The Xbox One X Looks Great, But Who is it Really For?

By Tom Pritchard on at

On Sunday night Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One X, previously known as Project Scorpio, the third iteration of the Xbox One to come out. The announcement was filled with lots of boasting, talking up the big numbers associated with the hardware, and how it's the most powerful console ever made. Which is great. The Xbox One was deemed a disappointment by many, particularly since it struggled to compete with the PS4 from a purely technological point of view. This new console takes things quite a bit further, seemingly leaving Sony in the dust.

That's all fine I suppose, but the more I think about it the more I think "who is this console supposed to be for?"

Microsoft has been bigging up what the One X can do, talking about the 'true' 4K resolution, HDR, Dolby Atmos, faster loading times, and a comfortable 60FPS. There are plenty of people who want all that, and who can blame them? The problem is that they prefer to be known as PC gamers, and probably wouldn't seen dead with an Xbox One - especially since Microsoft's Play Anywhere programme means all the Xbox exclusives are being guaranteed a PC release anyway.

What about the Xbox One owners? The console will have been out for four years by the time the X arrives, and with all the upgrades it feels a lot like a new console. The problem is, however, that the X is not a new console. It'll use the same discs as the regular Xbox One, just with an extra coating of hardware-fuelled paint. So that copy of Forza 7 will work just as well on a four year old console, it just won't look as good. Is it worth spending £450 on a brand new Xbox when all the games will work on the old one that you can get dirt cheap? Even if you don't have an Xbox One, what do you gain from spending an extra £200+ and not buying the 4k-upscaling Xbox One S? So it can't handle that at 60FPS, but as I mentioned before: if you cared about framerate that much you probably already have a PC.

The topic of exclusives is also an issue here. If anyone decides they want to play, say, Horizon Zero Dawn or upcoming Last of Us 2, will have to buy a PS4. Xbox has exclusives, but they're also available on PC, meaning there are no solid reasons why anyone should buy an Xbox One X - particularly if they already have a gaming PC of their own. PC gaming isn't for everyone, which is why consoles exist in the first place, but it does, potentially, take a dent out of Microsoft's console sales.

You also have to remember that the Xbox One's sales have not been fantastic anyway, certainly not compared to the PS4. Yesterday Sony announced that 60 million PS4 consoles have been sold since launch, while Microsoft has only sold an estimated 26 million Xbox Ones as of January this year. That's not such a bad number, but I went and did some maths to work out whether I thought it was likely that everyone with an Xbox One would upgrade. In January 2016 EA let it slip that Microsoft has sold 18-19 million Xbox Ones, meaning seven to eight million were purchased in 2016. If my maths is correct that means just under a third of all Xbox One consoles were purchased last year, and the oldest of those consoles will be around 22 months old (the youngest being 10 or 11) when the One X is released.

Given the fact that the One and One S do all the same fundamental things as the One X, I find it highly unlikely that the majority of those buyers will be willing to drop £450 on an upgrade so soon. Some will, after all people do love to spend just as much (if not more) money on new smartphones. I bought my Xbox One in October 2015, and I've been quite happy with it. I still have no intention of buying a One X, however, not until it gets a significant price cut.

You also have to consider the fact that not everyone will have the kit to take advantage of the One X's hardware. 4K TV apparently has a faster adoption rate than 1080p did several years ago, and prices are getting lower all the time, reports claims that it has yet to reach mass market adoption.

While Microsoft claims the X makes games look better on a 1080p TV, you're not going to get as much out of it without the right hardware. The price of 4K TVs has come down quite a lot, but there are still plenty of people who are happy without the upgrade. My 1080p TV is seven years old and works just fine. Even though I got myself a 4K model last year I have no intention of letting the old one go to waste. £450 is a lot of money to spend

There's also the fact that there's been no mention of virtual reality on the One X. The initial announcement at last year's E3 promised 'high fidelity VR', though that line was later removed from the console's marketing site. As Gamespot reported last year, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed VR was coming to the One X (then still known as Scorpio), though this year's E3 press conference was completely devoid of any VR talk. Xbox head Phil Spencer told CNET that the One X will support VR, and that he stands by what he said a year ago - contrary to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Still there are no solid details, and word is we won't hear anything until next year.

The lack of commitment here seems to say something about Microsoft and its plans for VR. The technology is still in its infancy and hasn't really got a foothold yet, which could explain some hesitancy to unveil a headset for the Xbox - though it would be an ideal place to recycle all the tech that went into the now-defunct Kinect. But at the same time Microsoft has been doing a significant amount of work in developing Windows Holographic, which is being used with at least one third-party headset. The only difference is that the focus is on turning VR (or Mixed Reality, since real world objects are also being placed in a virtual space) into a productivity tool rather than entertainment device.

While that means VR might have a better chance of being taken seriously in mainstream culture (particularly business), VR is primarily known for immersive gaming. It was promised last year, and the fact that the PS VR sales have exceeded Sony's expectations means that there is a market for it - however small it may be compared to consoles themselves.

The power behind the Xbox One X exceeds that of the PS4 or PS4 Pro, and VR is the ideal place to put it to good use. 4K resolution is great and everything, but since VR on PC has some pretty hefty price tags attached then the One X would be the ideal place to offer a similar experience at a lower price point. At the very least it could offer a VR experience that trumps that offered by Sony. But sadly there's nothing yet, so if you want to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew, or Rick and Morty Simulator you'll need to buy a different system.

That's my take on the matter. The Xbox One X has a lot of cool things in there, but the fact of the matter is that it's a pretty redundant purchase at the moment, and an expensive one at that. It's not a replacement for the Xbox One, or even the One S, and that's the main problem. Those consoles are still supported, and will likely continue to work the same way until Microsoft announces a console and stops manufacturing them. It might only have been four years since the Xbox One was first released, but you couldn't blame Microsoft for at least trying to ditch the negative reputation the console has had since the very beginning. And, after all, the gap between the Xbox and Xbox 360 was also four years, though admittedly that was quite a short life cycle compared to the competition.

This isn't to say that nobody should buy the Xbox One X, if you're excited to get one then it's not my place to try and take that away from you. I'd appreciate if you could tell me why, though, because I still cannot fathom why anyone would actually want to buy it at launch - or even in the months following it. All it really has to offer is 4K gaming, and to be honest that one thing is just not worth it. Certainly not compared to the alternative options already out there.