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We finally know what happened to the Series X audio port

The Xbox Series X — despite all of the uncertainty introduced as of late — is still on track to release during the holiday season this year. We've seen a fair amount of Microsoft's new machine, too. The company broke with tradition by unveiling the Series X at The Game Awards in 2019, and by giving Digital Foundry unfettered access to the console and every component packed into its chassis.

The Xbox Series X will play every Xbox One game, a host of Xbox 360 games, and a handful of original Xbox titles. Accessories from the Xbox One generation will also work with the Series X when it arrives. But that doesn't mean everything from Xbox One will make the journey to Series X on the hardware side. The Kinect, for example, won't be supported. The additional HDMI-in port won't make an appearance on Microsoft's new console. And another port — the one for optical audio — is missing for the first time on an Xbox.

Thanks to a recent interview with Xbox head Phil Spencer, we now know why the optical audio port won't be present on the Xbox Series X.

Spencer showed up on the latest episode of IGN's Podcast Unlocked, speaking with host Ryan McCaffery for nearly an hour about the next generation. When the topic of the optical audio port came up, Spencer was fairly honest about why this particular feature didn't make the cut.

"The marginal cost of everything is important," Spencer said. "So if you look at a part on a console that's maybe $1 or $2, and you say, 'Okay, how big of a deal is that inside of a console that's a few hundred dollars?' But then you say, 'Okay, we're gonna plan to sell, you know, a hundred million of these consoles.' You think two bucks over a hundred million, now you're two hundred million dollars over the life of the program."

Long story short: one cheap part can really add up over time.

Spencer was quick to point out that he was just spitballing the math, and that the example given didn't apply to the optical port exactly. But this does give you a glimpse into the types of decisions that have to be made when developing a new piece of hardware. In this case, Microsoft looked at just how many people were using the port and determined continued support wasn't worth spending millions more dollars.

If you have a wireless headset that currently makes use of the audio port on Xbox One, though, you shouldn't have anything to worry about.

"We had a conversation with the headset manufacturers prior to all of this," Spencer added. "When we stood up and said your accessories are gonna work, we weren't kind of walking a tightrope there. We'd already had the conversations."

It sounds like Microsoft will be working with companies like Turtle Beach and Astro to ensure your Xbox One headset continues to function with Xbox Series X. You'll probably hear more about that as the Series X launch gets closer.

The omission of the optical port is undoubtedly disappointing to some. There are definitely gamers out there who've made use of the port not just for headsets, but for full surround sound audio setups. For those players who place sound at the forefront, the Series X may actually feel like a step backward rather than an upgrade.

It seems, though, that Microsoft's data points to these players being in the minority. If Microsoft does indeed have a plan for headsets that used the optical audio port, it should have most of its customers covered. And if leaving that port out means the Xbox Series X is ultimately a cheaper console, or if that money was used to shore up some other part of the machine, more people should benefit as a result.

The Xbox Series X price has yet to be revealed, so it's tough to say whether or not that sacrifice was worth it. The world is still waiting on a definitive launch date for the console, as well. Though Microsoft has talked a whole lot about the Series X, and has given fans a ton of info about the new hardware, there are still a bunch of questions that remain unanswered.

You can likely expect to hear more about the Xbox Series X in the coming months. Microsoft has talked about replacing its E3 presentation with some kind of digital event, and that could serve as a great time to reveal a date, talk about price, and confirm a launch lineup. Should we get word on when such an event might take place, we'll let you know.