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The Miscommunications of Next-Gen: Lockhart and Gaming for Everyone.

According to reporting from Brad Sams, Tom Warren and other publications, the long rumoured, and as of yet unseen Xbox “Lockhart” – A.K.A Series S – is coming. It’s smaller and cheaper than any of it’s next gen counterparts and provides next-gen at a standard 1080p/1440p resolution instead of 4K. This has led a flurry of internet commentators and “armchair tech enthusiasts” to again trot out the same tired, incorrect talking points.

Most of this is due to speculation or a lack of technical understanding and some is wilful ignorance aiming to muddy the waters and argue against consumer choice. Let’s dissect some of the regularly repeated and incorrect statements about Lockhart and the apparent folly of Microsoft’s Next-Gen launch plans.

Lockhart will ‘hold back’ next gen games

This is demonstrably false, yet you’ll hear this sentiment repeated fairly often in enthusiast circles. When argued, you’ll often be met with a “you dont know that for sure”-esque argument in response. This is arguably the first lie of the concern troll, wilfully misrepresenting what Lockhart is. The approach behind the design is this, next-gen games, with all the bells, whistles and head turning features the new technology provides, but with a mandate to only render at a 1080p/1440p resolution. Effectively, it will have 1/3 the power of Xbox Series X to render 1/4 the resolution. It will have more than enough headroom produce the same experiences, the only real tangible difference being one of resolution.

Just to be clear; the CPU, SSD (aside from the actual size of it) and I/O will be the same as seen on Xbox Series X – the only difference is the GPU and form-factor. Despite the adorable ‘cube’ like design seen in some fan renders, it’s more likely that Lockhart will be more standard in it’s design – think something along the lines of the existing Xbox One X and you’ll be in the right ball park. he projected price has people saying $299 but MS could push it to $249 to really drive adoption of the ecosystem.

Only 4 Teraflops of power? That’s less than the current Xbox One X!

This one is a basic oversimplification, alongside being an over reaction. The new console generation including Xbox Series X and Lockhart – both utilise AMDs Zen2 architecture, which is around 50% more performant than the current generation of consoles.

This is all based on the general approach that graphics are more scalable than any other feature or component of a game. If you can imagine scaling the graphics to render at a lower resolution, with everything else remaining the same, then you’re on the right track. A prime example of this is predominantly how games are developed on PC – with a myriad of hardware choices available, games have to scale in order to be viable to sell across all those hardware configurations. In short, Lockhart merely has a less fancy graphics card in it than its bigger, beefier brother, Series X.

Developers will have to work harder to support Lockhart!

The existing Devkits that are with developers building games on Xbox already have Lockhart profiles available to test and run games at the required settings. Microsoft’s technology team has almost finished creating something they call ‘GameCore’, a new development container focused on scalability. Developers will be building games that target and fully utilise the power afforded to them via Xbox Series X first and then scaling down the relevant resolution and other bells and whistles to achieve performance on Lockhart. Again, taking the PC space into account, this is something most developers are already doing. Arguably, the only real additive from a work load perspective may be from a Q&A department making sure games are hitting performance targets on both pieces of hardware.

How will Little Timmy know which console to get?

We’ve all heard this one. With all these naming conventions and different version, how can little Timmy possible discern which console he should buy? It would be so confusing! This, we feel is a borderline ridiculous statement. Technology comes in all shapes and sizes, and for years, across mobile phones, laptops, TVs – all have cheaper and more expensive variants. Somehow, we’ve all managed to get by, and we’re pretty sure Little Timmy or his parents can pick between the two devices. Just like a new phone launch, every major phone producer has their premium product and their cheaper offering. This will be Microsoft’s plan as well, allowing consumers to make a choice based on what’s important to them.

There was some argument that Microsoft would stock 4/5 hardware variants on store shelves, be it the Xbox One S/X or Digital editions, but we don’t think that’s going to happen. The current Xbox One hardware line up is currently sold out on Microsoft’s own website and there have been reports of Microsoft not fulfilling requests for restocking, suggesting that they’re looking to transition consumers to the next-generation of consoles as quickly as possible.

Price and Position is key

Throw Xbox All-Access (a contract based subscription that includes Game Pass) into this multiple SKU future, and a cheaper, smaller next-gen console really starts to make a lot of business sense.

Outside of those ‘Day 1’ hardcore folks who will flock to the more powerful Xbox Series X, Lockhart will exist to entice the more casual audience, at a price point that already makes sense to them. And unlike previous generations, everything they currently own gets to go with them – pads, accessories and most importantly, all of their games. Including Game Pass as a pack-in increases that value proposition further, while also increasing Microsofts subscriber base, which already comes in at over 10 million gamers worldwide.

All of this is very exciting, and despite all of the leaks and rumour driven speculation, Microsoft have remained tight-lipped. Lockhart is pretty much an open secret now, and with the upcoming July showcase focused on games – and particularly Xbox Game Studios, we don’t expect to hear or see anything on the hardware front until Microsoft and Sony face off in August to finally reveal pricing, and more importantly, launch dates.

XboxEras Predictions

Gaming on a budget with a good enough for next gen console will see some compromises but overall with a RRP ceiling of $299 US, I think we will see:

  • CPU : 8 core Zen2 3.8GHz (3.6 GHz with SMT)
  • GPU : 4TF RNDA2 (20CUs)
  • Memory : 10GB GDDR6
  • SSD : 750GB Custom NVME SSD
  • I/O : same as series X ( 4.8GB/s Compressed /2.4GB/s Raw)
  • Fully compatible with all next gen features and architectures
  • Fits snugly inside a One SAD container (maybe even thinner)

For more info as it becomes official stay tuned to XboxEra.

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