Xbox Series S prompted "a lot of debate" in Microsoft: "Is this next-gen performance?"

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Xbox Series S is a "pivot" from Microsoft's usual next-gen console strategy, and it's meant to appeal to an audience that isn't bothered about 4K or higher resolutions.

If Xbox Series S wasn't one of the most-leaked game projects in recent memory, its reveal would have been a shock to the games industry: Microsoft is starting a new generation with a console that isn't designed to capitalize on all of the latest advancements in graphics and video. Of course, Xbox Series X is still around to do all that.

“It was a pivot,” head of Xbox gaming engineering Liz Hamren told Wired. “The truth is that the CPU and I/O performance is roughly equivalent between these two products. It’s really around the resolution.”

“There was a lot of debate," Hamren added. "Should it have a disc drive or not? Is this next-gen performance? What does next-gen performance mean and how do we measure it?”

Xbox is focused on offering its games to as many people as possible - the affordability of Xbox Series S is part of that, and so is cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. While impressive-sounding new features like 8K support can excite dedicated players, Spencer said that's one example of how new console launches can start to have "a little bit of buzzword bingo".

“I think 8K is aspirational technology,” Spencer says. “The display capabilities of devices are not really there yet. I think we’re years away from 8K being - if it ever is - standard in video games.” 

Check out our guide on how to get an Xbox Series S pre-order if that sounds like you're kind of next-gen console.

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.