The Xbox Series S is a next-gen game-changer at £249

It’s no great understatement that Microsoft’s new console rollout has been a bit of a disaster to date. Compared to Sony’s grand PlayStation 5 unveiling, the two big Xbox launch events have been underwhelming. To the extent that Halo Infinite – the huge launch game Microsoft planned to sell its new consoles on – was delayed indefinitely after fans and more casual players alike deemed its graphics to be “not next-gen enough”. Now, its second, more affordable Xbox Series S console has leaked in its entirety before its makers got a chance to announce the thing.

As much as the Xbox Series S’ promotion has been a mess, the actual console itself is both hugely exciting and virtually unprecedented. New consoles are famously expensive and both the PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s flagship Xbox Series X machine are expected to be no different. Case in point: last generation’s Xbox One had a UK launch price of £429 and was easily outsold by the £349 PlayStation 4. Way back in 2007, the PlayStation 3 had an RRP of £425 and struggled for years against the £279 Xbox 360.

The moral of the story? The cheaper box tends to win out come every new console generation and the Xbox Series S has a historically low price tag of £249. Since Sony and Microsoft are both making two new machines this time around things are admittedly a little different: the Series S and X will go up against the Sony PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. Given what we know about Sony’s consoles and how closely they seem to be aligned on their super-powerful internals, it is extremely likely that the Series X will be the best value box come its November launch.

Despite all the marketing palaver to date, Microsoft seems to have one hell of an ace up its sleeve. So what’s the catch?

Although the specs have not officially been announced for the Xbox Series S, a bunch of its marketing materials seem to have jumped the gun. To the extent that you can watch a whole 91-second ad for the new unannounced on Twitter right now. Assuming that video is not an extremely convincing fake, it seems as though the console will feature a gaming at 120 frames per second at 1,440p resolution, 4K upscaling with dazzling DirectX raytracing, and a custom NVME 512GB SSD for super-fast loading times. Also, it doesn’t come with a disc drive, so you’ll need to buy your games digitally from the Xbox Store.

Is this machine going to be as powerful as the reportedly $499 Xbox Series X? Absolutely not. Will it be powerful enough for the average consumer? We would say very much so and that’s obviously Microsoft’s line of thought as well. Well, that and the fact and it can make up some of its lost revenue via the more expensive nature of digital game purchases and subscriptions to its Game Pass service: a catalogue of more than 100 quality titles that costs players £7.99 per month.

From Forza Horizon 4 to Gears 5 and eventually Halo Infinite, every new Xbox exclusive has been released on Game Pass at launch for the past few years alongside a rotating roster of great third-party titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Resident Evil 7 and The Outer Worlds. It’s basically Netflix for games and an absolute bargain for the price. Especially if you’re not the type to play every big new game the moment it’s released.

So as much as Microsoft has seemingly bungled the announcement of the Xbox Series S, there really is a lot to like about this machine. Come Christmas, when a lot of people are going to be looking for value from their gifting, it’s hard not to see this thing being a rampant success. Especially since its svelte industrial design – the Series S is 60 per cent smaller than the X – means that nothing looks cheap about it.

Obviously, the major caveat here is that there are still two months until Microsoft’s new consoles (and likely Sony’s) launch officially. A lot can change in that time – even when it comes to pricing – and the PlayStation 5 is sure to clap back in some form or another. Also, it’s worth remembering that next-gen machines don’t tend to come into their own until a couple of years after their release when they’ve got plenty of games to their names and developers have begun to eke the most out of their powerful new internals.

If you are looking to make the leap to a new console come November, it’s all good news. So long as the Xbox Series S delivers on its promise, even the most affordable new machine should be a worthy investment.

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