Is It Worth Getting An Xbox Series S?

There's no doubting the value that the Xbox Series S presents as an option for next-gen gaming - but is it actually worth it?
There's no doubting the value that the Xbox Series S presents as an option for next-gen gaming - but is it actually worth it? Microsoft

There’s good value, and there’s great value – and then there is the recently announced Xbox Series S, which, if it delivers, could be one of the best values you can squeeze out of a next generation console. But is it worth getting one?

While I am still of the opinion that the announcement for the Xbox Series X’s less powerful sibling was a reaction to the massive leak beforehand, the announcement has nonetheless been met with an amazing response. Starting it all off is the decent price point – at just $299, Microsoft promises to deliver a next-gen experience that is assuredly lower than that of the competition, assuming that Sony doesn’t come up with a stripped down PS5 version of their own. To put that pricing into perspective, the Nintendo Switch currently sits at $299, which is huge considering that we may very well see more of the Switch being sold as we head towards the new generation of consoles.

The second point of attack comes from Microsoft’s very solid ecosystem of games. In a rather surprising and inspired move, Microsoft will be providing 24 months (that’s two years) of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate alongside a Series S console, so long as you opt into their $24.99 payment plan for 24 months. Called Xbox All Access, this lets you get a brand-new next-gen console and the library to go along with it at a measly $25 bucks’ worth of initial payment. This is an amazing boon for those hit hard financially by the ongoing pandemic, but still make time for entertainment through video games.

To add to that, Microsoft’s streaming service will debut this September 15, and will be included for free as well to the already loaded Game Pass Ultimate. This will (if you meet the internet and phone hardware requirements) allow you to play titles in the Game Pass library on phones and tablets at no additional charge. You also do not have to purchase individual games in order to make the most out of it (looking at you, Stadia).

The third, and arguably the most important part, is of course the specs. Despite costing $200 less than its black fridge/monolith brother, the Series S – on paper – boasts powerful specs not on par with its price point. It sits at a comfortable 1440p resolution and can play compatible games at up to 120 fps, with DirectX ray tracing, variable rate shading and refresh rates, low latency and load times thanks to its 512GB SSD, and the option for 4K upscaling, which the PS4 and Xbox One already do on most of their ‘4K’ titles.

Everything about the Xbox Series S screams amazing value, and if you take into account the game of chicken Sony and Microsoft were recently playing in terms of revealing the prices, it honestly seems that Xbox came out on top when it comes to making a more affordable next-gen machine. That said, despite so many of the pros that come with the Series S, it may not be worth the monthly $25 bucks for two years you will need to spend on it come launch day.

To understand this mindset a little better, first we must look at new console generations. Every time, there will be launch problems that come with these consoles – it happened with the Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and every console that came before it, and it is safe to say that it is more likely to happen again than not. It is still better to try and wait a bit before buying a brand-new console. I know that this aspect might be hard to grasp for some, as there’s always a limited number of consoles at launch which sometimes leads to shortages, but at the very least that’s a blessing in disguise as you can actually know how it performs before you make your purchase. It is always better to wait and see first, and all that is required is a little self-control.

If you have waited long enough and are now ready to get a Series S, you should look at the ecosystem you are getting into. For Microsoft, it is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which now sits at over 100 included games. Think of it as like a Netflix for the Xbox, which allows you to download games at your leisure so long as you are subscribed to the service. There are multiple great titles available, and like Netflix there is a rotation of games that come and go so you technically will have even more games to choose from. As an added bit, Electronic Arts’ very own EA Play service will be included in Game Pass Ultimate this holiday, so you can get into their own library filled with Need for Speed and Battlefield titles as well.

All of that said, in the end, a library is only as good as what it can offer. While Microsoft has been on an admirable push to acquire more studios to make more exclusives, it is still up in the air if what they can offer in terms of launch titles is worth the asking price. Halo Infinite was recently delayed, and when you think Xbox, the first thing that comes to mind is Halo. Another problem stems from the fact that the existing Xbox Game Pass library might be outdated for a lot of potential customers come launch day. If you are the type of player who only plays big AAA releases and skips a lot of the smaller stuff in between, the value of the Game Pass library may not be for you.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are the supposed specs on the Series S. They are impressive on paper, but this is one of those situations where I would rather wait and see how the Series S performs than listen to marketing people swoon about it. There is no doubt in my mind that AMD did its best to deliver a worthy price-to-performance ratio with RDNA 2, but how that translates to real-world performance is another matter. The 1440p resolution itself is a great sweet spot, especially seeing as the Series S is all for a more economical approach, but I am more curious about the ‘up to 120 fps’ claims and what titles will support that. There’s also the point of the built-in SSD; even if it’s incredibly fast, 512GB is a bit tight for what I’d consider to be a baseline for game storage, especially after you factor in how much space the OS will take.

Despite all my misgivings, I am sure that the Xbox Series S will sell. With such an attractive price point thanks to the Xbox All Access pricing, the included library of games thanks the Game Pass Ultimate, and the competitive specs, Microsoft has built a machine worthy of competing with the PS5, which in turn will capitalize on its huge branding and exclusives to spar with the Xbox. In the end, I think that for better or worse, the Xbox Series S is worth it, but only if you wait a bit and see how its performance and built-in library will turn out.

The Xbox Series S and Series X will be launching on November 10 at $299 and $499, respectively.

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