a cartoonish character design that surprisingly looks good in 3D polygons. I also liked the artistic style and the clever use of lighting effects with regards to defining the look of the planet. In short, it really looked not only exotic but also out of this world! Apart from the exploration, the platforming and potential fun action, I hope that the game will have a really engaging story to tell and that their characters (note: no telling how many we’ll see) will be relatable. Since the game involves space travel, I hope that the developers will implement some space ship battles which is something that the great sci-fi RPG (role-playing game) The Outer Worlds lacked.

Right now, I am very interested in The Gunk. It has a high-quality look to it and it could deliver a whole lot of fun to gamers on the Xbox ecosystem. It just might become a standout among whatever Xbox-exclusive games will come out in 2021. What is clear is that The Gunk is a 3rd-party exclusive being made by very talented game makers for Microsoft’s consoles and that means a lot.

There a wide open environment waiting to be explored. Monsters and puzzles await us gamers.

For more on Xbox and video gaming, stay tuned!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com