How Xbox Series S Won Black Friday

The Xbox Series S was the (not that surprising) "winner" of the recent Black Friday sales.

Xbox Series S
Photo: Microsoft

We knew that next-gen consoles were going to be some of the most popular items during the various Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, but few could have predicted that the Xbox Series S would be the biggest “winner” of the holiday season.

This information comes from the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which measured over a trillion visits to various U.S. retail websites and found that the Xbox Series S was not only more popular than its next-gen competition but was one of the most popular items over the sales weekend across the board.

Given that the Xbox Series S typically doesn’t generate a lot of buzz compared to the Series X, PS5, and Nintendo Switch, that information might come as a surprise to many. However, when you take a look at the state of the industry, the state of the Xbox Series S, and the nature of the holiday shopping season, it’s easy to see why the Series S enjoyed what some consider to be an “unexpected” level of success.

The Xbox Series S Was Widely Available During Black Friday

We’re about to praise the Xbox Series S for some of the things the console genuinely does well, but let’s be very clear that much of the Xbox Series S’ success during Black Friday should certainly be attributed to the fact that it was really the only next-gen console that was relatively easy to find during those sales.

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In fact, it was actually possible to buy an Xbox Series S from major outlets like Best Buy and Target in the days and hours leading up to the start of their “official” Black Friday sales. At a time when it can feel nearly impossible to find any next-gen console, the fact that the Xbox Series S was just sitting there on store shelves (digital and otherwise) waiting to be purchased was a big deal.

We’ll get into some of the reasons why the Series S was easier to find than some other next-gen consoles, but it’s more than fair to say that the console’s availability was a big part of the reason why it sold so well during the “start” of the holiday shopping season.

Xbox Game Pass Is More Valuable Than Ever

From the moment Xbox Game Pass was announced, the big question about the service was whether or not Microsoft would be able to grow and market it in such a way that would ensure enough people would buy into the idea that it’s worth buying a console just for a digital subscription service.

Since then, though, we’ve watched Game Pass slowly become the future of the Xbox brand. Suddenly, the idea of buying an Xbox just to be able to access Game Pass doesn’t feel like this pipedream “Netflix of gaming” concept; it’s a legitimate selling point that is starting to become more appealing.

If nothing else, the Xbox Series S offers a fairly cheap way to access Game Pass. Combine the ability to access Game Pass with the ways that Xbox’s expanded cloud service will help “future proof” the less powerful Series S and you start to see why the idea of viewing the Series S as a Game Pass console doesn’t feel that crazy.

The Xbox Series S’ Low Price Really Does Matter

The entire history of console gaming sales as well as the absurd nature of Black Friday itself should remind all of us that people love to seek out the lowest price possible. If a console is considered to be “cheaper” than its competition (despite whatever other variables may exist in those comparisons) it has a pretty good chance of topping the sales charts at some point.

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There’s a degree to which we’re starting to see the Series S benefit from its relatively low price. $300 for a next-gen(ish) video game console is starting to look like a very good deal when you consider that the PS5 and Series X not only boast more expensive MSRPs but are often more expensive than that given that the “easiest” way to buy one right away is through second-hand markets.

Microsoft guessed that offering a cheap companion to the Series X was going to pay off eventually, and it seems like that’s what is starting to happen.

The Xbox Series S’ “Weak” Power Isn’t That Important

A combination of Covid-related development delays and hardware shortages has essentially halted the start of the next video game generation and left us in this spot where many developers are hesitant to make “true” next-gen games out of fear that most people won’t be able to access them.

That being the case, the fact that the Xbox Series S is a relatively weak next-gen console (it’s not even as powerful as the Xbox One X in most respects) has yet to be nearly as detrimental as some analysts suggested it would be. In a world without many true next-gen exclusives, the gap between the Series S and Series X/PS5 just isn’t that significant.

Yes, there’s a much more complicated discussion to be had about the value of the Series S over its alternatives in the long run, but I’m honestly not sure we’re really going to even start to have that conversation until at least 2023.

Xbox’s System Sellers Are Generating Buzz at the Right Time

I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you that Xbox has caught up with PlayStation or Nintendo in terms of exclusives, but in the midst of a somewhat dry season for major console exclusives, two of the biggest exclusives at the moment are Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite.

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You can obviously argue about how much you personally care about those games, but it’s fascinating to see that for the first time in years, Xbox’s exclusive games seem to be generating the most buzz during the holiday season.

This kind of brings us back to the Game Pass argument and the ways that service helps Xbox feel more valuable throughout the year, but there really is this growing sense that Xbox has the most “new” things going on at the start of the holiday season.