Microsoft leak reveals Xbox Series X refresh and cloud gaming goals

The cloud gaming effort is still years away, with the documents pointing to 2028

A treasure trove of documents leaked out of the FTC v. Microsoft case revealed a ton of information about Microsoft’s plans for new Xbox hardware and much more.

Many of the details were shared online, such as the below post on X (Twitter) from ‘@Wario64.’

To start, the documents detail Microsoft’s plan for a disc-less Xbox Series X refresh, codenamed ‘Brooklin.’ The document says the refreshed hardware will deliver “4K Gen9 console gaming” along with increased storage, faster Wi-Fi, reduced power consumption and a redesign. Based on the accompanying image, it seems Microsoft will go with a vertical black cylinder instead of the rectangular prism shape of the current Series X.

Specifically, the document highlights 2TB of storage, a USB-C front port, reduced PSU power by 15 percent, a new low-power standby mode, 100 percent recyclable packaging, and more. Plus, the document notes it’d all be for the same $499 USD price (presumably, that means the refreshed Series X will still cost $649.99 in Canada).

Alongside the console refresh, the Microsoft documents highlight plans for ‘Sebile,’ a new Xbox controller with improved haptics, quieter buttons, more durability, lift-to-wake features and sustainability improvements. It will also offer “Direct-to-Cloud” (DtC) functionality.

The leaked documents also included a roadmap detailing when we can expect the new hardware. Microsoft plans to launch the refreshed controller in late May 2024 and then announce the refreshed Series X (Brooklin) alongside codename ‘Ellewood’ in early June 2024. Ellewood is the codename for the Series S console, so it’s possible we could see a minor refresh to the Series S too, seemingly with support for Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E.

The Ellewood refresh is slated for a late August 2024 launch, followed by Brooklin in late October.

Pushing to cloud hybrid

Beyond detailing upcoming console refresh plans, the leaked documents also detail Microsoft’s plans extending as far as 2028. Namely, the focus of these far-off plans is a “full convergence” of cloud gaming and physical hardware for “cloud hybrid games.”

The details come from what The Verge says is a May 2022 pitch document dubbed “The Next Generation of Gaming at Microsoft.” Ultimately, Microsoft wants to get people playing games using a combination of a sub-$99 USD gadget and the xCloud platform. The gadget could be a handheld, or something else entirely. Regardless of what the gadget ends up being, the goal, per the documents, is a “Cloud-to-Edge architecture across Silicon, Graphics, and OS enabling ubiquitous play.”

The Verge goes on to explain that this effort may already be happening. The documents say that Microsoft needed to settle on a deal with AMD for silicon by the first quarter of 2023 to lock down its upcoming Navi 5 graphics (we’re currently on Navi 3). Microsoft may also opt for AMD’s Zen 6 CPU cores, though it’s reportedly considering Arm too. The company may need a neural processing unit (NPU) for the gadget as well.

A roadmap included in the leaked documents suggests hardware design could begin in 2024, followed by dev kits going out in 2027 and the first hybrid cloud games being developed between 2024 through 2026.

Of course, it’s possible none of that happened, and Microsoft moved on to another idea. But given the involvement of high-level leadership, it seems like Microsoft had a lot riding on the plan.

The documents include input from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Xbox boss Phil Spencer, former head of Windows and Surface Panos Panay, and Xbox corporate vice president Kareem Choudhry, among others.

In one document, Nadella wrote that Microsoft needs to bring its system talent together on a unified vision. “We can’t go from big idea to big idea. We need a single big idea to rally the company around,” wrote Nadella.

Other highlights from the documents include a focus on the controller as the “hero” that will be the one thing people need to play on every device. The document describes Sebile, the new controller addressed above. There was also mention of a mobile controller, with an image showing what looks vaguely like Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons with Xbox styling.

Header image credit: Microsoft

Source: The Verge, (2), @Wario64