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The Real Reason Xbox Created The Series S

Sony and Microsoft have presented gamers with very powerful machines for the new console generation. While both systems push hardware limits, the two companies have demonstrated vastly different strategies and philosophies. It seems as though there's even a difference in how Microsoft and Sony view their budget consoles. In this case, the Xbox Series S was a direct response to the digital-only PS5.

Talking with The Verge, head of Xbox Phil Spencer admitted that the Series S received a lot of internal pushback. Regardless, he saw an opportunity to cater to a demographic Sony would neglect. He knew that with the rival company's focus on "high-end hardware," there would be a space to fill for a more affordable option. As such, the lower-end Series S seemed like the perfect solution to give the Xbox family a broader market appeal.

In his strategy, Spencer focused on inclusion. According to Spencer, he wanted figure out, "how do we include more people in the launch euphoria and hype and everything that happens, and make it as accessible to [as many] more people as possible." Spencer's approach is in line with his view on Xbox game exclusivity, which puts less of an emphasis on platform and more on the overall user experience.

Interestingly enough, even though the Series S isn't a fully-optimized new-gen console, Spencer has predicted that the budget system will eventually outsell its beefier counterpart. Even so, while the cheaper Xbox could net Microsoft more sales, was it really the right move for next-gen gaming as a whole?

Because of its lower specs, there has been some concern that the Series S could lead to unintentional limits for this generation. As Quantic Dream's David Cage put it, developers could forgo optimizing their games in favor of creating products suited to run on the Series S, without much consideration for the impressive Series X. Cage also felt the system's debut only added more confusion to this generation.

What does this mean for the road ahead? Will this be yet another factor to tip the scale in the PS5's favor? While its powerful digital-only option may be one of the PS5's advantages over Xbox, the Series S still has notable selling points. In fact, the cheaper Xbox actually has a resolution advantage when it comes to 1440p monitors.

Regardless of superiority, this is a key generation as physical media wanes in prevalence. Since Microsoft is presenting a digital-only option that isn't quite on par with its disc-based counterpart, Xbox fans will have even more reason to cling to an optical drive. If Phil Spencer is right, however, even that component may not be enough to extend the life of physical media.