Microsoft confirmed the long-rumored Xbox Lockhart console recently, and as expected, it’s called Xbox Series S. It plays the same games as Xbox Series X, similar to how Xbox One S and Xbox One X have the same library. But because we’ve spent nearly a year referring to Microsoft’s next generation as “Xbox Series X,” it’s suddenly a bit confusing. You can’t just say a game is coming to Xbox Series X, as we have in the past, because that suggests it’s not coming to Xbox Series S. But this all goes back to a point from last December that has seemingly gone under the radar: The new generation of consoles is simply called Xbox. Series X (and now Series S) are simply model names.
A Microsoft spokesperson stated this plainly to Business Insider in December, shortly after the Xbox Series X name was revealed at The Game Awards: “The name we’re carrying forward to the next generation is simply Xbox. And at The Game Awards you saw that name come to life through the Xbox Series X. Similar to what fans have seen with previous generations, the name ‘Xbox Series X’ allows room for additional consoles in the future.”
But because we only had one iteration of next-gen Xbox we knew about, everyone simply carried on calling it Xbox Series X. And why wouldn’t they? To simply say “Xbox” would cause confusion, because that sounds either like you’re referring to the original Xbox system or the Xbox ecosystem as a whole, spanning all generations. It’s a problem not unlike what we encountered when the Xbox One was introduced. Written out, it’s reasonably clear, but speak the words “Xbox One” aloud and you’re left in ambiguous territory where it’s unclear if you’re talking about the current generation or Microsoft’s first-ever console.
Microsoft hasn’t spoken much about this topic recently, but as noted by The Verge’s Tom Warren on Twitter, the new marketing campaign emphasizes the Xbox name over the full Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S names.
Some observers have raised concerns that the naming convention could be confusing, particularly for consumers who aren’t plugged in and might not be familiar with these consoles. Xbox One X has already been discontinued, but when a clueless parent goes to buy an Xbox system in the future, will they have trouble parsing an Xbox One S from an Xbox Series S from an Xbox Series X? A price cut to the Xbox One S (which seems inevitable) might help to further differentiate the consoles from each other, but it remains to be seen how this actually plays out.
All of this stems from the fact that Microsoft entered the gaming console business a generation after Sony, leaving it in a position where a simple numbering system simply won’t do. The company doesn’t want to be selling Xbox 4 when Sony has the PlayStation 5. But the shift to this specific “Series”-based naming convention signals Microsoft’s new approach to console generations. It’s not immediately pushing exclusive software, and it’s positioning itself to offer a more PC or phone-like arrangement, where it releases frequent hardware revisions that all have access to one library of games. (Xbox All Access also paves the way for a smartphone-style upgrade model.) Just how this plays out long-term remains to be seen, particularly if and when Sony decides to launch a PlayStation 6, but for now, prepare to deal with the idea of just calling this forthcoming generation “Xbox.”
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