My Thoughts on Xbox Project Lockhart

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So there’s been a lot of rumors surrounding Microsoft Project Lockhart, also known as the Xbox Series S as people have been calling it. This is supposedly Microsoft’s economy console for the upcoming generation, just like the Xbox One S is to the Xbox One X in the current generation.

Lockhart looks to be the affordable version of the Xbox Series X. I’m here to tell you that I think that everyone is missing the mark on what exactly Project Lockhart is. Let me explain.

Let’s take a look at what we know. The Xbox Series X was announced in December of 2019 as the successor to the Xbox One. It is lauded as the flagship device for the next generation for Microsoft. It’s going to be running games natively at 4k, or maybe even 8k at high frame rates. What is interesting though, is that for the first couple of years, games that come out on the Xbox Series X will also come out on the Xbox One.

So there’ll be cross-generation for some significant amount of time, which means there’s not going to be any Xbox Series X exclusive titles at launch or anywhere near launch. We also know that Microsoft has made huge strides in its X-Cloud streaming service. This allows users to play their Xbox games over the internet on a phone or PC, similar to Google Stadia or Nvidia’s GeForce Now, which have seen a lot of backing from their parent companies. Now, new reports are saying that Project Lockhart is already in the in-home testing phase of development, which means that it’s not going to be that long before announcement and release to the public.

And for the last couple of years, all the reports coming out of Project Lockhart have stated that there will be no physical disc drive on the console itself. This is what got my brain in gear of what they could be working on. Now we need to remember that next-gen games are going to be several hundred gigabytes in size. I mean, just look at Call of Duty Modern Warfare and Warzone is over 200 gigabytes on the current generation. A budget console is going to immediately run into storage issues and with all the next-gen consoles going SSD only, increasing that storage is going to be expensive. The other thing bugging me is that there’s not really room for this console in the price point and games, availability, and marketing for Microsoft.

Let’s make an assumption that the Xbox Series X is going to price at around $500. Now a more budget-friendly console would have to be around $300 to $350. The only problem is that Microsoft already has a $300 console in the Xbox One X, which has about the same specs that a next-gen budget console would have, save for the SSD.

The other thing is that the Xbox One X will play all the same games that are coming out on the Xbox Series X at launch and for years to come. Why would Microsoft spend R&D developing a new console that will be almost identical to a console that they’ve already done that for? With similar specs.

That’s why I think that project Lockhart – or another unannounced console is going to be a bare-bones streaming-only console that would undercut the price point of consoles nowadays.

Now imagine Microsoft has three pricing points for their ecosystem. The Xbox Series X at $500. The Xbox One X at $300. And Project Lockhart at $100. Project Lockhart could come with a controller and have similar specs to a high-end streaming device that you can get nowadays – think the Nvidia Shield, but without the Android TV media-focus core, you know, something that could stream from the cloud.

It could also stream to their Mixer platform without having to use the user’s bandwidth. And the whole thing would be powered by X-Cloud and Game Pass. This would be an all in one system for Microsoft to compete directly with Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now without all the complicated hardware that is plaguing those platforms. Stadia requires a Chromecast Ultra or a computer of some kind to play the games. And there’s limited controller support between the Stadia controller and then some having to be wired and a lot of confusion regarding that. And with GeForce Now, I’m pretty sure you can only do it with the shield TV and a PC or Mac.

Now, if project Lockhart launches alongside the final version of X-Cloud. It could introduce a whole new fan base into Microsoft’s ecosystem. And here’s the kicker. It all requires a monthly subscription fee. And we all know that Microsoft really wants to hone in on their services business. So this would pretty much guarantee a constant revenue stream from people who buy the device, because it would have to piggyback on Game Pass and X-Cloud and Xbox Live Gold.

Now I’m in marketing. And if I was an executive at Microsoft, this is what I would be doing. I would focus on very inexpensive hardware and the services on getting more subscriptions, more Game Pass users, you know, fully lean into being the Netflix of gaming. All that they’re missing is the easy entry point for the masses that aren’t going to spend $500 on a new console or even $300 on some on hardware. Netflix didn’t take over the television and movie industry until adoption was almost impossible to ignore. When every TV came with Netflix built in every streaming device, had a Netflix button, so the groundwork has been laid.

So that’s why I think that the largest room for growth in the gaming industry is the ultra-budget streaming platform that Microsoft has been building over the years.

Now, there is one hiccup in my entire prediction. And that comes from leaks from last year, that Project Lockhart was going to use an AMD APU processor that was being developed specifically for this device and that they were targeting 1440 P gaming instead of the 4k gaming. And if those leaks are true, then there is still the possibility it could be a streaming device APU, but unlikely.

But even if Project Lockhart isn’t a streaming-only device, I would be shocked if Microsoft wasn’t in development of that type of device. Also, all that being said, I still don’t see the room for a console that fits in-between the Xbox One X and the Xbox Series X without removing the Xbox One X entirely. Given that the games are still going to be coming out for years, I don’t see that happening.

So what do you think, do you think I’m brilliant or do you think I’m an idiot?

Are you, are you getting an Xbox Series X? Are you holding onto your current-gen? Are you buying current-gen now while prices are dipping? What are you looking forward to? What do you think is Project Lockhart’s going to be – do you think Microsoft’s going to announce it soon or do you think they’re going to hold out for a while?

Let me know. Let’s have a discussion. I’ll bring some snacks.

Cheers, Ty