The next battle in the console wars won’t be over price.
Microsoft, on Sunday, announced its new Xbox, formerly known as “Project Scorpio,” will carry a hefty $499 price tag. That’s twice the price of the standard Xbox One and $100 more than Sony’s beefed up PlayStation 4, dubbed the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Microsoft describes the system, which is now called Xbox One X and will hit shelves on Nov. 7, as the most advanced and powerful console systems the gaming industry has ever seen. At the same time, it will continue to play all games that have been released to date on Xbox One.
“Xbox One X, the most powerful console ever made, sets a new standard for gamers and game creators,” said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division.
Analysts are a bit less enthusiastic.
“We expect (Xbox One X) to underwhelm at retail, as has PS4 Pro, which costs $399,” said Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities in a pre-show note that speculated a $499 price tag.
“The subdued sales numbers for the PS4 Pro since launch are partly a reflection of gamers opting for the older and cheaper hardware (sometimes with a pack-in) in order to save over $100. The potential price delta between Project Scorpio and the Xbox One of $200 or more is even greater than the delta between the PS4 Pro and the PS4 of $100 or more.”
Microsoft is counting that consumers will look beyond the price tag and will see the value proposition of Xbox One X. The system is certainly loaded with bleeding edge tech.
Developers will have 12 GB of RAM at their disposal and the system boasts advanced CPU and graphics chips. To buy or build a PC with those sorts of specs would likely cost well over the Xbox One X’s cost of $499.
Beyond the hardware, the system marks Microsoft’s push into 4K gaming, emphasizing the graphical appeal of modern video games.
Microsoft has pointedly avoided using the term “next generation” in describing Xbox One X, but the company has been clear in recent interviews that it believes the days of the industry launching dramatically different systems every 5-to-8 years is over.
Analysts say they expect Microsoft to adopt a more PC-focused upgrade cycle – and Xbox One X is the first step in that.
“The historical [console] cycle, as we understand it, is certainly gone,” says P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research. “Now it’s more evolutionary. You can come out with another box that has a better CPU or GPU or bigger hard drive, or can now progress to 4K. It’s more along the lines of a constant upgrade cycle.”