Barring big announcements about virtual or augmented reality headsets at this year’s vast E3 games conference in Los Angeles, hardware is unlikely to be the big story.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are now more than a year old and the focus has shifted to games. Meanwhile, Nintendo says it is far too early to talk about its NX console, revealed in March and rumoured to be based on Google’s Android technology.
Yet that has not prevented hardware manufacturers from jostling for column inches ahead of the big event.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced the launch of a new Xbox One with one terabyte of storage, providing twice the space as the original version for downloaded games and other digital content. The updated console, priced at £349, will be sold exclusively by the Game retail chain in the UK until 20 June.
Microsoft has also refreshed the Xbox One controller, adding a standard headset jack to the pad – a feature already provided by the PlayStation 4’s DualShock 4 controller. The tweaked wireless joypad will be bundled with the new 1TB console, but will also be sold separately.
A wireless USB connector for using the controller with a Windows PC will also be available. The existing 500GB Xbox One will now start at £299, although has already been available for as little as £275.
Microsoft is, of course, locked in another round of the console hardware war with Sony and its PlayStation 4, which is also rumoured to be getting a 1TB storage upgrade. The PS4 has reportedly shipped more than 22m units compared with the Xbox One’s 14m by the end of April, despite some deep discounting by Microsoft.
“Microsoft decision to release a bigger storage SKU of the Xbox One is a chance to differentiate itself from PlayStation offering, although we expect Sony to offer a 1TB SKU as well in the future,” says analyst Piers Harding-Rolls, head of games at IHS Technology.
“It also reinforces Microsoft’s Xbox strategy to focus more directly on the gamer, a strategy change brought in when Phil Spencer took charge of the division. The new controller announced is also a welcome change, allowing users to plug their headsets directly into it, rather than mess about with proprietary adaptors.”
A skirmish over hard drive sizes is perhaps not the most thrilling battleground for the games industry, but it is a vital one in an age where consumers are relying more heavily on storage space.
Harding-Rolls says: “I think the user experience around managing storage – the need to download games to the hard drive to deliver usable performance even when you buy a disk, the inevitability of large patches straight out of the box and the frequency and size of patches – is one aspect of the current PS4 and Xbox One consoles that lets the consumer down significantly.”
“A significant amount of early adopters will have already filled their 500GB, so offering bigger storage is a sensible move from Microsoft,” he adds. “However, additional storage does not solve the user experience around instant access to content bought at retail or the large day-one patches that are routine these days.
“The console company that refines its user experience around these issues will be more robustly positioned in the future.”
This article was written by Keith Stuart and Manjinder Toor, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th June 2015 15.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010