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New Xbox leak gets the rumor mill turning

Thanks to the PlayStation 5 reveal event, we already know Sony has two different versions of its next-gen console planned. There is one model that'll feature a Blu-ray drive — and likely be more expensive — and another that's digital only.

On the Microsoft side, we don't have official word that a second next-gen Xbox will be available to consumers. That doesn't mean the evidence isn't piling up, though. In fact, the word "Lockhart" is appearing quite a bit lately, and its presence could point to Microsoft announcing a second spin on the Xbox Series X sooner rather than later.

According to Twitter user @XB1_HexDecimal — a self-proclaimed "Windows reverse engineer" — some interesting information showed up in the June 2020 release notes for the Xbox development kit, or XDK. The notes mention that a new "LockhartProfiling mode" is supported by the XDK. For those out of the loop, "Lockhart" is widely assumed to be the codename of the second next-gen Xbox.

The Xbox Series X, which is codenamed "Anaconda," already has a similar mode in the XDK and is mentioned right alongside Lockhart. So this really gives the rumors of a potential Xbox Series S a boost.

There is something that might give you pause if you check out the images provided by @XB1_HexDecimal. In one instance, Lockhart is displayed as "Lockhard" instead. This could be a simple typo, or it could be a sign that what we're seeing isn't exactly up to snuff. Because XDK release notes aren't published online — and are likely under a non-disclosure agreement — a second corroborating leak may not ever come.

That said, this would not be the first time the word Lockhart has appeared in Microsoft's work. Earlier this month, mentions of the codename were discovered in some Windows system files. So it sure looks like Lockhart is going to be something. Whether it's a second new Xbox is still very much up in the air.

You might be wondering — why is everyone so interested in Microsoft offering an alternative to the Xbox Series X? There are a number of reasons fans are so keen on seeing a second machine.

The biggest one is likely price.

Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 aren't expected to be budget friendly consoles, and by that, we mean you shouldn't expect either to come out swinging like the $199 Dreamcast at the turn of the century. Both will come closer to legit gaming PCs than any other consoles have previously. That beefier hardware could result in a much higher price tag than gamers are used to.

Something like an Xbox Series S, however, could help bridge the gap between what customers are used to paying now and what the newer, more premium consoles will command. And Microsoft could achieve cost savings in a number of different ways. It could scale down the power of the machine by including cheaper components. Or it could do as Sony's done with the PS5 and offer a discless version.

Regardless of the path Microsoft takes, offering a second choice could bring more players into the next-gen Xbox ecosystem. So it's a move that makes a ton of sense if Microsoft wants to more quickly grow its install base right out of the gate.

Another reason a second next-gen Xbox might be appealing is capability — particularly in the area of resolution. Though it may seem like the world is fully on board with 4K at this point, that's not actually the case. The website Statista forecasts that, in the entirety of North America, the install base for Ultra HD TVs will hit around 90.8 million units this year. That means there are a lot of homes still utilizing lower-res sets, and gamers in homes like these aren't really getting the benefit of those blown-out 4K graphics.

For gamers like these, a console that can still play next-gen games — but at 1080p instead of 4K — might be an enticing proposition. Especially if that console is also much cheaper as a result.

It remains to be seen when — or even if — Microsoft will announce Lockhart. Sony used its Future of Gaming stream to introduce both versions of the PS5 at the same time. Microsoft, meanwhile, has only been focused on the Series X, and one could wonder if introducing a second model might confuse people this late in the game.

There seems to be a lot of interest around a second option, though, and that interest could increase as soon as a price is announced for the Series X. If that happens sometime soon, or if Microsoft decides to surprise everyone and start talking about Lockhart in an official way, we'll be sure to let you know.