Xbox Series S Q&A
For our recent story on the Xbox Series S, we spoke with members of the Xbox team for the inside scoop on the console—where it came from, where it’s headed, and how Microsoft sees its more affordable option slotting into the market.
Check the full, expanded Q&A below.
What can you share about the origins of the Xbox Series S? Why did Microsoft decide to kick off this console generation not with a single console, but with a pair of consoles with different capabilities?
Bree Adams, Senior Marketing Manager, Xbox: At Xbox we’re all about offering choices to our customers. In the past, consoles often do not become an affordable option for many users until later into the generation. This time around, we wanted to have a product for those gamers right from the start with Xbox Series S in addition to the more premium experience available with Xbox Series X. Xbox Series X is a powerful gaming machine and a great fit for gamers who want true 4K graphics and a disc drive. Xbox Series S was designed for gamers who prioritize framerate over graphics, supporting gaming at up to 120 frames per second. That means, gameplay will have great resolution and feel extremely smooth. Plus, the solid-state hard drive means your games will load quickly. Xbox Series S also features a lot of the same quality of life benefits of Series X like quick resume and Smart Delivery, all at a great value to customers.
What were the challenges the team faced in turning the Xbox Series S from an idea into a reality?
Chris Kujawski, Principal Designer at Xbox: With the design of the Series S, we looked at the opportunity of designing a console for digital first gamers. Without the disc drive we were able to rethink the entire internal configuration to make it the smallest and most compact Xbox ever. The Series S leverages many of the efficiencies developed for the One S; but by reshaping the power supply and motherboard it’s 40% smaller than the One S. What is really cool about this form factor, though, is that it will fit in more places in customer’s homes. For example, Series S will fit on much shallower depth of shelf- you just need 8”, including the power and HDMI cable. It’s also a lot easier to plug those cables in with a small footprint to reach behind too. It’s designed, weight balanced and thermally optimized to work horizontally or vertically, without a stand. It’s all about flexibility and giving our customers options.
Transportability is another thing that comes along with the small size. We’ve heard from customers that it’s pretty common to move a game console between rooms in a house, or between houses. Being able to easily fit this in a bag and take it with you is another bonus to this really compact form factor.
How did you settle on the visual design of the console?
CK: One of our primary design principles was to let the expression of form be driven by functional elements, which is really the basis of our “Intelligent Geometry” approach to design- starting with pure building blocks and letting the functionality of the device create character by revealing itself through details. The most prominent visual feature on the Series S- the exhaust vent- was driven by an engineering requirement of open area, but we were able to design the part in a way that made it visually interesting, rather than trying to disguise it. The shape and location of the vent is defined by the location of the fan inside the device- the fan is round and so the perimeter of the vent is a circle. We chose to use that shape as the iconic element of the device and to make it black, in contrast with the white of the rest of the enclosure for a very specific reason. In order to simplify the first impression of the console, we wanted to visually minimize the grid of holes that actually make up the vent; by making them a part of the black vent cover, and making the internal components beneath it black, we were able to make the read that of a simple black circle inside of a white rectangle. The result is what most people would refer to as minimalistic, but that wasn’t our stated goal. It’s often more difficult to make a well-designed simple object than a complex one. When there are fewer elements on a device, each needs to be executed at a high level, and work with the other elements surrounding it- there’s nowhere to hide cosmetic defects or awkward transitions. We design our products to be long lasting and we want the industrial design to last as well; whether customers choose to celebrate the console or tuck it away due to its small size, our goal is to provide them with a product that they are happy living with and using for years.
What was the process like for getting development partners on board, given that games now need to run on two different consoles with two different specs? Did prior experience of launching the Xbox One X make the transition any smoother?
BA: Two consoles at launch was definitely ambitious, We made that process as streamlined for our developers as possible by having Series S share a development kit and platform with Series X. The best news for our game creators was we knew that having a lower price console at launch that could run Gen 9 games well would help them (and us) make gaming more accessible to even more gamers around the world.
Who do you see as the target audience for an Xbox Series S? Who are the sort of players who might benefit most from this console?
BA: Xbox Series S is for anyone who wants a next generation gaming experience at a great value, prioritizes framerate over 4K display and prefers their games in a digital format. When gamers pair their all-digital Xbox Series S with our gaming subscription Xbox Game Pass they’ll get access to hundreds of high quality games including Day One releases from Xbox Game Studios. Game Pass is a great way to try out new titles and genres for solo adventurers and for those who love to play games with friends. Whether you’re a seasoned gamer or just getting started, gamers at all levels will have a blast playing their next generation titles on an Xbox Series S.
What would you say to those who might be skeptical of buying an Xbox Series S because it’s not the most powerful console on the market? What features make it a worthy “next-gen” experience?
BA: Xbox Series S is an excellent value – in fact, it’s the best value in next gen gaming. For $299 you can get a next gen console that’s fast, gameplay is going to be smooth at up to 120 FPS, and it’s going to support all the newest games. The benefit that stands out to most gamers aside from the great collection of games available is the speed of the experience. Everything just feels snappy and quick. Personally speaking, I also think that the small size and minimalist form factor are very appealing. This console is sleek, and being all digital, it keeps your games organized and in one place so that you don’t have to.
What Xbox Series S features do you find most exciting? What about most underrated—what’s flown under the radar so far?
BA: A lot of people have been talking about the next-gen capabilities of the console which is great. One thing that isn’t talked about is much is how Xbox Series S can make your old games play even better. Thousands of backwards compatible games from earlier editions of Xbox run at full power on Xbox Series S, no downclocking. This means all titles run at the peak performance they were designed for resulting in higher and steadier framerates at their maximum resolution. All games get high dynamic range (HDR) via the Auto HDR feature which results in brighter and more vibrant visual. Some games even added a feature called framerate boost which can double framerates beyond what the original game might have deliver resulting in a buttery smooth gameplay experience. Xbox Series S is a great place to play your favorite games from the past, as well as the hottest new releases this season.
Have you at Microsoft been happy with how the Series S has been embraced by the market so far?
BA: Xbox Series S has been well received by gamers around the world. We have millions of gamers playing on our Series X|S consoles, and we look forward to welcoming millions more in the years to come.