If you thought we were done learning juicy details about the internal workings of Microsoft’s Gaming division after this summer’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC)-Microsoft trial, hoo boy, you can guess again. A jaw-dropping court document leak has revealed a ton of information about recent goings-on within the division, as well as critical details about its future plans. Perhaps the biggest nugget concerned a major Xbox Series X refresh that Microsoft has lined up for next year.
Over the last few console generations, we’ve seen the likes of Sony and Microsoft release updated hardware midway through the cycle (the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X spring to mind). And while there are always rumors in the lead-up to those new versions, we’ve never seen legitimate leaks of this magnitude before.
Codenamed “Brooklin,” the refresh featured in the leak will have double the internal storage at 2TB, lower power usage, Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, and other tech updates, according to a leaked document. This model will have a cylindrical design, compared with the original Xbox Series X.
Critically, Microsoft is planning to ditch the console’s disc drive. It’s not yet clear whether there will be an external disc drive available (as is rumored to be the case for a PlayStation 5 refresh). It would mark a significant shift for Xbox to no longer offer a disc drive as standard and perhaps accelerate the death of physical game discs. What’s more, Microsoft plans to sell the updated Series X for $499, the same price as the current console.
Microsoft is not only planning a hardware refresh but also an updated Xbox controller next year. Codenamed “Sebile,” the peripheral is slated to have “precision haptic feedback” (perhaps to better compete with Sony’s DualSense), quieter inputs, and modular thumbsticks. There’s said to be support for “seamless” pairing and switching between devices with the help of new mobile app features.
Intriguingly, a “direct-to-cloud” feature is mentioned in a slide. That suggests Microsoft is focusing on reducing input latency for games streamed from the cloud, like Google tried with Stadia (RIP).
Sebile is slated to arrive in May, according to the documents. Microsoft is then expected to announce the new Series X (and a Series S refresh) in June, likely at its Xbox E3 event. The $299 Series S refresh is now expected to go on sale around August or September 2024, with the beefed-up Series X scheduled to land a couple of months later. It seems Microsoft is planning a clearance sale on the current Series S too, as a slide mentions a $199 offer for Black Friday 2024.
Looking further ahead, it seems we’re not yet midway through the current console generation, but of course, Microsoft is thinking about what’s ahead. The leak mentions the next-gen Xbox, slated to arrive in 2028. There are not many details available on that, but it’s clear the company has been moving in the direction of cloud gaming for a while. Microsoft Flight Simulator, for instance, is a game that it pulls from the cloud. Xbox has been making a major push into cloud gaming over the last few years too.
There’s an implication that the next-generation Xbox will have an always-online requirement for certain games. It’s entirely plausible that there will still be a sizable digital divide by 2028, which could prevent some folks in rural areas or other regions with poor internet access from properly being able to play games on Microsoft’s next major console.
In an internal 2020 email discussing acquisition targets, Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer mentioned that he saw Nintendo as a potential acquisition target. He saw that as a potential “career moment.” The leak also nods toward other possible acquisition targets, including Valve. Microsoft is known to have acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, and was in talks with Warner Bros. Interactive.
It seems highly unlikely that Microsoft would ever actually buy Nintendo. Antitrust regulators would surely have a lot to say about that, particularly after Microsoft’s ZeniMax purchase and its pending $68.7 billion deal for Activision Blizzard. It’s not hard to imagine that Japanese officials, in particular, would be none too happy about an American business buying one of the country’s best-known brands. Still, it’s nice to have dreams, eh, Phil?
The leak also revealed some information about the upcoming games Microsoft has in the pipeline. It seems that new Doom and Dishonored games are being planned, and there were mentions of a Fallout 3 Remaster, Oblivion Remaster, and a Ghostwire: Tokyo sequel. However, it’s worth noting that this Bethesda roadmap ran from fiscal years 2020 through 2024, and a lot has changed since then, including Microsoft buying the publisher. Games get canceled all the time, so it’s unclear whether any of these unannounced projects will actually come to light. Still, it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t some kind of Doom title in development.
This leak has provided just a glimpse into the internal workings of Microsoft’s Gaming division. There are many more details, ranging from Game Pass revenue to Microsoft leaders’ reactions to the PlayStation 5 announcement. The timing of this leak could not have been worse for Microsoft, as it goes into the critical holiday period. However, it has certainly sparked excitement and anticipation among gamers for the future of Xbox.