There has been one persistently weird angle to the next console generation, the idea that Microsoft, in addition to making the Xbox Series X, is also making a second, lower-spec console, codenamed the Xbox Lockhart.
This rumor was sparked years ago when Microsoft started talking about a “family” of Xboxes, and speaking about future consoles, plural, though that language eventually stopped. And then there’s the obvious signifier that if we’re getting a “Series X” then we should be getting a “Series (something else)” too.
And yet the idea that Lockhart exists and is coming out this fall alongside the Series X is no longer something I can believe is actually happening. There are too many reasons why this idea does not make sense to me, and while sure, I can buy that maybe it was considered, I do not think that is where we are heading this fall
Why? A whole bunch of reasons.
Microsoft officially revealed the Series X in December. It’s now the beginning of June. We have heard quite literally nothing at all about anything resembling Xbox Lockhart from them during this time, while in contrast they have not stopped talking about the virtues of the Series X. We are now under six months away from the launch of the Series X, and it makes very little sense to hide the existence of something like the Lockhart if it’s also supposed to debut this November.
Microsoft has also gone out of its way to ensure that Xbox One owners are not left behind when this new generation launches, even more than usual. In addition to the “free upgrade” Smart Delivery system for games between generations, Microsoft is also promising “forward compatibility” for its first party offerings for a while to come, where those Series X games should also be able to run on an Xbox One, albeit at a reduced capacity. If that exists as an option, then where exactly does a new console, Xbox Lockhart, fit in between current Xbox One models and the new Series X? Why does it need to exist at all?
From a business and marketing standpoint, it would be immensely confusing for Microsoft to debut both a lower-spec console and an ultra-high spec console at the same time at launch this fall. Trying to explain the difference to consumers would be a nightmare, and by default, most people would just flock to the cheaper option and a much smaller percentage would get to experience Microsoft’s newfound huge power edge. It would make a lot more sense to price the Series X low, sell only one unit, try to undercut Sony and then make up the difference with Game Pass, XCloud and Xbox Live subscriptions.
But it also doesn’t make sense for an Xbox Lockhart to debut later on, either. When we get “new” consoles they are upgrades, not downgrades. So you debut a cheaper console later and then you have a portion of Series X players annoyed they didn’t wait to pay less money for a system that could play all the same games. Again, it’s terrible positioning.
Is there any way Xbox Lockhart makes sense? The only thing I could see happening is if Microsoft ends up immediately stopping production of Xbox Ones and One Xs, and replaces them all with Lockharts that are “upgraded” versions for around the same price, offering at least some of the features of the Series X without all the bells and whistles. And that’s the new “low end” going forward instead of Xbox Ones. Yet that still leaves 50+ million Xbox Ones out there that are going to need to be supported anyway.
I just don’t think Microsoft is going to go through with the Xbox Lockhart idea. I may end up being wrong and Microsoft is going to show it off in the next month or two an explain its positioning and price then. But I would also not be surprised if we heard nothing at all about it, and the Series X launched by itself in the fall.
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