The Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 prices remain a closely guarded secret, but in the midst of a global pandemic and probable deep recession, gamers are understandably anxious about how much new hardware will set them back later this year.
So it may be reassuring to hear the words “as affordable as possible” pass Head of Xbox Phil Spencer’s lips when asked about Microsoft’s plans for the Xbox Series X. In context, however, the words are not quite as reassuring.
“It looks like we're moving into a period of massive economic uncertainty,” Spencer told BBC Click. “The thing I'm probably focused on the most is the macro-economic environment. We see the impact of people getting furloughed and layoffs. It's tough. And we are a leisure activity. We're not a requirement.
“We're not food. We're not shelter. So we want to be really tuned in to that as we launch. How can we make it as affordable as possible? How can we give buyers choice?"
So far, so good, but the next sentence notable doesn’t contain the words “by selling next-generation hardware at a loss.” Instead, Spencer talks about the Xbox All Access program – which lets people buy a console in installments – and Smart Delivery, which allows players to enjoy cross-generational games on existing cheaper Xbox One hardware.
“Our strategy is centred around the player, not the device,” Spencer continued. "If this is not the year when a family wants to make a decision to buy a new Xbox, that's OK. Our strategy does not revolve around how many Xboxes I sell this year. We're focused on delivering services through Xbox Game Pass, which allows people to build their library for a monthly fee.”
Perhaps we’re reading too much into this, but it seems that by talking about financing options, the ability to play games on old hardware, and how you can get all-you-can-eat games on Game Pass, Spencer isn’t really confronting the elephant in the room: how much will the Xbox Series X cost? And with said elephant not confronted, our gut feeling is the answer is going to be “am uncomfortable amount of money.”
Still, there’s still the chance we’ll be pleasantly surprised, with Sony and Microsoft both yet to reveal their pricing hands, it’s possible that whoever goes second will undercut the first, just as Sony did in 2013 with the PS4. All eyes on the PlayStation showcase later tonight, then...