On November 10, 2020, Microsoft released the Xbox Series X – a premium home console that leveraged a new benchmark for power and performance against a lingering sense of familiarity. In my Xbox Series X review, I said that it was “a powerful and capable machine that sets Microsoft up for the future,” explaining that “this is a system set up for evolution, iteration, and success , a great gaming console with only a few games on the immediate horizon designed to take full advantage of it.” Six months later, progress on that front has proven to be incremental.
The Xbox Series X launch window was defined by a lack of platform showcases, availability issues, and smart quality-of-life improvements
Perhaps that was always going to be the case. Microsoft has clearly struggled to reconcile its broader plans against the ongoing pandemic. This state of play has contributed to everything from delays of first-party exclusives like Halo Infinite to ongoing problems with the production of parts for the system itself. If you’re wondering whether you can buy an Xbox Series X six months after launch, the answer, sadly, is that you can’t. Not easily, at least.
Stock shortages during COVID-19 is a problem Microsoft shares with Sony and Nintendo – an unlikely equaliser at the beginning of a new generation for the platform holders, one that shows no sign of changing anytime soon. Ben Decker, head of gaming services at Xbox, tells me that Microsoft is happy with how the first six months have gone, even if it’s harder for folk to get their hands on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S than the company would like. “The reception from our fans and the broader gaming community has been really positive. I think people are excited about the capabilities of the new consoles, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about the choice we’ve created across the Xbox Series X and the Series S. We’ve been really pleased with the launch.”
“And I think it’s our best launch ever,” Decker continues. “Transparently, we wish we had some more supply, but we’re working all the time; there’s a lot of demand and people are really excited about the new consoles. In the meantime, we’re going to continue to support across all these different platforms, so you will have plenty of options of where to play and we’re trying to continue to fulfil the demand for the Series X and the Series S.”
Xbox Series X, six months on
The lack of new games to play distorts what has otherwise been a successful six months for the Xbox Series X. If you’re able to get your hands on one, I find it difficult to believe that you’ll find a reason to regret the purchase of an Xbox Series X. It runs quietly and coolly, and the range of services the Xbox division offers through it remains an unbelievable value proposition. The OS is surprisingly bug-free too, the result of Microsoft deciding to iterate upon the Xbox One system rather than overhaul it for a new generation – that familiarity again, a double-edged sword of sorts for the Series X right now. With that in mind, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing some long-overdue updates in the way Friends, Followers, Groups, matchmaking, and reporting are handled on the Xbox Live backend.
Where Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Xbox on Windows 10 seem to be improving at a fast clip, good updates to the core console offering are coming, albeit slowly. The ability to suspend games to speed up downloads on Series X was long overdue. Auto-HDR and FPS Boost are fantastic improvements to backwards compatibility. The incoming change to Quick Resume, which takes the Game Switcher functionality of the PS5 and integrates it directly into the Xbox Series X Guide, letting you see which games are held in a suspended state, is a fantastic solution to a problem many (myself included) raised at review. Frustratingly, the dashboard still appears to be outputting in 1080p (as opposed to 4K, like the PS5, which has a crisp and colourful UI of its own), and having my TV flip from SDR to HDR every time I launch a game is annoying.
Ultimately, the Xbox Series X is in a good place. The Xbox Series X controller is fantastic, the console’s connectivity with the Xbox App has removed so much of the friction once imposed by OneDrive and Upload Studio with Capture in the Xbox One era, and Xbox’s continued focus on improving backwards compatibility highlights that the company understands the importance of preservation. I’m just desperate to see the power and potential of the Xbox Series X expressed through the lens of new releases only available within the Xbox ecosystem.
The News Highlights
- After six months, the Xbox Series X is a fantastic console in desperate need of a game to show off its capabilities.
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