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Xbox Series X, Microsoft's brand new game console, has a bold new design

In an interview with GameSpot, Microsoft discusses its plans for the next-generation video game console, coming 2020.

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The new Microsoft Xbox Series X looks unassuming, but it's the most powerful gaming device the company has made.

Microsoft

Earlier this year, Microsoft discussed its next-generation video game console, Project Scarlett. Now, it has a launch name: Xbox Series X.

Microsoft unveiled the name for the new device, which was previously referred to as Project Scarlett, in an exclusive interview with CNET sister site GameSpot. The company also discussed the console's new design, compatibility with older Xbox games and how it'll work with the internet. 

Microsoft said the new name reflects the many ways you can play an Xbox. The new Xbox Series X will support the "thousands" of titles that already play on the Xbox One, for example. The device will also support previously sold accessories, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller for disabled gamers.

"We wanted to design a console where the form was driven by the function," Phil Spencer, Microsoft's head of Xbox, said in an interview with GameSpot. The company made its public announcement during the Game Awards in Los Angeles Thursday.

Microsoft said the new Xbox will go on sale ahead of the holiday shopping season next year, though it didn't say how much it would cost.

The new Xbox name, and a planned redesign, come at a time when gaming is more a part of popular culture than it's ever been. Titles like Epic's Fortnite have become so popular that celebrities re-create the dances, known as "emotes," that players perform in the Hunger Games-style, fight-to-the-death game. Streaming giant Netflix has identified video games as its biggest competitor for people's time and attention.

Meanwhile, gaming on mobile devices like phones and tablets is taking off. In September, Apple launched Apple Arcade, its first game subscription service, offering customers access to a list of more than 100 curated puzzle, action and family-friendly games for $4.99 per month. Microsoft has also been expanding into subscriptions, offering a $9.99 per month Xbox Games Pass with more than 100 games. The titles include Minecraft, Gears of War and Halo.

Amid all this, Microsoft and Sony are preparing to release new video game consoles in time for next year's holiday shopping season. Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Sony's PlayStation 5 have a lot in common, sharing similar graphics chips, fast storage technologies, and developers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Take-Two Interactive, all making games such as the adventure games Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Watch Dogs: Legion and Red Dead Redemption 2 for their consoles.

To make their consoles more appealing in this increasingly internet-connected age, both Microsoft and Sony are offering cloud gaming services that allow people to play games over the internet similar to streaming Netflix movies and shows today. Even there, the two face increased competition from newcomers, such as Google and Amazon, which have cloud expertise they can extend to video games.

Despite all that's at stake, Microsoft chose a relatively simple design for its next Xbox. It could be easily mistaken for a smart speaker or a vase. The console bears an Xbox logo, a slot for discs and little else. The design is intended to make the console "disappear" into your entertainment center, Spencer said.

Microsoft said it'll discuss more about the console at the E3 2020 video game conference next June.

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