I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one eagerly awaiting the next generation of consoles but unlike the majority (seemingly), it feels like I’m the only one in my group of friends and acquaintances that’s interested/excited for the recently unveiled and budget-friendly Xbox Series S. A reasonable price of $299 for next-generation performance — sure it’s only upscaling to 4K — and couple that with the stellar offering of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and you’ve got a match made in budget heaven.

Life is already expensive, let alone amidst a pandemic, but it is even more expensive for anyone outside of the USA or other supported regions. I’m from a country (Suriname) where the exchange rate is about SRD 15 for every USD. The Xbox Series X and PS5, while superior in performance*, their $499 price tag sure is scary. It translates to SRD 7485 and that, to the uninitiated, is worth a month’s rent, groceries, and money for gasoline. According to Statista, that price is about a third of the median monthly price for rent in the US. Any way you slice it, five pieces of paper with Benjamin Franklin’s head on it, is a lot of money. And while $299 is still a lot, it might just be an easier pill to swallow when you’re trying to be mindful of your expenses.

The promise of Game Pass

Game Pass is a subscription service offered by Microsoft that grants you:

  • Access to over 100 games (a rotating selection, sure) 
  • Xbox live gold for online multiplayer and up to 4 games a month for you to add to your library
  • xCloud, which lets you stream your games to your device of choice (not counting Apple products, for now)
  • Day and date access to Xbox exclusives

Normally this all would cost you $14.99 a month (but now selling for the low price of $1 a month!). Annually that comes down to $179.88 or about 3 full games worth $60.

For the price of three games, you get access to a hundred plus. That is a great value.

Of course, people will make the argument that value only means anything if the service offers games worth playing. So let’s take a look at the offering:

  • Every Halo game
  • Dishonored 2
  • Children of Morta
  • Tekken 7
  • Kingdom Hearts 1 through 3
  • Hollow Knight
  • The Mass Effect trilogy
  • Mutant Year Zero
  • Overcooked
  • Nier Automata
  • Oxenfree
  • Minecraft

And that’s just scratching the surface. If what you’re looking for is first-party PlayStation games and you have no mindshare for anything else, then this isn’t for you. For everyone else, you might have a hard time deciding where to start playing, but their current offering has something for everyone. From triple-A spectacle to poignant Indie darlings, there’s a lot to love among this crop of titles.

But what about those first-party games?

Ok, I get it, you still crave things to get hyped for and Microsoft has bolstered their stable of developers over the years. Names like Obsidian Entertainment (The Outerworlds, Fallout: New Vegas), Double Fine (Psychonauts, Broken Age), Ninja Theory (Enslaved: Journey to the West, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), and Undead Labs (State of Decay) just to name a few. All storied developers who are sure to bring their expertise to exciting and unexplored lands.

But.

You want the promise of today and not tomorrow. And that’s where Sony’s got Microsoft beat. Over the course of almost 10 years, Sony has achieved critical and commercial success with its titles and is no doubt winning over the hearts of gamers. Microsoft just can’t compete with that and the cynic in me is bound to think it might be too late to regain what favor they gained in the 7th generation. But the goodwill Sony has was won over time and Nintendo is the king of the comeback, so even if Microsoft’s offering isn’t as enticing now, they might still win us back in due time.

So you’re saying there’s a chance

Despite all the nostalgia, gamers seem to have a short memory span. This isn’t the first time a company has made a comeback. Remember when Sony and Microsoft were leading the pack in performance and third-party support? Nintendo sure does; and that’s when they implemented the Blue Ocean strategy. Barring one failed attempt with the WiiU, the Wii and DS line of products changed the industry for the better, all the while tapping into a market that wasn’t really there before: the casual gamer.

I believe Microsoft is trying to repeat that. With similar hardware to PlayStation’s next-generation, Xbox just can’t compete when it comes to first-party games. So what’s left? People looking for budget-friendly options, ease-of-use, accessibility (thanks to the Adaptive controller), and even financing plans for people who can only spare $25/$35 a month.

Look, I really like the Xbox Series S, if my fawning wasn’t already apparent. The only thing I’ll really miss is the disc drive because we humans like physical stuff and I still have a collection of Xbox 360 games I’d like to play via Backwards Compatibility. And I really like the design too, giant oreo and all. The form factor is appealing and will also probably fit better in my media center than the other consoles. 

Pound for pound they’ll probably lose the core market that’s hungry for that God of War or Ghost of Tsushima, so now they’re inviting everyone else to the party. After all, gaming is more fun when everyone can play. And yes, tomorrow is Sony’s big day where they’re set to reveal the PS5 pricing, and who knows, I might just flip flop back to my current allegiances (I predominantly play PS4 now). But for anyone like me, who like to pinch their pennies and aren’t too fussy about specs and features, but do want to participate in the next generation, the Xbox Series S is shaping up to be our destination of choice.

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Jason C
Jason is your mild-mannered geek, who refuses to complete a game without seeing all the sidequests.

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