Sep 19, 2023 - Technology

Unprecedented Microsoft leak reveals plans for new Xbox systems

Image showing a cylindrical black Xbox Series X called Brooklin, with surrounding text explaining its features

Microsoft's Brooklin console, as seen in a presentation released by U.S. federal court. Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has been planning a refresh to its current Xbox line for potential release next year and has mapped out an ambitious, multi-device approach to the new generation that will follow in 2028, newly leaked documents show.

Why it matters: The internal documents offer a stunningly clear, if potentially dated, view of what Microsoft has planned for its gaming division in the near future.

  • Those details appeared in files not listed among the exhibits released by the U.S. District Court of Northern California over the weekend as part of the Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit to block Microsoft's $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard.
  • But late Monday night, a user at gaming forum Resetera posted that a seemingly innocuous deposition shared by the court contained attachments loaded with Microsoft's plans.

Mid-gen Xbox refresh: Brooklin, Ellewood and Sebile

New versions of the current models of Xbox could be on tap for next year, according to one of the leaked attachments, a slide deck from May 2022.

  • In it, Xbox leaders showed off "Brooklin," the codename for a "refresh" of its Xbox Series X console. It didn't added horsepower to the console, but offered a revised feature set: an all-digital device, no disc drive, 2TB of storage and lower power consumption, priced at $499.
  • The same presentation also showed a slightly revamped Xbox Series S, dubbed "Ellewood" and a new Xbox controller codenamed "Sebile" that contains a tilt sensor, quieter buttons and the ability to connect to a mobile app.
  • Microsoft's slides listed the new controller's launch for May 2024, with a roll out of the refreshed Xbox models that fall.

Yes, but: It's unclear if Microsoft still plans to release these devices, let alone on this timeline.

Microsoft's next-gen vision

Microsoft's next console after the Xbox Series X and S would represent not just a new device but a new "ecosystem generation," executives outlined a plan in another leaked slide deck from May 2022.

  • Console generations usually just involve a new offering of one or two models of a new, powerful piece of gaming hardware. The leaked presentation on Microsoft's so-called Gen 10 offering included consoles, phones, web browsers, a handheld system, PCs and a "cloud console," with a shared operating system available across devices.
  • According to the presentation, Microsoft had already selected ARM64 architecture for the core device's CPU. The company expected to deliver development kits to game creators by 2027, ahead of a 2028 launch.
  • The presentation listed dozens of potentially supported features, including standard elements like voice chat and player achievements, as well as more novel support for crypto wallets.
  • The report states that the next-gen Xbox platform would also support AI and machine learning to attain "super resolution" game graphics (listed as an "established project in Microsoft gaming"), frame rate improvements, extra game testing, character dialogue generation and more.

Be smart: As dazzling as Microsoft's plans may be, all of the documents are just old enough that Microsoft's plans could have changed.

  • The company did not respond on Tuesday morning to Axios' request for comment on the leaks or whether its plans have shifted.
  • Its plans for its next-gen console platform are most susceptible to change, given the six years that would elapse between the leaked plans and the possible Xbox Gen 10 launch.
  • There are also limits to even wealthy Microsoft's capabilities. In one of the May 2022 presentations, the company noted that its hopes for a handheld device as part of its Gen 10 platform was outside of the scope of its first-party resources, suggesting it would rely on outside firms to develop compatible handheld gaming tech.

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