Prior to the long-anticipated launch on Nov. 10, 2020, the Xbox Series X and S were subject to a storm of rumors. Next generation console launches often spur outlandish predictions, but the cancellation of E3 and other gaming trade shows and conventions led to even more speculation than usual. Though Microsoft offered information about the philosophy behind the new Xbox and a few details about specs and forthcoming titles in the months leading up to launch, fans hungry for more information started to make up their own theories.
While many of these predictions proved false, like the guess that the next-gen console launch would slip to 2021, a surprising number of rumors were right on the money. Fortunately for gamers, most of the accurate speculation ranged from value-neutral to positive, and the new console seems to be off to a strong start. Here are some of the more prominent predictions that ended up coming true.
Behold the Xbox budget option
The biggest rumor to prove accurate about next-generation Xboxes was the existence of the Xbox Series S. The internet buzzed with speculation about Xbox Lockhart — the codename for the console now known as the Xbox Series S — as early as December 2019. Like Sony, Microsoft allegedly planned on unveiling its next generation consoles in May 2020, but reportedly pushed the new Xbox’s announcement to September after E3 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Xbox Series S is meant to serve as an entry-level price point for next-gen gaming with a few trade-offs, similar to the PlayStation 5′ Digital Edition. The primary differences between the Series S and its big brother, the Xbox Series X, are the storage, processing power, and resolution performance target. The Xbox Series S is also considerably smaller thanks to the lack of a physical disc drive.
The Xbox Series X has better specs than PS5
For the first time since the launch of the original Xbox, Microsoft beat out Sony in terms of raw graphical power at release. Specifically, the Xbox Series X packs a more powerful GPU than the PlayStation 5. Both consoles run on custom-made AMD Radeon RDNA cards, but the Series X has 12 teraflops, while the PS5 has just over 10. The performance discrepancy between the two platforms does not appear to be a game-changer so far, and both the Series X and PlayStation 5 have unique advantages over the competing system.
Eurogamer compared a leak detailing the new Xbox’s specs to the PlayStation 5 on Dec. 30 2019, but many gamers dismissed these claims. Their skepticism is understandable given Sony’s winning track record against Microsoft. But when both company’s laid down their cards, Microsoft’s machine came out ahead — in terms of raw graphical processing power. It is worth noting that the PlayStation 5 surprisingly outperforms the Xbox Series X in certain circumstances despite its weaker GPU. The Xbox Series S also has a less powerful GPU than the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 5 Digital Edition, and the Series X.
Xbox prioritizes an "ecosystem" over exclusivity
While ComicBook.com speculated that the next Xbox would have more exclusives at launch than PlayStation 5, the internet’s prevailing opinion was that the Xbox would have fewer exclusives than its rival. Even before Halo Infinite (which is also coming to PC) was delayed until 2021, there were no major announcements about exclusive properties, leading many gamers to draw their own conclusions.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, confirmed in July 2020 that Microsoft was abandoning exclusivity in favor of an "ecosystem" approach. Spencer explained that the company would rather see more people playing the games Microsoft’s first-party developers produce than using console exclusivity as a means of leverage to get gamers to purchase hardware. The is a consumer friendly business move that gives gamers more options, as it frees Microsoft’s games to appear on PC and the Nintendo Switch, as well as Xbox platforms.
Xbox Series X|S launched with a competitive price point
In May 2020, multiple industry analysts speculated that Microsoft might be hoping to undercut the price of Sony’s new console, but the company waited a long time before officially revealing the Series X’s $499 MSRP. Playing "price chicken" is another long-standing tradition for competing console launches, as the company with a more enticing holiday price point typically moves more units upon release, granting an early lead. And the waiting game may have worked as intended. According to Game Reactor‘s sources, Sony had to adjust its pricing plans for the PS5 to match its competitor.
It would have been interesting to see what number Sony named if it had revealed the PlayStation 5’s price first, seeing as it initially released the PS3 for a steep $599. Sony apparently learned from the devastating PlayStation 3 launch, however. The PS5 Digital Edition is slightly cheaper than the PlayStation 5, coming in at $399. But the Xbox Series S is the true budget option among the next end systems with an aggressive, $299 price tag, though it’s also the weakest console of the bunch.
Meet the new Xbox UI, same as the old Xbox UI
On June 13, 2020, Tom Warren of The Verge reported the Xbox Series X and S would not renovate the consoles’ UI compared to Xbox One’s layout. While all Xbox platforms received a small update prior to the launch of the new consoles, the differences in the new platform are negligible. Some Xbox One super users may consider this a convenience, and a unified user experience will likely make quality assurance easier for Microsoft, but the lack of a fresh look for the Xbox Series X and S dashboards left some players disappointed.
New console generations not only represent a boost in processing and graphical power, but an opportunity for companies to take risks and develop new paradigms for interacting with technology. Microsoft, in particular, has taken risks with its consoles’ user interfaces in the past, so the sudden conservatism might seem perplexing. It is worth noting, however, that user interfaces evolve radically throughout a console’s life cycle, and the Xbox Series X and S’ hand-me-down look is likely temporary.
Free next-gen upgrades and optimized cross-gen titles
Free, next-generation upgrades of existing cross-generational titles sounded too good to be true, and when Video Games Chronicle initially reported the rumor that Microsoft was trying to keep next-gen upgrades free for players, people were understandably skeptical. But certain titles delivered exactly that. Popular games like Borderlands 3 granted Xbox One players a free digital upgrade for the Xbox Series X and S versions of the game.
Additionally, many past-generation Xbox games received free optimization upgrades to take advantage of the next gen hardware, including sharper graphics and improved loading times. The Xbox Series X and S’s Smart Delivery feature also allows players to automatically install the optimized version of a game, regardless of the platform they are playing on. These consumer friendly offers are particularly refreshing gestures of goodwill, since they are not likely to move new hardware on their own.
Xbox Series X|S arrived just in time for Santa
In the first quarter of 2020, Forbes reported that the Series X|S and PlayStation 5 release date would likely slip into 2021 due to complications caused by COVID-19 lockdowns and shortages. But by the summer, contrary rumors emerged, suggesting that fans would have access to the next generation consoles as originally scheduled. Fortunately, the latter release window rumors reported by business analyst Roberto Serrano ended up being correct, and both platforms shipped in time to make it under the Christmas tree … provided gamers were fortunate enough to secure a pre-order or find a well-timed restock.
At the time of this writing, shortages for all models of the next generation consoles are ongoing, with on-again-off-again availability at major retailers and online marketplaces. Many of the consoles available online have also been subject to scalping, with consoles being listed at 2 to 3 times their normal MSRP.
Master Chief is MIA for Xbox Series X|S launch
Though it made its list of predicted launch titles for the Xbox Series X, Lords of Gaming expressed concerns about Halo Infinite‘s projected 2020 launch date shortly after the pandemic began. In August, the game was pushed back to 2021. Despite its continued status as the centerpiece of the next generation Xbox launch, this might be one of the least surprising rumors-turned-reality, given Halo Infinite‘s tumultuous development.
After multiple creative departures from 343 Industries and a troubling lack of communication with fans, Halo Infinite revealed a gameplay trailer in July of 2020. Supposedly only four months away from launch, Halo fans criticized the graphics and content of the trailer as underwhelming. Given this reception and rumors of communication troubles between contractors working on the game, it makes sense that 343 opted to push Halo Infinite to 2021. Persistent rumors suggest that the Xbox One version of the game may be axed entirely, despite community manager John Junyszek’s assurances to the contrary.