Xbox One S – Is it the best value console of all time?

Xbox One S – Is it the best value console of all time?

I’m not going to argue that the Xbox One S is the greatest console of all time. PS2, Xbox 360 and the fondly remembered Dreamcast are all serious contenders for that title, way ahead of the S. What I will suggest is that the Xbox One S is the best value in console gaming. Bear with me.

It’s no secret that the Xbox One launch was a mess. Microsoft nibbled at the issues without ever really convincing consumers, or critics, that the OG Xbox (as it shall now be known) was a contender to the PS4. One such nibble was the launch of the Elite Console. Housed in the same chassis, but sporting an SSHD and packaged with an Elite Controller, it moved the dial slightly and received positive reviews. However, as was typical of Microsoft’s strategy of the time, it was obscenely expensive. At a time when the standard console was frequently discounted to £350 with a game or two thrown in, the Elite retailed at £449 in the UK. Despite positive reviews, it did not sell well.

A big, ugly, underpowered console reminiscent of an eighties VCR was not going to change the minds of gamers who had fallen in love with their PS4 (which, by the way, is also an ugly and extremely noisy console, but I digress). Thankfully, Xbox Supremo Phil Spencer had been given the reins in March 2014, and was already hard at work reinventing the Xbox One. In August 2016, the fruits of his labour and the result of his vision was released – the Xbox One S.

What a contrast it was. 40% smaller, sleek robot white styling – it couldn’t have looked more different to the OG. Finally, this generation had a console that looked and felt ‘next gen’. And it wasn’t just about the improved look; the specs were vastly improved too. Stealing a march on Sony, Microsoft had taking the first step to making 4K and HDR mainstream. Bundling a 4K Blu-Ray drive was a masterstroke, the addition of HDR and 4K instantly made the S not only a desirable purchase for new customers, it created a hitherto unrealised desire to upgrade. An improved CPU & GPU gave the S a slight nudge ahead of the OG, and the removal of the power brick (May we never see one again) made it a much more living room friendly proposition.

The improvements didn’t end there. Integrated IR Blaster? Check. Improved frame rate? Check. Bluetooth Controller (also in that awesome robot white)? Check. Netflix & YouTube 4K streaming? Check (well, eventually).

And then there was the price. The standard 500GB model launched at £249 in the UK, and typically came with at least one title bundled in. Compare that with the whopping £449 for the OG Xbox (we did get a game with that too, but only after howls of derision post reveal).  Overnight, casual buyers, parents, upgraders and fence sitters began to consider the S as an option. Previously, all but the most committed Xbox aficionados had understandably drifted towards a PS4 purchase. The addition of backwards compatibility added a new string to the bow – some 84 million Xbox 360s were sold worldwide and there were a lot of gamers intrigued by the idea of dusting off an old title and playing on a new, improved console.

The suggestion at the time was that Microsoft made little or no profit on the S. The price point was a way of reasserting themselves in the market. Even now, fully two years since it hit shelves, the RRP of the S hovers around the same point (£229 at time of writing). But that’s only half the story. Microsoft have aggressively and consistently discounted the S, often as low as £199, and continued to bundle in games even at the discounted price point. With Black Friday and Christmas looming large, there’s no reason to believe we won’t see similar discounts and bundles again this year. FIFA, Fallout and Battlefield have already been announced for bundles this year; we’re likely to see others alongside perennial favourites such as Forza & Minecraft (which has its own, quite rare, console edition).

Never in the history of console gaming has such a powerful console been available at such an impulse buy price point. Time your purchase correctly, and you’re likely to find the console with two AAA games for around the £200 mark, and don’t be surprised if there are Game Pass and Live deals too (in addition to the standard free trials included in the box). Given that new AAA titles retail for around £50 on the Microsoft Store, this represents silly amounts of value, reducing the net spend on the console to around £100. Standalone 4K Blu-Ray players cost significantly more but do significantly less.

Nothing Microsoft can do is going to bridge the sales gap between Xbox One and PS4. But as gamers and consumers, do we really need to care? The fact of the matter is that since MS have been in a distant second place this generation, they have developed a delightful tendency towards being consumer friendly. This means great value for us, and while I’m always happy to sing the praises of the X (you can find my thoughts on that beauty right here), it’s impossible to overstate just how much of a bargain can be had with the S. If you’re in the market for a new machine, or you’re one of the OG owners yet to make the upgrade, there’s never been a better time to jump in.

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2 Comments

  1. handy 7 days ago

    From an entry price standpoint your argument is valid, however value isn’t an easy one to measure, because you can place value in Time, Money etc. and even then it’s absolutely subjective. I would also argue that the most expensive products you own are the ones you don’t use.

    By that last sentiment I could say PS4 gives me personally the best value for money and time out of all the consoles, because I enjoy more games on it and I use it the most, whilst the other consoles I own mostly collect dust. WiiU by that token is the most expensive console I own even though it was the cheapest, because it got little to no use out of it since I bought it at launch.

  2. Buggerlugz 7 days ago

    No it isn’t. Quite simply because the Xbox one does not bring to gaming what the xbox 360 did. After buying a One-S earlier this year I am not impressed at all. The quality of AAA titles is appalling, The play-ability of 80% of titles generally sucks and the lack of developers making games for the Xbox one is killing the console daily. Here’s the rub. When I replaced my Original Xbox with a 360 I was blown away, the sheer volume of great games available and the hardware being used to its potential was amazing.

    I can’t say the same for the Xbox One because both Microsoft and its gaming developers are not even trying.

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