Consoles are usually creations of compromise. They have to hit a certain price point, not be too large (or too noisy), provide future-proofed technology, and often include a range of other media features. The original Xbox One was simply stretched too thin. It was bulky, relatively underpowered and weighed down by TV features and its Kinect peripheral.
With the Xbox One X, Microsoft appears to have made no compromises whatsoever. The new console is practically unrecognisable from the platform it launched back in 2013. All the talk is of pure performance – as it’s pitched squarely at the core gamer – but within a box many times smaller than most gaming PCs.
Mid-gen hardware updates have numerous advantages over their predecessors. They aren’t as constrained on release dates, with the PS4 Pro and One X both coming at a time which suits them. They have the benefit of hindsight, correcting issues with the original hardware, both technically and in their marketing strategies. Finally, they can set a price that only need appeal to an enthusiast, as one box doesn’t have to please all.
With the launch of the Xbox One X, Microsoft is offering a middle ground between the traditional convenience of console and the power of a PC. With games running at native 4K, and many at 60fps too, plus potentially more detailed textures, it’s an appreciable technical step-up from the PS4 Pro, and really feels like a no-compromise design, right down to the Ultra HD Blu-ray drive.
It’s been a very long time coming, but finally we have console families, rather than singular devices for all. Device families such as these make sense to consumers, providing a choice – and people love choice. PlayStation and Xbox now join businesses as varied as Apple, Rolex and Ford in this respect. And with the two consoles being clearly delineated by their colour, it should be pretty clear to explain which is best for the buyer.
The only question remaining is just how many consumers will buy a £450 console to play the same games they can on the one they already own. Microsoft is betting that there’s a die-hard core of gamers who will always pay out for the latest, greatest thing.
Whether the Xbox One X also extends the entire ‘One’ generation is yet to be seen, but it’s undoubtedly a powerful and impressive piece of hardware, and a big step forward for the Xbox brand. Or maybe it’s just a return to the norm, as the new device recaptures the original ‘X’ brand and brings back the technical superiority that it was previously associated with.
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