Microsoft's Upcoming Xbox is Off To a "Meh" Start

I want to love the Xbox. No, I really do. But, in all honesty, Microsoft always seems to pull off either one bonehead move or multiple bonehead moves.

During the era of the PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360, I was torn between the two as I could only afford to support one of them; I couldn’t buy both and plan to create a library of games for both systems. Ultimately, I got the PlayStation 3 because I was hearing so many scary stories of the “red ring of death” and I didn’t want the chance of being another victim. Microsoft also really screwed the pooch when they had that entire show revealing the Xbox One. Dumb name, by the way. But that was just the tip of the iceberg of their reveal fiasco. Microsoft made some really dumb decisions like forcing everyone to get a Kinect, having to be online all the time and not supporting borrowed games. Oh, and their resolution to make it the best sports TV box didn’t help matters.

With Sony and Microsoft’s upcoming systems on the horizon, I was excited and filled with trepidation as I was going to make another decision during the next generation console wars. Maybe this time, Microsoft could win me over. I mean, the rumors of Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5 hasn’t filled me with anticipation as, well, they haven’t officially announced anything. But the idea of placing a boxy letter “V” in my TV rack does send a weird chill up my spine… and it’s not the good kind of chill.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is not out to a good start as, just last week, they already made a stealth announcement of their successor to the Xbox One. As much as I wanted to be all hyped up by the reveal of the Xbox Series X, I just wasn’t.

First off all, I do think the concept of announcing a new system during The Game Awards sounds fantastic on paper. It’s something you just wouldn’t expect. You don’t think a company like Microsoft will drop something like their new console during The Game Awards. Kudos to Geoff Keighley for pulling off something like that each and every year and even more kudos for getting Microsoft to use it as a platform to reveal their next-gen system.

But, let’s face it, The Game Awards just doesn’t have the oomph of something like E3. The announcement did have some hype but it didn’t have the huge reverberation felt around the gaming world that I think Microsoft wanted.

I also have to call in question the Xbox Series X’s design. And I thought the original Xbox and the original Xbox One looked big! All kidding aside, I don’t it doesn’t look as big as everyone think it does. Assuming that the slot in the front is where you can slide in game discs (at least you can still buy physical discs for it!), the Xbox Series X is going to be roughly the length of two CDs. My best guesstimate is the Xbox Series X would be around six to seven stacked game cases. Basically, if you get around seven disc cases, stack them on top of each other and then get another seven disc cases and stack them next to the first batch, that’s going to be around how large Microsoft’s new system is going to be. It’s not that big. Okay, it won’t fit nicely into your standard home entertainment setup but it would probably be in a shelf but rather next to the TV.

I actually liked the Xbox Series X’s very minimalist design when I first saw it. It looks very uncluttered and utilitarian. There’s just one problem: there isn’t any room for additional ports. The mock up Microsoft showed in The Game Awards makes it look like the Xbox Series X will have a very minimalist design, which does look clean. But what about the other stuff that you might need? I’m guessing the little nub next to the disc slot is the eject button and the Xbox logo on the top part of the system could be a touch sensitive power button. However, where are the USB ports? You know, the ports where you can attach your new fangled wireless controller to or third party devices like fight sticks and steering wheels? I don’t see any on the side where the disc slot is nor on its side.

The only place I can think of where they would place them would be in one of the worst places: the back of the system. That is a historically terrible place to put your input ports as it’s not easily accessible. Imagine being in the heat of a game and you get an alert that your controller is about to run out of juice. You can’t just jam it a charging cable in the front of the system. No, you’re going to have to fumble around the back of your console and run a longer wire than necessary to your controller! Same thing for third party controllers like fight sticks. I sincerely hope what they showed was just an early mock-up and it wasn’t the final design because making the USB ports inaccessible is just bad design by today’s standards.

But do you know what really irks me about the Xbox Series X? It’s the name. It’s the really stupid name. Xbox Series X. It makes it sound less like a gaming system and more of a fancy clothing line. It doesn’t sound like the next big thing in gaming. In fact, it’s a very confusing name because Microsoft already has the Xbox One X. The name makes it seem like it’s just another upgrade to that and not the next generation console they’ve been developing for years! It kind of reminds me of when Nintendo released the Wii U right after the Wii. You expect a kid to defend that it’s a next generation system to an adult when the names sound very similar?

Also, I can’t help but think Microsoft is very deliberate with their naming conventions because they want them to be puns. Remember the Xbox One and people were calling it the XBone early on? Well, you know what gamers are going to call the Xbox Series X? They’ll keep the “Xbox” but take the first two letters of the word “Series” and then combine it with the remaining letter “X” in the name. Tell me that’s not deliberate!

That’s not to say I’m not open to what Microsoft has to say about the Xbox Series X in the future. I already mentioned that the design is cool and I like that the vents are on the top of the console, making for better cooling (hot air rises to the top, you know). I also have no doubt that the system is going to have something incredibly powerful under its hood. If Microsoft’s claims that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is running on the Xbox Series X in real time is true, that thing is going to be a powerhouse.

I am eagerly awaiting future announcements from Microsoft regarding the Xbox Series X. But as of right now, it’s kind of a “meh” to me.

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