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Microsoft: Xbox Series S does not hold back the next generation, it advances it

Platform holder explains why it dropped Xbox One X, rather than maintaining it as a low-end console

Microsoft has shared more on the decisions behind launching its entry-level next-gen console, the Xbox Series S.

Launching yesterday alongside the more powerful Series X, the $299/£249 digital-only console is not too far off the now discontinued Xbox One X in terms of performance, albeit with next-gen features like Quick Resume and the faster loading times enable by a solid state drive.

Given the smaller differences in technology, Microsoft could have retained the Xbox One X as its entry-level device, but system architect Andrew Goossen told Digital Foundry why the platform holder pushed forward with a new low-end console.

One factor is that Xbox One X would have lasted a long time through the new generation, but would lack aspects Microsoft believes defines its new devices, such as the Xbox Velocity Architecture and graphical features such as ray tracing and variable rate shading.

"We wanted to make sure that there was an entry level at the right price point so that we could really advance the generation rather than hold it back," said Goossen.

"I've heard that Series S is going to hold back the next generation but I actually see Series S advancing it because by doing Series S we'll have more games written to the characteristics of the next generation."

The price point was another crucial element, and reflects "a big change in how consoles are designed." While silicon cost reductions mean consoles have historically become cheaper over the course of a generation, this effect has become less pronounced.

"Previous generations were kind of easy because at the beginning of the generation, you make something really expensive -- put as much silicon and as much performance as you could into it -- then you would just ride the cost reduction curves down to mass market prices," Goossen said. "That's not there anymore."

He added: "The ironic thing is that we did look at Xbox One X and we couldn't get it down the price point we wanted to get, so I look at the Xbox Series S and it's cheaper than Xbox One X."

Goossen also observed that Series S is able to enhance One S games in ways the One X cannot, and even has some improvements over the Series X -- Quick Resume, for example, is faster on the low-end console.

The architect's comments echo those of Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who also spoke to us earlier this year about the notion of developers behind "held back" by low-end hardware.

"Frankly, held back is a meme that gets created by people who are too caught up in device competition," he said at the time.

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