Even though it had leaked just hours before the conference, hearts collectively sunk when Phil Spencer made official Xbox One X’s $500 price tag. That’s a lot of money to spend on a console that, despites Spencer’s assurances to the contrary, will likely necessitate upgrading to a 4K television to get the best out of. At $100 more than its competition, it’s hard to imagine the price point is sharp enough to attract a wider audience and regain much ground back on Sony.
The big question now is who the Xbox One X is actually designed for. $500 has slightly confused its mandate; part premium device, part gamble to restore parity between Microsoft and Sony. On the one hand, it is pitched to those who value performance and are willing to pay for it, on the other, it aims to attract a large audience by touting the most capable place to play video games. But its exuberant price doesn’t facilitate both objectives. The Xbox One X now feels caught up between the two, in limbo between a premium device and a generational leap that has come before its technology is affordable enough to make it viable. Remember the last console that launched at $500? It didn’t go so well for the PS3, and that was a generational leap with exclusive, purpose built content.
The $500 price isn’t actually far off low-end gaming PC’s of comparable specifications, and much more powerful ones can be built for not a lot more. So what is the advantage for current Xbox One owners? Surely it would make more sense to buy a gaming PC?
Then there is the extent to which it isolates new console buyers, especially those not technically minded. Will parents really opt to purchase Xbox One X over the standard model? Does PS4 Pro not represent better value, boasting similar 4K HDR features (even if it isn’t “true” 4K)? Sure, current games are said to look and run better on Xbox One X, but they do on PS4 Pro too, and for $100 less.
Will third parties prioritize 4K 60fps gaming on Xbox One X? Does Crackdown 3 actually run significantly better on the new console? Until we have a better idea of how games will take advantage of the Xbox One X’s power, the new console might only be worth the money to those who don’t already own vanilla Xbox One or PS4.