Still, the amount of storage may be an issue for some players, especially now that popular games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare can take up to 183GB of space. (And add on another 100GB for Warzone battle royale.) You can always add on the 1TB Seagate Storage Expansion card, but we don’t know how much that’ll cost yet. And if you assume it’ll go for at least $200 like comparable PC SSD drives, then you might as well just make the leap to the Xbox Series X, which ships with a 1TB drive.
Microsoft also mentioned DirectX ray tracing support for the Series S, but it’s hard to tell how effective that’ll be. NVIDIA’s RTX ray tracing tech significantly hurts performance on its PC GPUs, and I’d imagine the same would be true of AMD’s RDNA2 console solution. But it’s hard to judge until we actually see that in action. For now, if ray tracing is a priority for you, just make the jump straight to the Series X.
I’d bet more people care about access to games than new-fangled tech like ray tracing, and that’s where Game Pass Ultimate comes in. It combines Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service with over 100 titles and same-day access to first-party games, and Xbox Live multiplayer support for $15 a month. It’s been one of the best deals in gaming for years, and it seems even more valuable when paired together with the Series S — especially if you jump on the $25-a-month All Access plan. (And it’s worth noting here the Series X is a similarly good deal for $35 a month.)
Typically I’d say you’re better off buying your gear outright, rather than financing. But the overall value proposition with the Series S is hard to deny. After 24 months, you end up paying $600, which admittedly sounds like a lot. But the console itself only costs you $240 after discounting the $15 monthly fee for Game Pass Ultimate. For many consumers, it’s a subscription they’d be jumping on anyway. After all, why pay $60 for a new Microsoft title like Halo Infinite when you can pay that same amount for four months of Game Pass?
Microsoft has also done a commendable job of making Game Pass Ultimate jam-packed with titles you’d actually want to play, including Indies like Hollow Knight and Rocket League. You’ll also be getting access to EA Play games like Mass Effect and The Sims eventually. You also get discounts on featured games if you want to keep them in your library, and Windows gamers also get even more titles like Crusader Kings 3.
I haven’t even gotten to cloud gaming yet, which is officially arriving on Game Pass Ultimate on September 15th. That’ll let you play some games on your Android phones and tablets, which opens up the Xbox ecosystem in entirely new ways. (iOS users will have to wait until Apple gets over its problem with game streaming.)
Sure, you can enjoy all of these Game Pass Ultimate perks on the existing Xbox One systems, but that’s not going to help parents with kids demanding a new system, or casual players with older TVs. And really, that’s who the Xbox Series S is for — it gives you a taste of next-generation gaming at a more palatable price. And it’s something Sony likely won’t be able to compete with either. The disc-less PlayStation 5 will definitely be cheaper than its full-featured sibling, but it likely won’t be close to $299.
It’s strange to say it, but Microsoft’s most interesting next-gen console may be the one that doesn’t have the fastest hardware around. The Xbox Series S is good enough. And paired together with a compelling subscription, it could be the ideal console gaming experience for most people.