Microsoft, a local spreadsheet manufacturer and employer of Jennifer Aniston, has a problem: They’ve named their game console so confusingly that everyone’s buying the wrong one.
An updated version of the Xbox is coming out on November 10 with completely new components and new games and even a slightly revamped controller (they discovered a new button!!!)… in fact, everything about it seems new except the name. This is the fourth generation of Xbox, and rather than calling it oh I don’t know Xbox 4, or Xboxxxx, they’ve put the word “Series” in its name along with model identifiers that are exactly the same as the previous generation’s.
The new console's name is so similar to the previous generation—the Xbox that’s been out since 2013—that this week the old version of the Xbox experienced a nearly 800% spike in sales on Amazon, presumably from people who thought they were buying the new one.
So. How can you tell Xboxes apart and make sure you’re buying the one you actually want? Well, grab a pen and paper.
Here’s the short version: If you want the newest version of the Xbox, look for the word “Series” in the name. Don’t buy the one with the word “One” in the name. There you go. Simple! (Except not exactly that simple for reasons I’ll get to.)
Even that simple rule hints at Microsoft’s naming pranksterism. Why would the previous generation (the third Xbox) be called “One”? Why wasn’t it called “three”? Because Microsoft hoped that it would be the one device you use for all of your entertainment experiences. So they called the third generation "one."
So now we’ve got the “Xbox One,” not to be confused with the original Xbox, which was called just “Xbox.” But wait, try not to use the word “original,” either, because there’s also an original version of the Xbox One: That's the version that came out at launch, which you can’t get anymore, which was later followed by the Xbox One S (which was smaller) and the Xbox One X (which was bigger). So if you say “the original Xbox,” people might think you’re talking about the first version of the third generation. Ack, as Cathy would say.
Adding to the confusion: Microsoft’s second generation was called the Xbox 360, because it came out around the same time as Playstation 3 and they didn’t want to call it Xbox 2 and have a number that was lower than Sony’s. (This would be kind of like if Sony saw that Nintendo was calling their new console N64, and were like, “Oh yeah, well, this is the Playstation69.”)
Anyway, right now you can buy the Xbox One S, which is the smaller version of their third generation, and the Xbox One X, which is the big version. (There’s also the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition, which doesn’t have an optical drive, so really there are three versions of the Xbox One.)
But you probably want to buy the fourth generation of Xbox, right? The new one? The one with the word “series” in the name? Well, you can’t just buy an Xbox Series, because there are two versions of that.
There’s the Xbox Series S, which is not to be confused with the Xbox One S, and also the Xbox Series X, not to be confused with the Xbox One X. And yes, the letter “X” sounds a lot like the letter “S,” so when you’re talking about them out loud it’s hard to know which one somebody just referred to. Whew.
If you’re confused, you’re not alone: Not only are a lot of consumers buying the wrong console, but Microsoft themselves put out a press release referring to the Xbox One Series X, a console that does not exist.
here's Microsoft getting confused by Xbox One X and Xbox Series X pic.twitter.com/kGsdoSqlgG
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) September 22, 2020
So, to be clear: If you want to buy a new Xbox, get a “Series S” or a “Series X.” Don’t get a console with the word “One” in the name.
All of this confusion is a shame because the new generation actually does look quite good, and Microsoft’s Game Pass service is a surprisingly great deal: For ten bucks a month, you can get access to a ton of games to play without restrictions — basically Netflix for games with an excellent selection. Doom Eternal is coming to Game Pass soon, which I highly recommend; it’s wonderfully over-the-top and it feels like a super satisfying rhythm game once you really get into the shoot-stab-chainsaw groove.
But if you plan to play Doom Eternal, make sure you’re actually getting the right version. You wouldn’t want to accidentally pick up The Ultimate Doom, which came out for Xbox Live Arcade; or Doom 3 BFG Edition which contains The Ultimate Doom; or Doom Classic Complete which came out for Playstation; or Final Doom, or Doom Classic, or Doom for OS/2, or… oh geez come on I just want to play some videogames.