Monday, May 17, 2021

Why Series X?

 By: Patrick Morris

I know I keep talking about the next generation of consoles, I talk about them on our podcast HardReset every week, I talked about them on LegalSpeak last week, I wont shutup about the new consoles but get used to it because this week isnt going to be any different. 


A recent poll has show that an overwhelming majority of current generation players are planning on purchasing a PlayStation 5 as opposed to an Xbox Series X. Personally I plan on buying both because I don’t really care what plastic box full of silicon is powering my games I just wanna play the games, but if I were forcing myself to choose I think Microsoft has convinced me that this coming generation I will primarily be playing Xbox. And more importantly they are making what seems to be a much more concerted effort to transform what the term "Xbox" actually means and inherently how we think about video games and what we expect from our consoles moving forward. 


Welcome welcome welcome everyone welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the medium as a whole. This week isnt going to be a PS5 vs. Xbiox Series X type video its just going to be an exploration of what Microsoft has done to convince me that Xbox is the place to play and why I think that decision will last longer than just this coming generation.


Quick disclaimer before we get started: like I mentioned at the top, I'm planning on buying both the Xbox and the PS5 on day one. I've already put away roughly $500 for each console so when they go up for preorder I'll put my money down in both camps and play games indiscriminately. This video is in no way meant to stoke the flames of the console wars it's just my observing things that Microsoft is doing that Sony isn't that are important to ME. Can we all please agree to not spit venom at each other defending the billion dollar companies that don’t give two shits about us as individuals? Xbox isn't a part of my identity and neither is PlayStation. Okay now that that’s out of the way, lets talk about the Xbox.


For every single generational console launch that I can remember almost all consoles have utilized the same standard strategy, and that’s for good reason, it works. The simple straightforward formula involves three ingredients. First, you gotta come to market with significantly more powerful hardware than the previous generations offerings. Second, you’ve gotta have games. Whether they're first party or third party you gotta make there's something great to play because if the PSvita  taught us anything it's that the best hardware in the world cant ever make up for not having great software to go with it. And third, and this one is a more recent development you've gotta have great online services. Sony struggled throughout the entirety of the PlayStation 3 because while Xbox Live was a teenager starting to build some muscle mass PlayStation Network was just a baby shit pissin in their diaper. And just to be especially clear when I say the formula is simple I mean conceptually. It's not difficult to identify what makes a great console but even the simplest formula in the world can still be difficult to execute on.


Now both Microsoft and Sony are utilizing this approach. Both the Series X and the PS5 are significantly more powerful than even their half step predecessors the One X and the PS4 Pro. They're both doing their best to come with big games that will draw people to their consoles (Sony is doing a much better job with this one in my opinion). And they are both undoubtedly working to evolve their online services. But while Sony looks to be perfecting a tried and true comfort dish Microsoft is bringing in new ingredients that will truly change what the Xbox platform is.


"The Netflix of gaming" is a term that has been tossed around for several years now and even before Game Pass it was seen as a holy grail of sorts for video games. Well Microsoft finally made it happen and  it's basically as good as we all thought it would be. Honestly Microsoft has done a better job making the "Netflix of gaming" than Netflix has done making the Netflix of movies. Game Pass is constantly adding major third party titles like GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Soul Calibur 6, and Devil May Cry 5 and those are just the ones I could pull of the top of my head. And in addition to that every single Microsoft first party game is added to Game Pass on day one! By offering a monthly subscription service Microsoft has created something that is a great deal for people like you and I because we end up spending significantly less money on games every year and in turn we evangelize the service and Microsoft gets more money from those people who are buying one or two games on sale by just paying a low monthly price. It kind of relates back to last weeks video and the idea of everyone paying a little more for things to be better overall. At the end of the day Game Pass is a service that, while yes, Sony does have a competing service in PSnow (which I am also a big fan of by the way) the insane value offered makes it so casual gamers don’t really have to buy games if they don’t want to.


The second and in my opinion more exciting way Microsoft is transforming the Xbox platform is in preservation. Microsoft has been very forthcoming with their intention for every game that works on the Xbox One X to work on the Series X on day one. That means that I can take a disc that was originally purchased in 2001 and put it in my Series X and it will work without missing a beat, and I don’t know about you guys but to me that’s a really big deal. While Microsoft may not have explicitly said it they have hinted at the idea that Xbox games moving forward will all be forward compatible with whatever Xboxes come in the future. Video games are a medium that are in their relative infancy and as a result of the dangerous combination of both being a new medium and an extremely profitable one there really aren't many companies that are focused on preserving what has come before., they're all focused on that next big pay day. As a society we preserve all kinds of art. We have made organized government funded efforts to preserve books, film, painting, really basically any kind of art you can think of. For a myriad of good reasons almost all art is worth preserving and at this point video games are undoubtedly art. Microsoft's focus on the preservation of video game or at least the video games that have come to the Xbox platform is a commitment to backwards compatibility that collectors like myself have been waiting for basically all our lives. 


With regards to the PlayStation 5 though it's not like it looks like it's going to be a bad console by any stretch of the imagination. Sony has experimented with backwards compatibility in the past, the PS2 was backwards compatible with all PlayStation 1 games. Early on in the PlayStation 3 every console had PS2 hardware built into the console but that was cut just a few years in as a cost savings measure. The PS4 has kind of faked backwards compatibility with PlayStation 3 games by streaming them through PlayStation now but it didn’t feature any real backwards compatibility. And the PlayStation 5 is said to be backwards compatible with "most" of the most popular PS4 games. Now recently I've accepted that the PlayStation 4 has the best library of games of all time and to see that library left behind forever stranded on the PlayStation 4 would be tragic. And of course this wont be the case as the vast majority of them will be playable on the PS5 but what about after that? Will they still work on the PS6? Or the PlayStation 7? Sure we might not be playing games that are one or two or three generations old regularly but the importance of preserving those games cannot be overstated. Sony is making another PlayStation, at the end of the day that’s all the PlayStation 5 looks to be is just another PlayStation. Now don’t get me wrong I'm really excited about that, if Sony can manage to just keep the good times of the PS4 rolling with the PS5  I'll be thrilled, but without that commitment to preservation that Microsoft is showing I'll be playing PlayStation exclusively for its exclusives. 


Ever since I was a kid I've always loved the idea of an old record collection. Dozens or hundreds of records amassed over years of collecting lined up next to each other on a shelf stand as a physical manifestation of their owners journey through a hobby that clearly means the world to them. I've been collecting physical copies of video games for several years now some of the games in my collection date as far back as my day one copy of Luigi's Mansion, or the copy of Majora's Mask that my sister got for her 12th birthday just days after its release. I've been collecting with the idea that one day my collection of games will be more akin to those old record collections, a snapshot of me and my journey with video games over the years. But unlike records we end up locked out of those games by hardware because finding a working record player is much easier than finding a working console from 30 years ago. Microsoft's commitment to Xbox games working on all future iterations of Xbox means that some day my kid will be able to pull a game two or three times his age off the shelf, ask me about, and then be able to experience in whatever the modern Xbox is at the time, and that’s the kind of future I want to live in.


So until Sony steps up their preservation effort I will be buying and playing as many Xbox games as possible and only playing team blue when there is no green version available.


Which console are you planning on buying and what made you choose that one? Let me know in the comments down below. And while you're down there don’t forget to subscribe for a new video every week. You can see everything we do including both our podcast's all in one spot over at I'll be back next week talking about something else entirely so until then just go play some games.

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