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Xbox Series S: everything we know about the cheaper Xbox Series X alternative

Xbox Series S
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series S (codenamed 'Project Lockhart') is the rumored cheaper, digital-only alternative to the Xbox Series X. That's right: it looks like Microsoft will be releasing not one but two next-gen consoles this year.

Whether the new Xbox will actually be called the Xbox Series S is up for debate, but it shouldn't be long until we find out more. Reports have suggested that Microsoft will reveal this digital-only next-gen console sometime in August.

There has been speculation for some time that Microsoft is working on a lower-cost next-gen Xbox console, to sit just below the high-end Xbox Series X. This disc-less, next-gen Xbox is rumored to be substantially more powerful than the (now discontinued) Xbox One S All-Digital console, and will allegedly come with both a solid-state hard drive and a faster CPU than any current game console – with developers reportedly likening its performance to that of the PS4 Pro.

While Microsoft hasn't confirmed this console is in the works, the company has specified that the Xbox Series X will not be the only next-gen console, and instead will belong to a family – much like the Xbox One family of consoles. Interested to know more? Here's everything we know about the Xbox Series S.

Xbox Series S release date

Xbox Series X controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

As Microsoft hasn't confirmed Xbox Series S (Project Lockhart) is actually in the works, it's hard to pin down exactly when we might see this digital-only next-gen console.

However, it looks like an Xbox Series S announcement is imminent. Back in April, Windows Central claimed the digital next-gen console had already entered home testing, allowing Xbox employees to get their hands on the system, with the publication suggesting that we could hear more about the console sometime soon. 

More recently, two separate sources say Microsoft is likely to do a full reveal of the console in August. A report by Eurogamer, which echoed the findings of an earlier VentureBeat story, claims that the Xbox Series X was first scheduled to be revealed in June before being pushed back to a separate event in August. While Eurogamer refers to this console as the Xbox Series S, VentureBeat refers to it as Xbox Lockhart. 

If that's true, we'll see the Xbox Series S sooner rather than later, possibly even launching alongside the Xbox Series X later this year - similar to Sony releasing both a PS5 standard edition and digital edition alongside each other.

Xbox Series S price

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Without confirmation from Microsoft, we can only speculate about what the Xbox Series S price will be. 

We do know that the Xbox Series S is rumored to be a lower-cost alternative to the Xbox Series X, though we still don't know what the Xbox Series X price will be. 

If we use the Xbox Series X's predicted price of $499 / £499 / AU$760 as a baseline, we could potentially expect to see Xbox Series S retailing for between $100 and $200 less than that. The Xbox One S's RRP was $100 less than that of the Xbox One X at launch, while the Xbox One S All-Digital's launch RRP was $200 less than the Xbox One X's.

That would put the Xbox Series S price somewhere between $299 and $399 – but we would predict $399 being more likely. If the Xbox Series S did launch at this price, it would place it roughly around the current average price of an Xbox One X ($399 / £349).

While we can only speculate, it's hard to truly estimate the Xbox Series S's price without knowing for sure what's under the hood or what the Xbox Series X's price is. Microsoft has promised that it "will not be out of position on power or price," which suggests the company has learned from its original Xbox One launch price mistake. But that doesn't mean the flagship console, or the Xbox Series S, will necessarily be cheap. It just means the price point should be better aligned with the console's power and the price points of the competition. 

Xbox Series S: a digital gateway

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Xbox)

It seems the Xbox Series S will primarily see use as a digital gateway for both Microsoft’s game-streaming service, Project xCloud, and its ever-growing Xbox Game Pass service.

Project xCloud aims to leverage Microsoft’s existing data centers across the globe, literally loading up servers with the component parts of multiple Xbox One consoles, and using these to run the games streamed directly to your mobile device of choice. 

This means that gamers will be able to play the likes of Halo Infinite, Forza and other classic console and PC big hitters on their phones or tablets.

Meanwhile, Xbox Game Pass is essentially a Netflix for games, allowing subscribers to access lots of Xbox games digitally. The service has grown massively since its launch in 2017, boasting over 10 million subscribers

Services such as Project xCloud and Xbox Game Pass prove that physical discs aren't always necessary, with Microsoft offering plenty of content for those who choose to go digital-only. Xbox Series S could take this initiative into the next generation, proving that these services alone can support a next-gen console.

Xbox Series S news and rumors

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Xbox consoles discontinued
It's possible that the Xbox Series S will be priced similarly to the Xbox One X, as Microsoft has now discontinued both the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition and the Xbox One X ahead of the launch of Xbox Series X. Considering Microsoft insists that it won't force players into the next generation, the company would have to price either the Xbox Series X (or more likely the Xbox Series S) at around the price of the Xbox One X, to avoid pricing players out of the Xbox family.

Xbox Series S appears in Microsoft technical documents
A Twitter user has discovered references to Xbox Series S (codenamed 'Project Lockhart') in the latest patch notes for Microsoft’s Game Development Kit.

In the June patch notes uncovered by Twitter user TitleOS, we can see one reference to LockhartProfiling beside AnacondaProfiling for Xbox Scarlett Dev Kits and a second reference that has a glaring typo ('Lockhard' [sic]). 

The language in the update has been verified as accurate by Windows Central.

Without the complete context here, AnacondaProfiling appears to be referring to the hardware configuration of the Xbox Series X, and leads us to assume that the LockhartProfiling must be the lower-cost Xbox Series S we’ve heard rumors about for the last year.

The screen captures don’t tell us much outside of the console’s possible existence, unfortunately, and it’s worth keeping in mind that the patch notes – while highly plausible – don’t carry the same weight as an official announcement.

Xbox Series S

(Image credit: rustam_shaimov / Shutterstock.com)

Kotaku's report
According to Kotaku, Project Lockhart will be disc-less console – a trait that it will carry forward from the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition – but Kotaku's sources believe it will be substantially more powerful than Microsoft’s current disc-less box, and will come with both a solid-state hard drive and a faster CPU than any current game console.

The report goes on to say that Microsoft told developers to shoot for a 1440p resolution and 60 frames-per-second frame rate with Project Lockhart and 4K/60 with Xbox Series X, and those same developers have likened the performance of the lower-end console to the PS4 Pro

Microsoft confirms family of consoles
The Xbox Series X will not be the only console in Microsoft's next generation lineup. While we assumed that the next generation console is called 'Xbox Series X', Microsoft has clarified that, in fact, the family of consoles will be called 'Xbox' and that 'Series X' is just one of the consoles within the family. This clarification from Microsoft serves to further fuel rumors that another next generation Xbox console is on the way.

Rumors first emerged
Back in 2018, rumors emerged that Microsoft was working on Project Scarlett, the company's plan for the next-generation of consoles. Project Scarlett was rumored to encompass two pieces of hardware: Anaconda and Lockhart (via Thurrott). 

Anaconda was rumored to be a successor to the Xbox One X (what we know know to be Xbox Series X) while Lockhart was rumored to be a successor to the Xbox One S (and a lower-cost alternative to Anaconda).

In June 2019, however, Microsoft announced only a single, high-end console, leading some to believe Project Lockhart has been cancelled. However, according to Kotaku's sources, Project Lockhart is still in the works and will be a digital-only, lower-cost alternative to the Xbox Series X.