When I covered the official name of the new Xbox from Microsoft, I poked a bit of gentle fun at the company for the odd shift from Xbox One to Xbox Series X. It turns out that the situation is a little weirder than I realized. The “Xbox Series X” framing is apparently wrong, and all the sites that claimed the next Xbox would be called “Series X” were wrong. The alternate way to read this — and the one my ego likes better if I’m being honest — is that Microsoft managed to collectively confuse most of the media into reporting the wrong name because it can’t figure out how to brand its own equipment in a way that doesn’t confuse people.
See, Microsoft may have launched the product as the “Xbox Series X,” but what it really meant to announce was the new Xbox, which happens to be part of the “Series X” family. Business Insider even produced a helpful follow-up image:
Microsoft has sensibly cleared all of this up on its own front page, where you’ll find the company’s improved messaging materials like this:
If this annoys me, it’s because it’s such a basic thing to get wrong. It doesn’t say great things about where Microsoft is at this console generation than it’s still having trouble nailing down something as simple as messaging on the product name. There’s a real argument for calling this thing an Xbox, particularly based on what I said about the company’s long-term plans yesterday. According to Microsoft, we’re headed for a future in which there’s going to basically be one type of “Xbox” game and a whole lot of ways to play it on a variety of platforms. You’ll be able to mix and match peripherals from multiple console generations, and either stream or locally install titles from previous generations thanks to a mixture of services like XCloud (when it comes online), existing Xbox Game Pass, and the local streaming options already baked into the Xbox OS and mainstream Windows 10.
“The name we’re carrying forward to the next generation is simply Xbox,” a Microsoft representative told Business Insider. “And at The Game Awards, you saw that name come to life through the Xbox Series X.”
Product names do not “come to life,” and I feel as though part of the reason Microsoft is having trouble communicating its product plans is that someone at the company has some remarkably bad ideas about how people relate to product names. Don’t try to “bring it to life.” Just tell us what to call the thing, preferably in a manner that lets us distinguish it from other, very similar things you manufacture.
I Guess We’re Doing This
None of these ecosystem pieces are quite finished enough to get rid of generational signifiers altogether, which I suppose is where the “Series X” comes in, but Microsoft has made rather a muddle of illustrating how that modifier is supposed to work. If the Xbox were an Nvidia or AMD GPU, for example, we’d expect a framing like this: “Xbox (Product name) Series X (family name), Model 7. This would loosely correspond to “GeForce RTX 2080” where “RTX” is used to signify that a product has ray tracing and “2080” is equivalent to “Model 7.”
Xbox Series X feels like it leans too hard on the “X” without explaining how the “X” is being used in various roles. Even before it launched the RTX family, Nvidia has used the GTX signifier to indicate how high-end a GPU is. While this has varied significantly at different points in time, Nvidia has typically used GTX for its highest-end cards, GTS for the next-lowest tier, and a two letter prefix like GT or GS to indicate a lower tier of card. It would be easier to understand Microsoft’s current “Series” branding if the company had declared that we were getting the “Xbox Series X” and the “Xbox Series Y.” Xbox Series X might be better than “Series X Xbox,” but that has more to do with the overuse of a single letter.
But hey. I’m not the person getting paid the big bucks to make this sort of decision. Microsoft’s next console is the Xbox. It belongs to the Series X family. I’m sure this’ll all make sense with the next product unveil.
- Microsoft’s Xbox Series X Just Ended the PC-Console War
- Microsoft’s Xbox Series X: Definitely More X’s Than the Leading Competitive Brand
- Why the PlayStation 4 Triumphed Over the Xbox One