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Finally, the Xbox Series X and S are available for pre-order - but just like the PlayStation 5, the situation is a bit of a shambles.
At the time of writing, UK and European pre-orders are active, and those in the US and Canada will be able to crack on from 8am PT/11am ET. If you've been awake since the sunrise, refreshing pages over and over on online retailers, I salute you. People have been stuck in a queue of countless customers, who are all trying to get their mitts on either one of Microsoft's next-gen gadgets (or even both). The Xbox Series X is the heavy hitter of the duo, with 12.5 teraflops of GPU, 16GB of RAM, and support for 4K resolution up to 120 frames per second. It gives me the shivers, it does.
On the other hand, the Xbox Series S is the dinkier one, with a 512GB custom SSD solution, four teraflops of GPU, and 10GB of RAM. In spite of this, the Series S is actually able to deliver a lot of the features of the Series X: DirectX ray tracing, variable rate shading, variable refresh rate, ultra-low latency response time, and 4K media streaming support. Last but not least, the Series S costs £249/$299, whereas the Series X is priced at £449/$499.
This is all very good, but it doesn't change the fact that pre-ordering either one of these consoles has been a pain in the rear. It's ironic, really, because Microsoft poked fun at the PlayStation 5 pre-order palaver. Those went live only an hour after the PS5 price was revealed, and left a lot of people empty-handed. Microsoft was transparent about when people would be able to grab themselves a Series X or S, and even added: "Don't worry - we'll let you know the exact time pre-orders start for you soon)." Got it. Sony fluffed this one.
However, this advance warning doesn't appear to have helped things. The excitement for the next generation of gaming hardware is through the roof, sure, and the impact of the pandemic on retail and commerce is a factor. What Microsoft might not have anticipated is the reception to the announcement that it has acquired ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks.
As a result, titles like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, and Quake are all under the Xbox umbrella. "Like our original partnership, this one is about more than one system or one screen," said Bethesda's Todd Howard in a statement. "We share a deep belief in the fundamental power of games, in their ability to connect, empower, and bring joy." It's a major get for Microsoft. And, what did it cost? $7.5 billion. Petty cash, really.
Anyway, although Microsoft now effectively has control over The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield, they'll likely still arrive as multiplatform titles. Speaking to Bloomberg, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that it would assess titles such as these on a "case-by-case basis." The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, DOOM, and Starfield do have some stalwart fans, and this deal might have been enough to push those who were sitting on the fence.
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