Why I want an Xbox Series S all-digital console

Sean Carey - May 2nd 2020

Rumours have been circulating the internet for months now about a second console that will launch alongside the Xbox Series X. Early reports suggested the new generation's Project Scarlett would consist of two Xbox models — a higher-end version named "Anaconda" and a second codenamed "Lockhart". Kotaku previously reported that the company is, in fact, working on an all-digital version of the Series X. Nothing has been confirmed, but if the reports are correct and Lockhart or "Xbox Series S" does exist, here is why we should have the option for an all-digital machine, and what I'd like to see from the console.

According to Microsoft, the Xbox Series X can support resolutions as high as 8K, but the console will be aiming to reach a "target" of 4K 60fps up to 120fps. It will be interesting to see what frame rate the Series X will hit within that target range. In the case of an Xbox Series S, I'd much rather be able to play a game at a 1440p resolution with a stable 60fps or higher. For me, 1440p offers the right amount of detail while keeping gameplay and cutscenes buttery smooth. And while there is much hype around the Series X's ray tracing support, the feature does sometimes impact frame rates. If the Series S eschewed ray tracing in favour of keeping frame rates higher and prices lower, I'd be ok with that.

The rumour that an Xbox Series S will be an all-digital machine is a welcome one as long as it's at a lower price point. There is a sacrifice to be made with all-digital consoles — you lose backwards compatibility access to the boxed games you already own — so hopefully there will be a couple of variations on offer with the Series S — much like the standard Xbox One S and its all-digital version. For me, my physical game collecting days are over. I once wanted to keep my gaming collection on-display and viewable, but as time's gone on, I've realised two things: I don't dust anywhere near enough, and game cases take up a lot of space. Over the past couple of years, I have bought maybe two or three physical games with the exception of a special edition here or there (staring over at them now, they are all enveloped in dust).

Since getting hold of an Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass has meant I haven't needed to buy any games. There's no dusting; everything is neat and tidy on my shelves — it's perfect. The thought of having an all-digital Xbox Series S is great. The form factor of the console would most-likely be smaller due to the lack of disc drive, meaning I wouldn't have to own an industrial-sized TV stand to support the thing, unlike the Series X monolith. There is always the fear that a game could be removed from the Microsoft Store completely, meaning it would be no longer available to download. All-digital also cuts me out from buying pre-owned games. For me, that's not such a big deal, but I can understand why this would be a dealbreaker for others.

The gaming landscape is currently shifting. PC gaming has been predominantly digital for years now, and I think it's only a matter of time before console gaming does the same. Video game subscription services are becoming increasingly popular, and are seeing huge numbers of people sign up. Xbox Game Pass would hopefully be bundled in with an all-digital Series S. The two surely go hand in hand together, and it just makes sense. Having a nice 12-month subscription included with purchase at launch, especially now Xbox Game Pass will soon include Project xCloud, would make for a compelling package. The one issue here is storage space. It would be great to see a bigger capacity hard drive than just 1TB in the Series S. Some more significant titles are starting to take upwards of 100GB — we're all looking at you Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — so that 1TB will rapidly fill up. Of course, more storage likely equals a higher price point.

Of course, until Microsoft makes an official announcement, the Series S (and an all-digital version) might be just a dream. However, it does make sense. The gaming landscape is slowly starting to shift, with a number of publishers offering video game subscription services. We've also seen several iterations of the Xbox One, including that all-digital Xbox One S, so why not an Xbox Series S that's discless, more affordable, but still packs a punch in terms of graphical fidelity and power? Hopefully, we will see more news on a second next-gen Xbox in the coming months.