by Paul Tassi via Forbes

One question I get asked a lot is “If you weren’t reviewing video games for a living, would you still buy [X thing]?”

Most of the time, the answer is yes. Granted, while I don’t know what my schedule or income would be working some other job, most of the games I buy, the consoles I purchase, I would still be buying even if I wasn’t doing this for a living because well, I love video games. But after just shelling out $500 plus tax and delivery for an Xbox One X pre-order, this is one of the first times when I genuinely don’t think this is something I would have bought myself.

As Eurogamer noted in a great piece this weekend, Microsoft has not done a good job selling the Xbox One X from the start, and didn’t do so in what will probably be its final high profile sales pitch at Gamescom. With very few recent, exclusive games that can only be played on Xbox generally, the Xbox One X’s main selling point is that it will play multiplatform third party games better than everyone else as “the most powerful console ever made.”

I will say what Microsoft has done with the Xbox One X’s tech is impressive, extracting power from places no one’s even thought of before to really put a ton of horsepower into a home console. But that’s put the system in a weird position where even if $500 might actually be a logical, even great price for the capabilities of the system, it’s…still a $500 console in a market where its closest competition, PS4 Pro, is $100 less than that, and most consoles, including Microsoft’s own Xbox One S, are half the price instead.

This leaves me wondering who exactly this console is for, which is something I have not really understood from the start. There’s my crowd, game journalists, and there are Microsoft fans so devoted that they have already bought it blindly and will likely appear in the next few minutes in the comments of this article disparaging my character. But that is not a very large crowd. If Microsoft was putting out exclusive games on par with Horizon, Uncharted, Nier, etc. that would be one selling point, but just offering to be a “better” version of shared games is less convincing.


Microsoft is also not being clear about what “better” means, in most circumstances. Some games like Forza 7 are designed to be native “true” 4K and 60 fps. If that was a metric that could be hit across the board for all titles, that would be gamechanging to be sure, but it’s unclear that even with all the tech Microsoft has jammed into the X1X, how often that will be possible. For all its talk of “true” 4K, there appear to be very few games that are actually capable of running at that native resolution, and these “enhanced” games will have improvements spanning from major to minor, but what specifically is improved will vary on a case by case basis.

If anything, PS4 Pro has made me more wary of “enhanced” games, which is making me cautious about the Xbox One X’s claim to do the same thing. While some games are clearly better with the Pro, namely Sony’s own in-house titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: Lost Legacy, with many “enhanced” titles, it’s hard to tell. Recently, I got through an entire playthrough of Prey not realizing it hadn’t been patched for Pro, and once it was, I logged back in to find…literally no noticeable difference whatsoever. Maybe the X1X with all its power will display this convincingly, but I have not seen enough specifics where I can believe that, and I’m still not sold on the concept of “incremental upgrade” consoles generally, especially after owning a Pro.

The other problem with the “best place to play” selling point of Xbox One X is that for these cross-platform games, ultimately my decision to play them on PS4 or Xbox may rest on a factor outside of Microsoft’s control, where my friends are playing. Maybe Destiny 2 will look and play better on Xbox One X, but almost everyone I know is going to be playing that game on PS4, meaning it would be incredibly hard to make that switch for that reason alone. Repeat that for essentially any multiplayer game you want to play with friends. But yeah sure, I guess I’ll pick up Assassin’s Creed Origins for X1X. Maybe. But is this really what I bought a $500 console for?

In short:

  • The Xbox One X does not seem like it will do enough to convince PS4 owners to make the switch, due to a lack of exclusives and a smaller playerbase.
  • It is clearly not the console for people who don’t own any new-gen systems yet, as it has the highest price on the market by a wide margin.
  • For those who desperately care about power and specs above all else, the term for that group is “PC gamers,” who will likely own machines that can outperform the X1X already. Not to mention all Xbox One exclusives going forward will be available on PC and can be played with an Xbox controller there.
  • That leaves die-hard Xbox fans, though many of them may still not be able to justify a $500 purchase even if they do want the console.
  • Pretty much anyone, in any category, who buys an Xbox One X must have a 4K HDR TV or they will not be utilizing the main selling point of the unit. While 4K is clearly where the market is moving, adoption rates are still low at this point.

Microsoft seems to realize all this, and is playing up expectations accordingly, positioning the X1X as something “for the fans,” and a “premium experience” that isn’t for everyone. But with the current state of the Xbox brand and its market position lightyears behind PS4, it seems like an odd decision to release such a niche console that’s a very, very tough purchase for almost the entirety of the gaming public.

Initial pre-orders have sold out, but we have no real context of what that means, and we won’t know more until the system is actually released this fall. But yep, I’m getting one, and I guess I’ll see if it’s worth it then. If you bought this system early, what was your rationale? I’m genuinely curious.

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