During a closed-doors presentation, Microsoft revealed that players should expect next-gen game sizes to be about 30% smaller on the Xbox Series S than on the Series X. This means that game downloads won’t be quite as big if you’re using the Series X’s more compact sibling.
“With a performance target of 1440p at 60 fps, our expectation is that developers will not ship their highest level mipmaps to Xbox Series S, which will reduce the size of the games,” Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald told IGN. “Ultimately the controls in the developer’s hands. We’ve had this technology for a while that allows developers to intelligently choose which assets to install on which device they’re playing on. So the flexibility is in the developers’ hands to make sure the right assets are there.”
In other words, reduced texture resolutions and the fact that it renders at 1440p instead of native 4K will mean smaller game sizes on the Xbox Series S. But according to IGN, the Series S will still be “capable of outputting a full 4K signal” if developers choose to enable that feature. Devs will also be able to use a lower resolution (1080p, for example) “in order to utilize more complex graphical effects.”
Microsoft also confirmed during the presentation that Xbox Series S will also be able to render ray traced graphics just like the Series X, but developers can choose to turn down ray tracing on the Series S as well and use other effects instead.
“The core capabilities are the same between the two consoles,” Ronald said. “Variable rate shading, DirectX Raytracing, the entire Xbox Velocity Architecture – we wanted to make sure those capabilities were there, but ultimately, it’s within the developer’s control to do what’s right for their individual game.”
The company has said that the Xbox Series S’ lower specs shouldn’t limit developers who want to design games that run on both consoles. The goal with the two consoles seems to be to allow developers to mix and match the right resolution output and framerate for their games with the right graphical effects.
“The way that we designed the developer environment was that a developer would ideally target 4K at 60 fps, up to a 120 fps on Xbox Series X, and then they could easily scale down to the Xbox Series S by reducing the rendering resolution to 1440p,” Ronald said. “But they’re not locked into that. So the developer can choose to use the power of the Xbox Series S in the way that they see fit. So in some cases they may choose to render at, say, 1080p, and then use the extra GPU headroom for things like better anti-aliasing or better graphical effects. On the other hand, the developer may choose to go after something like 120 fps, if that’s right for the title, and that might result in resolution tradeoffs.”
Microsoft has also addressed the fact that the Xbox Series S won’t run the Xbox One X versions of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games and will instead run the Xbox One S versions. But that doesn’t mean the Series S won’t make its own improvements to backwards compatible Xbox One games. The Series S will still”apply improved texture filtering, higher and more consistent frame rates, faster load times, and Auto HDR,” according to Microsoft (via IGN).
The company has been planning the Xbox Series X and Series S since 2016, and both next-gen consoles will soon be in the hands of gamers. The new Xbox consoles arrive on Nov. 10.