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Big Xbox Series X leak reveals cheaper version

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Microsoft could launch a second next-generation console to go alongside its Xbox Series X, offering an affordable take on the flagship. Extra evidence has surfaced that the so-called Xbox Series S (aka Project Lockhart) is in the works, thanks to information uncovered in release notes for the 2020 version of Microsoft’s Game Development Kit.  

Spotted by a security researcher going by the name of TileOS on Twitter, a ‘profiling mode’ that references Lockhart was found in the notes. While the notes spelled Lockhart as “Lockhard,” which appears to be a typo, it suggests that a cheaper version of the Xbox Series X is being worked on.  

While Microsoft has kept light lipped about an Xbox Series S, sources familiar with Microsoft’s Xbox plans told The Verge that the Lockhart mode in the release notes is part of the Xbox Series X developer kit. Apparently, that mode allows developers to force an Xbox Series X to use less of its power to simulate a less-powerful Xbox console, 

The Verge understands this mode gives developers access to only 7.5GB of the 13.5GB of RAM the Xbox Series X uses. It also only allows 4 teraflops rather than 12 teraflops to be accessed. 

However, that specification would mean the Lockhart mode throttles an Xbox Series X to deliver less power than the Xbox One X, which delivers 6 teraflops of power. So it would seem odd that Microsoft would make a next-generation Xbox that would be less powerful than a current-generation console. 

But the Xbox One X tends to target 4K resolutions, whereas an Xbox Series S could be a machine aimed at people who don’t want to run games at such a high resolution or still have 1080p TVs and monitors. 

Without any official word from Microsoft, all we have is speculation. But so far the signs point towards a cutdown Xbox being worked on. 

Why an Xbox Series S matters

Other rumors have suggested that an Xbox Series S could be half the price of the $400 Xbox Series X. This price will likely be achieved by having the Xbox Series S  run games at 1080p with frame rates that might run from 30fps to 60fps. A spinning disk hard drive rather than SSD storage could also be used to keep the console’s manufacturing costs down.  

And an Xbox Series S would play into Microsoft’s strategy of getting as many people as possible signed up to its game services, such as Xbox Game Pass, by selling a cheap console as part of a subscription package. Microsoft has already done this with the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition  

All that being said, Microsoft has cancelled products in the past, so this reference to Project Lockhart in the GDK release notes could simply be a hangover from an earlier project that has been shelved. Microsoft is already predicted to undercut the PS5’s price tag with the Xbox Series X, so there’s an argument that another cheaper console might not be worth the effort. 

Microsoft is due to hold a big Xbox event in July, so there’s a possibility we might hear more about an Xbox Series S next month. Even if such rumors don’t come to fruition, the future of Xbox still looks like something to be excited about, especially with games like Halo Infinite on the horizon.