Microsoft is sending mixed signals about its next Xbox. While Sony fired the first shot in the next-gen console war earlier this week — at least if you don’t count Google Stadia’s big debut — Microsoft has been coy about its follow-up to the Xbox One. The Xbox Scarlett, the next-gen codename for two new iterations of Xbox which are themselves codenamed Anaconda and Lockhart, has yet to be revealed in an official capacity, and any information surrounding Microsoft’s new venture is based on rumor and industry insider scuttlebutt.
One of those insiders dropped a tantalizing detail about Scarlett this week. Ainsley Bowden, the founder and head editor of Seasoned Gaming, took to Twitter after Sony released some of the PS5 specs and dropped some juicy tidbits about the next Xbox. “The PS5 hardware details (so far) were exactly what we were hoping for; even beyond what many were expecting,” Bowden tweeted. “Multiple insiders have now confirmed its true ‘Xbox Anaconda’ will be more advanced as rumored.”
The PS5 hardware details (so far) were exactly what we were hoping for; even beyond what many were expecting.
Multiple insiders have now confirmed it’s true Xbox “Anaconda” will be more advanced as rumored.
All this means is next year is going to be AMAZING for fans of both. pic.twitter.com/ro9QeO8DtV
— Ainsley Bowden (@Porshapwr) April 17, 2019
The news corroborates Microsoft’s two console strategy. Thurrott first reported on the two vastly different next-gen Xbox models in July 2018 with one iteration being a comparatively inexpensive streaming-only console (said to be codename Lockhart) while the more high end console is a technical powerhouse (the aforementined Anaconda).
Microsoft’s approach to traditional hardware is intriguing. Most next-gen Xbox adjacent news revolves around Microsoft being less bound to proprietary hardware and efforts to bring its software and services to multiple platforms. The company unveiled its streaming service Project xCloud in late 2018; Xbox One exclusives like Halo: The Master Chief Collection are heading to PC; Microsoft has been cozying up to Nintendo as of late by releasing Cuphead on the Nintendo Switch with Xbox Live support; and this is all while the company has stayed committed to a powerful, expensive console with Xbox One X, but stripping it of the true exclusives and services that are typically a console’s biggest selling features.
I feel like something’s missing from this big plan. Even though hardware and services are Xbox’s bread and butter, making those services and the console’s biggest games more broadly available could decrease the value of the more presumably pricey Xbox Anaconda. Why buy a console with minimal exclusives when the PS5 will likely stick with Sony’s strategy of hoarding titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Death Stranding. With all the nuanced approaches to the video game business Microsoft is pursuing both explicitly and in rumors, this sounds dangerously close to a repeat of the disastrous Xbox One launch: a technologically superior console with forward thinking services that has nothing special to play on it.
With Google Stadia and Apple Arcade, service and hardware are becoming opposite ends of the game industry. While becoming a more open service and software provider makes Microsoft more able to compete with Silicon Valley — and embraces the strategy that made Windows an epoch-defining technology — the PlayStation 5’s commitment to hardware and software may take on the Xbox Anaconda in a way that directly echoes the competition between PS4 and Xbox One.
We’ll undoubtedly know when Microsoft executes its plan to“go big” at E3 2019 this June.