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The feedback on enthusiast forums is that Microsoft is being refreshingly open about its next-gen plans, but rumours suggest that Xbox Series X may only represent half of its strategy for the generation to come. Apparently, the Redmond giant intends to introduce a smaller, cheaper alternative to its 12-teraflop beast – and it could put the PlayStation 5 in a precarious position.

Xbox Series S, or Lockhart as it’s apparently codenamed, is said to be a 4-teraflop entry level device designed to play next-gen titles at around 1080p. The emergence of teraflops as a point of comparison has confused many more casual gamers, so it’s worth pointing out that the unannounced console would be more powerful than the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, despite it having less teraflops.

This is because it’ll purportedly utilise some next-gen features, such as ray-tracing and an SSD hard drive. The idea, as we understand it, is to offer the Xbox Series X experience, at a price point more palatable for average consumers. And with the coronavirus pandemic likely to lead to a global recession, it could be a serious thorn in the PS5’s plans.

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Sony, as far as we understand it, is planning a single model of its next-gen system. The device will likely find itself sandwiched somewhere between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in terms of price, although we wouldn’t be surprised if it costs the same as Microsoft’s flagship. Estimates peg both devices at around $499.99, while Xbox Series S could go as low as $299.99.

Microsoft has invested a lot in scaling technology, making development efficient across different models. While the existence of a lower powered Xbox Series X may seem problematic at first blush, it’s worth remembering that developers have spent half this generation developing for both the PS4 and PS4 Pro, and it hasn’t really proved to be a problem.

The jump from Xbox One S to Xbox Series S will be significant, then – enough to justify the box’s existence. And while it won’t be anywhere near as capable as a PS5 or Xbox Series X, the lower price point could prove extremely attractive in a cash-strapped economy. It’s worth remembering, after all, that the less powerful PS4 is much more popular than the supercharged PS4 Pro.

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Pair this with Xbox Game Pass, an aggressive subscription which will include access to all first-party launch titles from the outset, and Sony’s more traditional play may look overpriced and antiquated in comparison. The Japanese giant could find itself sandwiched between a more affordable Xbox Series S and a more powerful Xbox Series X, with a software roster that needs to be purchased at full price.

Of course, Microsoft’s strategy could also backfire if it can’t effectively communicate the differences between its multiple models, and with the PS4 likely to receive cross-gen games for several years to come, Sony may still be able to dominate the low-end of the market with its existing system. A price drop is heavily rumoured, after all.

But these are new challenges that the manufacturer may have to overcome. Exactly when Microsoft will announce Xbox Series S remains unclear; the industry seems certain that it exists, but the Redmond firm appears reluctant to talk about it right now. All should be clear within the next few weeks, and communication is going to be imperative for both organisations at this crucial stage.

Would you be tempted by the rumoured Xbox Series S, or are you looking for a full-blown next-gen experience at this point? Which next-gen console are you planning to buy based on what we know so far? Pick your poison in the comments section below.

Which next-gen console are you most likely to buy?