Microsoft announced the Xbox One X on Sunday, touting it as the most powerful console ever made. And it is, the specs simply speak for themselves. Yesterday, we compared the Xbox One X to Sony’s PS4 Pro, the two 4K-bragging consoles on the market. We found the Xbox to be the clear winner, but the man responsible for the console says it is not even a worthy comparison to make.
Phil Spencer, head of Xbox for Microsoft, told Eurogamer that he does not see the PS4 Pro as a direct competitor for the Xbox One X.
“I look at Pro as more of a competitor to S than I do to Xbox One X. This is a true 4K console. If you just look at the specs of what this box is, it’s in a different league than any other console that’s out there. When I think about techniques to somehow manufacture a 4K screen like what some other consoles try to do, this is different than that.”
While I could argue all the consoles are competitors in the same market, it is easy to see Spencer’s point. It is also further confirmation that Xbox One X plays true 4K games natively. It does not use the same upscaling that the PS4 Pro does, albeit to an excellent standard.
Interestingly, Spencer gave that answer while responding to a question about price. The Xbox One X will cost $499 when it launches on November 7. While many (me included) think it’s a solid price, it has divided opinion.
The original Xbox One and indeed Sony’s PS3 launched with a $499 price. Only after reductions did these consoles start to become successful. Recent history shows the $500 price point is a dangerous one for a games consoles. Sony could also play a significant role if it decides to knock even $50 off its PS4 Pro.
Doing so would make the console $349. Yes, Xbox One X is a superior technical achievement, but customers could prefer a much more affordable device that does many of the same things, admittedly as a lesser standard.
The truth is, Microsoft may not even care too much. In the interview, Spencer was quick to point out that Xbox One S remains the company’s core console product:
“The majority of our consoles that are sold next year will be S. That has always been the plan… That’s why S launched last year, the way it looks, that is the console that will drive most of the volume for us in pure unit sales.”
It is clear that Microsoft is pushing Xbox One X as the niche device for hardcore gamers. The company is also clearly aware that the product’s main selling point is not that big of a deal right now. Yes, for all the excellence of the X’s ability to play 4K games, the market is not quite there yet.
A small percentage of customers own 4K ready displays. The ones who likely do are hardcore gamers, so it makes sense that for the time being, Microsoft is not expecting the One X to be the chief driver of Xbox sales.
Xbox One X
So, is the Xbox One X Microsoft futureproofing its gaming division? Is it the company beating the market in a way if failed to do with mobile? Is it just a proof of concept that consumers can buy?
Maybe it’s all those things. Microsoft is distancing itself from PS4 Pro comparisons because the X is simply better, but also because it may not quite be ready to be truly competitive away from its technical prowess.
Price is a hindrance, and games could be too. Make no mistake, Sunday’s presentation of 43 new games launching on Xbox One (including the X) was impressive. However, it was not quite the home run Microsoft would want you to believe.
While 22 of the games were “Xbox exclusive” they were mostly not first-party efforts. Instead, they are timed exclusives that will eventually come to PlayStation. Spencer is ultimately pleased the company did not have to wheel out its big hits to sell the console, and he also seems pleased enough for Xbox One X to be the connoisseurs choice.
“If you’re a PC gamer who’s been playing games in 4K and you’re thinking, hey, maybe I’ll find a reason now to buy a console, something that’s going to play games similar to the way I’ve seen them on my monitor, here’s a great console for you.”
“We showed Forza. Frankly, I loved the fact I didn’t have to bring out Gears and Halo.”