If there was any doubt that Microsoft would produce an Xbox Two console, this grey area now seems to have been resolved completely. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has suggested in an interview that the corporation will be producing an Xbox Two, and that consumers can possibly expect it sooner rather than later.

Xbox Two

Uncertain Xbox Two future

There have been question marks about the future of the Xbox series for numerous reasons. Firstly, the PlayStation 4 has significantly outsold the Microsoft Xbox One alternative by around 20 million units since the launch of the two consoles. Microsoft made numerous PR blunders in the early days of the Xbox One, and the console has never really recovered from the poor footing on which it was placed initially.

By contrast, the PlayStation 4 has gone from strength to strength, and there would be few people willing to suggest that Sony will be anything other than completely dominant by the end of this console generation.

Additionally, the Xbox Two will have to compete in a video game landscape that is increasingly complex. Both streaming services and technology similar to that of the Steam Box are expected to play an increasingly prominent role in gaming. Meanwhile, mobile technology is becoming ever more sophisticated and capable of running high-end titles. PC devotees are also common, and the chances of either Sony or Microsoft shifting the same number of units of a current generation console as devices of the past are pretty slim.

Yet gamers’ concerns about Microsoft possibly pulling out of the video games marketplace, or at the very least treating the niche in a significantly different fashion, will be assuaged by recent comments from Spencer. The Microsoft executive suggested in a recent interview that gamers should “fully expect that you’ll see another console from us…our best customers are Xbox console customers, and I want to keep those people engaged both on the Xbox One and anything we might do in the future. I’m 100% committed to that”.

Spencer certainly didn’t go as far as giving any specifics about what we can expect from the Xbox Two, or indeed when the console may be released. It is increasingly expected, though, that Microsoft and Sony will both go to market at an earlier date for the next generation consoles than has been the case previously. This will be intended to address a very real technology gap that hampers of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

What the Microsoft executive did concern is that Microsoft will be producing a full-blown console when the Xbox Two is released. “I don’t want to dilute what the Xbox console customer feels. I want to expand what we’re able to do for more customers,” Spencer suggested, and this points to the fact that the next generation Xbox Two will be similar in ethos to the existing Xbox One machine.

Sales challenges

While an Xbox Two sequel was largely expected, some analysts have suggested that extremely poor sales figures for the Xbox One could dissuade Microsoft from developing another console. It is reasonable to state that the console market is delivering diminishing returns for manufacturers and gaming producers alike, and this issue will be something that both Sony and Microsoft will be wary of as they prepare their next generation machines.

Meanwhile, new claims have surfaced this week which suggest that the two new consoles might be released earlier than expected in some quarters. The release of both the Xbox Two and PlayStation 5 will be driven by the emergence of 4K gaming, with retailers believing that this technology will be mainstream by the time that the Xbox Two is developed.

4K television technology is already relatively common, and Sky television has recently announced a new set-top box which supports the resolution technology. Netflix already has significant 4K content, and more will be going online in the coming months and years. If Sony and Microsoft worked to delay their next generation consoles until the end of the decade, which would be roughly equivalent to the usual timeframe for a console, it would mean that console gamers would have to cope without 4K gaming for another five years.

Considering that PC gamers can already access 4K titles, this would be an unacceptable duration for the console gaming industry, which is why both Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their machines in 2018. The Xbox Two will thus be a considerably more powerful console than the existing Xbox One, and will also offer virtual reality technology, as this innovation becomes mainstream as well.

Backwards compatibility mooted

As the two major corporations intend to deliver video gaming technology that can really capture the imagination of the market, it is suggested that both Sony and Microsoft will opt for AMD technology next time out. This would further enable the console manufacturers to deliver next generation devices that are able to offer backward compatibility; a major weakness of recent console releases.

Microsoft is certainly a company facing numerous challenges in the near future, with its windows platform also being challenged by an evolving computing environment. This will be the defining problem that Microsoft must tackle in the next decade or so, as the company evolves to generate new revenue models and business practices.

The Xbox Two will certainly be central to this process, as the console will be required to complete in a video games marketplace in which the whole concept of the console is becoming dated. Simply to satisfy contemporary video gamers’ desires will require Microsoft to significantly redesign the Xbox Two, in order to provide a more flexible model than previous consoles.

It was overwhelmingly the failure of Microsoft to deliver this, at least in the unveiling announcement of the console, that counted against the Xbox One. If Microsoft has indeed committed itself to releasing an Xbox Two, it must learn from the mistakes it made in the current console generation, and deliver what gamers actually want, not impose something on them that they certainly don’t desire.