When Microsoft announced the Xbox Series S alongside the Series X, it went out of its way to reassure customers that they could spend NZ$350 less without missing out on anything, gameplay wise.
Sure, the graphics wouldn’t be 4K and framerates might be lower, but every game would be released for both Series S and Series X with exactly the same features. It’s a pledge that still features on Microsoft’s Learn site.
Principals never tested aren’t really principals, and this one has just crashed on impact with reality.
Faced with the problem that the wildly hyped Baldur’s Gate 3 could essentially be an accidental PS5 console exclusive because of difficulties fitting everything into the Series S, Microsoft has folded like its own Duo smartphone.
“Super happy to confirm that after meeting @XboxP3 [Xbox head Phil Spencer] yesterday, we’ve found a solution that allows us to bring Baldur’s Gate 3 to Xbox players this year still, something we’ve been working towards for quite some time,” wrote Larian’s Swen Vincke on Twitter with all the satisfaction of somebody who no longer has to waste time on an intractable problem.
“All improvements will be there, with split-screen coop on Series X,” he continued. “Series S will not feature split-screen coop, but will also include cross-save progression between Steam and Xbox Series.”
In truth, very few will actually care about this specific feature. Baldur’s Gate 3 has a campaign that will take you between 42 and 116 hours to get through, according to How Long To Beat — that’s not exactly casual fun for two people on a sofa.
But it sets a risky precedent that should make both owners of Series S and Series X consoles a little bit nervous.
For the former, Microsoft has shown it’s quite happy to abandon its pledge of parity between the systems. That’s something that’s only going to get more likely as games get more complex over the next few years.
For Series X owners, it confirms something that will likely have been gnawing at them for some time — what if the Series S is holding their console back?
They almost had to settle for not playing one of the highest-rated games of 2023 this year, all because Microsoft wants the Series X to play nicely with its younger brother. If Series X owners had known that could happen back in 2020, they might have bought a PS5 instead.
I own a Series S myself as a secondary console, and it’s great. But if I’d bought it as my only gaming system for this generation, I’d be worried. By Microsoft’s own estimates, the Series machines won’t be replaced until 2028 — this looks like the very thin edge of an unpleasant wedge.