Microsoft could have another next-gen console up its sleeve in the form of the Xbox Series S, which has gone under the Lockhart codename in recent leaks and rumors. While the Xbox Series X will have the limelight, the rumored but far from confirmed Lockhart console could be a cheaper alternative for people who are perhaps not keen on dropping some $400 or more on a dedicated gaming machine.
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At the moment, we know nothing concrete about Xbox Series S, so keep in mind that a lot of this is speculation based on rumors and what Microsoft has planned for its Xbox gaming division.
A recent application to the US Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the term "Xbox Series" would suggest that there's more than one next-generation Xbox planned. Whether this is simply a digital version of the Xbox Series X or indeed the cutdown Xbox Lockhart wasn't clear. So come with us as we chew over the idea of Xbox Lockhart and what it could mean for Microsoft’s gaming future.
Xbox Series S price
All of the rumors so far point toward Xbox Series S being a cheaper sibling to the Xbox Series X. We don’t yet know the price of the latter, but it’s expected to be somewhere around the $400 mark.
That’s arguably not a huge amount for a games console that comes with 1TB of SSD storage space and can run games at 4K. But $400 might still seem too steep for some, especially when you consider that an Xbox One S comes in bundles that cost $299 or less.
If Xbox Lockhart is indeed in the works, we’d expect it to cost somewhere around the $250 mark, given it’ll be a cutdown version of the Xbox Series X. But according to a reasonably reliable tech tipster going by the name of eastmen on the Beyond3D forums the all-digital Xbox will be half the price of the Xbox Series X.
“Last I heard [it’ll] be half the price of the XSX [Xbox Series X] and last I heard MS [Microsoft] were prepared for a $400 XSX. I am not sure what the final price will be,” said eastmen referring to claimed tips from a Microsoft insider. “I think if Sony is $500/$600 MS may try to go in at $200/$400/$500 but we will see.”
If it’s sold as a bundle with Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live subscriptions, we’d expect to go for around $20 to $30 a month for a 24 month period. And Microsoft will be able to do this as it expects to make up any losses on hardware costs with persistent subscription fees.
“MS will make up any losses they take by getting a higher cut of game sales and more subscriptions,” said eastman. “Pricing also depends on what Sony does. MS doesn't have to go as extreme in pricing if Sony prices itself higher.”
Xbox Series S release date
If Xbox Lockhart is in the works, we still don’t expect to see it when the Xbox Series X launches, and Microsoft will likely want all the attention on its flagship console come ‘Holiday 2020.’ We’d expect it to arrive in 2021, maybe some six months after the Xbox Series X has had time to find its feet.
However, we could see Xbox Series S get an official reveal in just a matter of weeks. A recent report suggests that Microsoft may announce the new console at a special August event, giving the Xbox family a key new weapon in battling the PS5 and its presumably cheaper PS5 Digital Edition counterpart.
Xbox Series S specs
The Xbox Series X is set to be the most powerful game console ever, with its 12 teraflops of power beating the PS5’s 10.28 teraflops. But not everyone has a 4K TV or necessarily needs to play at the highest framerates, which is where Series S could come in.
The Series S is rumored to pack just 4 teraflops, which is a fraction of what the Series X offers and less than the Xbox One X's 6 teraflops. But it's a notable upgrade over the standard Xbox One's 1.31 teraflops, meaning OG Xbox One owners should still expect a power boost.
Series X could perhaps target the 4K resolution but only at 30 frames per second, or deliver 1080p gaming but at 60fps with no ray-tracing. This means it could have a less powerful and thereby cheaper chipset, as well as potentially less storage space. Or it might stick with cheaper spinning disc drives than expensive SSD storage.
Xbox Series S disc drive: Will it have one?
Speaking of cutting down things, Xbox Lockhart is very likely to not come with a disc drive, and will instead be a downloads-only console. You can think of it as the equivalent of the Xbox One S All-digital Edition.
This would make sense given there’s a healthy appetite for digital game downloads, and Sony has an all-digital version of its PS5. But it would also help Microsoft keep the cost of the Lockhart console down and thus allow for it to be sold at a cheaper price.
However, Xbox Lockhart could act as a dedicated streaming box for Microsoft’s Project xCloud game streaming service. While xCloud is currently in a beta form, from what we’ve tried so far it works rather well, thanks to it syncing up with games on both the Xbox One and on Windows 10 PCs.
While xCloud works well on smartphones and tablets, it makes sense to have a dedicated console that has some hardware to smooth out latency and provides people with an easy setup and the controllers needed to get into Xbox game streaming. You could think of Lockhart as an Xbox equivalent to the Nvidia Shield console and streaming box.
The Shield provides a slim console that can run some games locally but also connects to the GeForce Now game streaming service and allows games to be streamed from a PC with Steam. Microsoft could do something similar with Lockhart, not only enabling it to play less demanding games locally but also stream games from xCloud. It could also act as a secondary console from which games can be piped to from an Xbox Series X over a local network.
Xbox Series S: All about services
So Xbox Lockhart is likely to be a digital-only console with a strong game streaming element. But it’s also likely to be a console that specifically aimed at being used with Microsoft’s Xbox services.
While Xbox Live and Xbox Game Pass are nothing new to the Xbox platform, they could be the cornerstone of Lockhart. By that we mean Lockhart could be designed specifically as a console to be used with Xbox Game Pass, potentially only being sold as part of a subscription service that incorporates the console, Xbox Game Pass, and Xbox Live in one.
We’ve already seen Microsoft do this with the Xbox One All-Digital Editon, so it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to see it do the same with Xbox Lockhart. And such an approach could be a good ‘gateway drug’ into getting people who may be PlayStation fans or newly interested in console gaming to give the next-generation Xbox a go without needing to shell out some $400.
Xbox Series S might not happen
Despite all the above speculation, there’s also a good chance that the Xbox Series S console might simply be a rumor that wilts on the vine. Given the chaos the coronavirus pandemic has caused in tech manufacturing and the fact that making and launching next-generation consoles isn’t cheap, Microsoft may already have its hands full with the Xbox Series X.
Then there’s the idea that the Xbox Series X could undercut the PS5 by $100, and potentially be sold as a loss that Microsoft can afford to take on the corporate chin. That means there might not be any need for Xbox Lockhart if the Xbox Series X is priced very competitively.
Furthermore, Microsoft plans to bring all its first-party games to Windows 10 PCs, which, when combined with Project xCloud, means you could stream a next-generation game to an underpowered laptop. As such, this could render Xbox Series X a tad redundant.
Microsoft hasn’t mentioned anything publicly about Xbox Lockhart to confirm its existence, though hints of it have been found in Windows code libraries. But such references could be referring to better integrating Xbox services into Windows 10 not an indication of another next-generation console.