Sep 18, 2023 - Technology

Microsoft targeted next Xbox for 2028, court docs show

Photo illustration of Xbox controllers and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Microsoft executives expected in spring 2022 to launch the next Xbox console in 2028, and were considering a more flexible approach to its gaming hardware, according to an internal chat log released as part of the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit to block Microsoft's purchase of Activision.

Driving the news: The 2028 launch plan was referenced in a May 2022 meeting among more than a dozen senior Microsoft executives attended by CEO Satya Nadella, CFO Amy Hood, and head of gaming Phil Spencer, among others, according to the document.

  • In a brief chat exchange, a non-Xbox executive asked the gaming leadership team whether the next Xbox will veer from the traditional model of consoles having fixed hardware standards that all game makers develop for.

What they're saying: "One of the things consoles have been really great at is giving a very clear platform target for developers, and [Game Development Kit] has been really good at this," Anuj Gosalia, corporate vice president of immersive experiences, wrote in the chat at one point.

  • "Is the plan for 2028 to keep that [illegible] like model or force a Windows like flexible/capabilities like model?"
  • "We have already started this journey with Xbox One and Xbox One X, furthering it in Series S | X," Kevin Gammill, corporate vice president of gaming ecosystems, replies, referring to Microsoft's experimentation with different-powered Xbox models in recent console generations.
  • "We need to be even more flexible going forward with gen 10, but also provide the ability for creators to take advantage of unique hardware capabilities."

Between the lines: The 2028 target, stated casually in a chat that the participants probably did not expect to ever be public, is consistent with more recent, vaguer statements from Microsoft lawyers about expectations that the industry's next console generation will commence that year.

State of play: The current console generation launched in 2020 with the near-concurrent debuts of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S | X.

  • Sony has handily outsold Microsoft this generation, as Microsoft, acknowledging an inability to surpass Sony, has pursued leadership with game services, including the popular all-you-can-play Xbox Game Pass.

The big picture: Each new console generation has the potential to hit the reset button in the ongoing competition between Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation.

  • Nintendo, the third major console competitor, tends to release its hardware on its own cycle.

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