Since it launched back in November 2020, Microsoft has hardly ever discounted Xbox Series X. In fact, in countries like my perpetually frosty United Kingdom, the high-end console actually rose in price earlier this year — jumping from its launch price of £449 to £479. Now, though, it’s finally being discounted (at least in the U.S.) and it’s not difficult to guess why.
The following will not read as a remotely shocking statement: Microsoft has pretty much lost the console war just three years into this generation. Well, at least in terms of how people historically judge the winner of PlayStation vs Xbox battles.
Which is perhaps why we’re seeing deals like this pop up before Christmas. Right now, this Xbox Series X Diablo IV bundle is on sale for $349 at Walmart. That's a saving of $210 compared to the normal $559 listing price.
According to recent data published by GI.biz (thanks, IGN), sales of both Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S have dropped a staggering 52% over the past year in Europe. Compare that to PS5’s year-on-year figures in the same region, and sales for Sony’s console are up an astonishing 143%. And no, that really isn’t a typo.
Clearly, Microsoft is struggling to shift physical consoles, even though as a company, it’s rarely talked about sales figures since the brilliant (and underappreciated) Xbox One X launched.
In my eyes, this is down to precisely two factors, neither of which are surprising. Factor one: The Xbox Series consoles simply don’t have enough must-play exclusives to entice gamers into parting with their cash to invest in these machines. Factor the two: Under the stewardship of Phil Spencer, the Xbox division arguably doesn’t hugely care if you buy a Series X or S, as long as you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber.
Personally, I think Spencer has done a terrific job since he stepped in as the CEO of Microsoft Gaming. Compared to the disastrous tenure of his predecessor Don Mattrick — who basically let Sony win the PS4/Xbox One generation with a disastrous console reveal where the Microsoft machine was initially marketed as an overpriced, all-in-one media device — Spencer has killed it.
He gets gaming culture; he always comes across as personable in interviews; and he’s overseen some truly astounding acquisitions like the prolonged but eventually successful buyout of Activision Blizzard.
Game Pass it on
It’s clear what Spencer’s main goal has been from day one: To make Xbox the Netflix of gaming. Game Pass has always been aggressively priced, and the fact it lets you play first-party games on launch day for a reasonable monthly fee is a genuinely great deal… or it would be, if Microsoft actually had an extensive library of brilliant exclusives.
Sadly, that’s just not the case. Here at Tom’s Guide, I’m in charge of updating our best Xbox Series X games buying guide. Currently, only four of the top ten entries are actual Series X exclusives. The rest are either multiplatform games or titles that first launched on Xbox One and just happen to be playable on Microsoft’s most powerful console thanks to its excellent backwards compatibility features. That’s not a pretty state of affairs.
I’ll freely admit I jumped the gun on playing up my renewed love affair with Series X just a couple of months ago. Starfield and Forza Motorsport had just come out and this was the first time I’d felt that the console was serving me up must-experience games since Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5.
Said tryst lasted all of a month.
Motorsport is a strong driving simulator, yet it lacks the breezy fun and addictive open-world distractions of Horizon 5. And Starfield? I’ve never bounced harder off a Bethesda game before and the Steam data backed my feelings up. While it briefly impressed me after a disastrously dull intro, I quickly lost interest about 10 hours in after realizing how shallow the core gameplay loop was.
You know the only time I’ve turned on my Series X in the last six weeks has been for? To watch my beloved Back to the Future trilogy… and that’s only because my PS5 Media Remote had broken. Normally, I’d watch my favorite Blu-rays on Sony’s console.
Not that any of my ramblings will remotely bother Big Phil or the rest of his execs at Team Xbox. Microsoft’s number one priority is to get you playing its games through any device that either lets you play them locally or via streaming. With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can play a ton of Xbox titles on PC at higher resolutions and vastly better frame rates if you’re lucky enough to own one of the best gaming PCs.
Could we see a future where Microsoft does a Sega and gets out of the console hardware game entirely? It doesn’t seem that implausible. Game Pass is a compelling service that offers access to a huge library of titles, the majority of which are worth playing.
No matter how low Microsoft drops the price of Xbox Series X, though, PS5 has seemingly already built up an uncatchable lead in terms of hardware sales this generation. And with the rumored PS5 Pro potentially on the horizon, the future for Microsoft's consoles doesn’t look like it’s going to get rosier anytime soon.
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Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.