Everything we learned from the biggest leak in Xbox history

by | Sep 19, 2023

If you thought we were done learning juicy details about the internal workings of Xbox after this summer’s Federal Trade Commission-Microsoft trial wrapped up, hoo boy, you can guess again. A jaw-dropping court document leak has revealed a ton of information about recent goings on within the Microsoft Gaming division, as well as critical details about its future plans. Perhaps the biggest nugget concerned a major Xbox Series X refresh that Microsoft has lined up for next year.

All-digital Xbox Series X refresh

Microsoft is launching an Xbox Series X refresh with an all-new rounded design
Microsoft via FTC

Over the last few console generations, we’ve seen the likes of Sony and Microsoft release updated hardware midway through the cycle (the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X spring to mind). And while there are always rumors in the lead up to those new versions, we’ve never seen legitimate leaks of this magnitude before.

Codenamed “Brooklin,” a refreshed Series X will have double the internal storage at 2TB, lower power usage, Wi-Fi 6E connectivity and other tech updates, according to a leaked document. This model will have a cylindrical design, compared with the boxy original Series X.

Critically, Microsoft is planning to ditch the console’s disc drive. It’s not yet clear as to whether there will be an external disc drive available (as is rumored to be the case for a PlayStation 5 refresh). It would mark a significant shift for Xbox to no longer offer a disc drive as standard and perhaps accelerate the death of physical game discs. What’s more, Microsoft plans to sell the updated Series X for $499, the same price as the current console.

Microsoft is launching an Xbox Series X refresh with an all-new rounded design
Microsoft via FTC

Microsoft is planning to release an updated Xbox controller next year as well, per the unredacted filing. Codenamed “Sebile,” the peripheral is slated to have “precision haptic feedback” (perhaps to better compete with Sony’s DualSense), quieter inputs and, like some premium controllers, modular thumbsticks. There’s said to be support for “seamless” pairing and switching between devices with the help of new mobile app features.

Intriguingly, a “direct-to-cloud” feature is mentioned in a slide. That suggests Microsoft is focusing on reducing input latency for games streamed from the cloud, like Google tried with the Stadia Controller (RIP).

Sebile is slated to arrive in May, according to the documents. Microsoft is then expected to announce the new Series X (and a Series S refresh) in June, likely at its annual summer showcase. The $299 Series S refresh is now expected to go on sale around August or September 2024, with the beefed-up Series X scheduled to land a couple months later. It seems Microsoft is planning a clearance sale on the current Series S too, as a slide mentions a $199 offer for Black Friday 2024.

The next-gen Xbox could be a ‘cloud-hybrid’ console

Image of new Xbox Series S console.

It seems we’re not yet midway through the current console generation, but of course Microsoft is thinking about what’s ahead. The next-gen Xbox, slated to arrive in 2028, is expected to support “cloud hybrid games.”

There’s not much detail available on that, but it’s clear the company has been moving in this direction for a while. Microsoft Flight Simulator, for instance, incorporates real-time weather data that it pulls from the cloud (that’s not a pun, I swear). Xbox has been making a major push into cloud gaming over the last few years too.

There’s an implication that the next-generation Xbox will have an always-online requirement for certain games. It’s entirely plausible that there will still be a sizable digital divide by 2028, which could prevent some folks in rural areas or other regions with poor internet access from properly being able to play games on Microsoft’s next major console.

Xbox head Phil Spencer really wants to buy Nintendo

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, announces backwards compatibility to play all Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One during game publisher Microsoft's Xbox media briefing before the opening day of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, California, United States, June 15, 2015. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer thinks it would be, like, super cool if the company bought Nintendo. Spencer suggested in an internal 2020 email discussing acquisition targets that he saw Nintendo as a white whale for the company, and one that he was personally invested in snapping up. He saw that as a potential “career moment,” per the email.

The document nods toward other possible acquisition targets, including another highly ambitious one in Valve. Spencer mentioned that his team was in active talks with Warner Bros. Interactive and Bethesda parent ZeniMax Media. Both of those were seemingly open to a deal and while the WB talks didn’t work out in Microsoft’s favor, the company did scoop up ZeniMax for $7.5 billion.

It seems highly unlikely that Microsoft would ever actually buy Nintendo. Antitrust regulators would surely have a lot to say about that, particularly after Microsoft’s ZeniMax purchase and its pending $68.7 billion deal for Activision Blizzard (which could close any day now). It’s not hard to imagine that Japanese officials in particular would be none too happy about an American business buying one of the country’s best-known brands. Still, it’s nice to have dreams, eh, Phil?

Upcoming games

The leak also shed some light on Xbox’s plans for upcoming games. It seems that new Doom and Dishonored games are in the pipeline. The latter would see Arkane returning to a successful series after Redfall — its most recent attempt to branch out into fresh IP — faceplanted this year. Fallout 3 Remaster, Oblivion Remaster and a Ghostwire: Tokyo sequel were also mentioned in the leaked documents.

It’s worth noting, however, that this Bethesda roadmap ran from fiscal years 2020 through 2024. A lot has changed since then, including Microsoft buying the publisher. Games get canceled all the time, so it’s unclear whether any of these unannounced projects will actually come to light. Still, it’s hard to imagine that there isn’t some kind of Doom title in development.

Xbox Series X console and Xbox Wireless Controller
Aaron Souppouris/Engadget

This is all the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the leaked documents. There are details on everything from Game Pass revenue to Microsoft leaders’ reactions to the PlayStation 5 announcement and Spencer revealing he bought his own PS5 (he had to plump for a bundle with Horizon Forbidden West included).

The timing of this leak could not have been worse for Microsoft, as we’re going into the critical holiday period. The company was banking on Starfield being a must-have game (it isn’t, unfortunately) to help it shift consoles and Game Pass subscriptions in the last few months of the year. This news won’t help convince people who were on the fence to buy an Xbox soon either. Knowing that a revamped Series X is on the way next year will surely put some people off of buying one now (raises hand). That could result in Microsoft losing more ground against Sony and Nintendo, which appears set to debut a brand new console in 2024.

The FTC, which still has a lawsuit in the works in an attempt to block the Microsoft-Activision deal, has claimed it’s not to blame for the leak. “Microsoft was responsible for the error in uploading these documents to the court,” Douglas Farrar, director of the FTC’s office of public affairs, told NBC News. However all of this information got out there, some heads are surely rolling at Microsoft HQ today.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

This post was originally published on this site