Earlier this week, the Xbox team said that they are showing some new hardware at the upcoming Gamescom show. A few people allowed themselves to believe that Microsoft might actually reveal some information about the next Xbox. Those thin hopes were torn when Microsoft confirmed that their reveals are nothing that’s quite that exciting.
As with many corporate announcements, though, the interesting thing here isn’t what Microsoft is talking about; it’s what they’re not talking about.
Specifically, they aren’t talking about the next Xbox Elite Controller. Earlier this year, some very compelling evidence suggested that Microsoft is working on a new Xbox Elite controller. For those who don’t remember, the Xbox Elite controller is a $149.99 game controller designed for “pro gamers.” It features enhanced settings, customizable input options, trigger grips, and a variety of other features that make you wonder if it’s worth paying $150 for a video game controller.
What’s interesting about this new controller design is that it’s not that different from the original design. It features USB charging, enhanced Bluetooth support, and other such niceties, but it’s not the kind of controller you’d expect people to shell out another $150 for if they already bought the first model. It’s also not the kind of thing you release towards the end of a console’s lifespan.
What it is, though, is exactly the type of controller you’d release alongside a new console. However, we don’t think the next Elite controller is an optional Xbox Two controller. We think it’s the standard controller for an Elite version of the Xbox Two.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that Microsoft is getting ready to release two versions of their next-gen console. First off, Microsoft stated at E3 2018 that they are working on “consoles,” plural. That could have been a little misunderstanding, but we’d sooner believe that it was a slight slip of the tongue. After all, Microsoft probably would have tried to walk that statement back if it wasn’t true. It’s too big to just leave hanging out there.
However, the biggest argument for an Xbox Two Elite console is the fact that Microsoft has utilized a two system strategy before. The Xbox 360 was separated into two versions at launch; a “Core” and “Premium” edition. The Core edition featured everything that many gamers thought they needed at the time. It didn’t ship with a hard drive, it only included composite video cables, and it featured a wired controller. All of those things were pretty standard for the previous generation of consoles.
The Premium Xbox 360, though, was what Microsoft knew the future was going to be about. It had a hard drive, HD cables, and a wireless controller. It also carried a higher price tag, which did inspire some to purchase the Core edition over the Premium model. Many of those people ended up buying the missing components separately, which we’re sure pleased Microsoft’s accountants.
It feels like we’re in a place where that same strategy might work again. At a time when 4K resolution hasn’t quite become standard and there’s some debate about how much console power you really need, there’s enough of a split in the market for Microsoft to profit off those who don’t think they need an Xbox Elite console…until they find out that they do. The next Xbox Elite controller is surely just part of that premium next-gen package.
We know that Microsoft has ambitious plans for the future of gaming. They want to change how people look at consoles. Still, we fully expect them to take a page from the past by trying to see if the market can support two next-gen console options.