The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S have both been on sale for some months, and impressive as they both are there are always ways to improve. The good news is Microsoft has already suggested there are some updates to look forward to.
That’s according to Xbox’s director of program management Jason Ronald, speaking on the official Xbox podcast, who said that Xbox has “a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline.” And Ronald highlighted what was available at launch was “really just the beginning.”
Ronald didn’t specify the nature of these “exciting things,” other than his team is “partnering closely with key game developers from all across the industry to really take full advantage of all the next-gen capabilities [they] put in the Xbox Series X and Series S.”
This could mean a lot of things, but it’s clear that Microsoft wants developers to be able to get the most out of its hardware and pass that onto the gamers. That’s exactly the right idea for a console-maker to have. Especially given Microsoft’s non-stop bragging about how powerful the Xbox Series X is, and stiff competition from the PS5.
If Microsoft is serious about making the Xbox Series X the best console it can be, and beat the PS5, here are some things it should keep on top of.
More advanced visuals
The Xbox Series X has a lot of power behind it. 12 teraflops of graphics power, delivered through a custom AMD graphics card. The promise was that this can offer 4K resolution gaming, up to 120 frames per second, HDR, and ray tracing. A handful of Xbox games can offer these features in one way or another, just not at the same time.
Developers are going to have different approaches to all those features, but Microsoft should be working with them to achieve as many as possible. And not just hit those targets, but improve on them where possible and ensure they are the best they can be. Having ray tracing is one thing, but can it be improved in any way?
Developers don’t have the time and resources to get to grips with everything new consoles can handle right away, but with Microsoft’s help they can speed the process along. Especially if they’re first-party studios, which Microsoft owns a cohort of these days.
Universal Quick Resume
One of the things Ronald mentioned in the podcast is ensuring all titles have Quick Resume switched on. Some of you may recall that this feature wasn’t enabled on a number of games at launch.
As the name suggests, it’s a system that saves the state of games when you leave them. Then if you decide to return, you can pick up exactly where you left off. No need to load up the game from scratch or find the correct save file.
It’s one of the main features the PS5 doesn’t have. Sony’s console lets you switch between games quickly, but it doesn’t pick up where you left off. So, by ensuring Quick Resume is enabled on every Xbox Series X game, Microsoft’s console could push its advantage here.
Backwards compatibility enhancements
Speaking of features the PS5 doesn’t have: backwards compatibility. While Sony’s console plays PS4 games, it pretty much ignores everything that came before it. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, plays games from as far back as the original Xbox.
The Xbox Series X already provides backwards compatible games with enhancements, including boosted frame rates, faster load times and upgraded HDR visuals. The goal is to make the Xbox Series X and Series S the best places to play old Xbox games, we just need Microsoft to keep building those capabilities out.
Some of the best Xbox One games have already been optimized for Series X. Unfortunately they tend to be on the newer side, so older titles are still missing out on what the hardware has to offer. Rumor is that backwards compatibility enhancements are being implemented later this year, and is likely one of the “exciting things” Ronald promised.
Smaller game files
Asking for more visuals is one thing, but it’s not pleasant to see game file sizes slowly ballon the way they have been doing recently. After all the Xbox Series X only has 802GB of usable storage, and the Series S has just 364GB. With game files ranging anywhere between 50 and 100GB, the SSD space can fill up very fast.
The solution? Better ways to compress games so they don’t take up quite so much space. It’s not an easy task, because shrinking files down without loss of quality is very difficult, but it’s worth it in the long run. Especially since it would also mean games will download faster.
A more advanced controller
The Xbox Series X controller is….fine. It’s virtually the same as the Xbox One controller and that helps when it comes to ensuring all those Xbox games are compatible. Still, we can’t help but think there couldn’t be improvements, especially compared to the PS5’s DualSense.
The DualSense controller has a crucial advantage thanks to its advanced haptic feedback. That means it can provide an extra level of immersion in compatible games, including the recently released Hitman 3. The triggers offer a more realistic sensation when you fire, including simulated recoil and the feeling of tension on, say, a drawn bowstring.
The Xbox Series X could benefit from an improved controller with such a feature, even if it’s only available on a refreshed Elite Wireless Controller. It’s great having the power of the console, but we need the finer details to help immerse ourselves in the games. Especially on a controller that’s barely changed for over 15 years.
Make sure actual consoles are available
The biggest issue that needs solving right now is that nobody can find where to buy an Xbox Series X console. Demand is high, scalpers are up to their old tricks, and chip shortages mean there are limits on how many consoles Microsoft can actually produce.
Unfortunately, all the updates in the world are no good if you can’t buy a console for a reasonable price. But it doesn’t look like things will be changing anytime soon.
Hopefully, Microsoft will tackle this problem with as much gusto as possible, and then over time, it could build out the capabilities of the Xbox Seires X.