Why the Xbox Series X Smoking Videos Are a Poor Attempt to Reignite the Overheating Controversy

New videos showing smoking Xbox Series X on the verge of catching fire dominated the conversation after the console's launch. Fortunately, the videos have already been debunked.

Xbox Series X
Photo: Future Publishing/Getty

Just a day after the official launch of the Xbox Series X, one thing seemed to dominate the conversation around Microsoft’s next-gen console: a series of viral videos allegedly depicting a major overheating issue, as thick clouds of smoke were desperately expelled through the console’s top vents. The makers of the videos claimed that the Xbox Series X had grown so hot that the components inside were literally seconds away from catching fire.

I’ve spent the last two weeks with the Xbox Series X, testing out everything from its excellent load times and 4K 60fps visuals to its backward compatibility and game-changing Quick Resume feature. Throughout my time with the console, one thing I didn’t encounter was any major overheating issue. At the very least, there was never a moment when I had to nervously glance at my fire extinguisher while using the console. The Xbox Series X can get a little warm when its pumping out 4K visuals, but that’s about it. Overall, the console’s single “whisper-quiet” fan does a great job of keeping the console cool, and the monolith-like shape and size of the console was clearly designed with airflow in mind.

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(I didn’t have a fancy thermal camera to measure the console’s heat levels in precise degrees but you can check out this excellent breakdown from Digital Foundry, which reported no heat problems with the console.)

The point is that that the smoking videos, which I’m not going to bother posting here, had to be fake, a way to troll Microsoft, gain internet clout, send the Xbox hardware design team into a panic, or simply give the PlayStation 5 an early lead in the next-gen console war. Unsurprisingly, the videos were indeed debunked by one Twitter user who demonstrated how easily you could make it look like an Xbox Series X was “on fire.” All you really need is a vape:

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So with that nonsense out of the way, there’s a more important question worth asking: who would bother making up a blatant lie about the Xbox Series X and why?

I’m not really going to entertain the idea that there are militant PS5 fans who are trying to discredit the competition because that seems pretty silly. Soon enough, each side will have actual sales figures with which to brag, although we don’t think sales numbers are really the right measure of industry success anyway.

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So it must be trolls. But why? Don’t gamers invest their hard-earned money in these consoles because they hope (and assume) they work properly? Certainly, regardless of what anyone claims online, all gamers benefit from great new consoles.

As I wrote in my review, the Xbox Series X is a powerful, very consumer-friendly console that features a series of huge quality of life improvements. And while we’re not quite ready to give a final verdict on the PS5, our early impression is that Sony’s console is a formidable next-gen upgrade with unique features and an impressive lineup of launch exclusives. You can’t really go wrong with either at the moment (unless you really care about the PlayStation exclusives you can’t play anywhere else).

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Ultimately, the Xbox Series X smoking videos seem to be an attempt to reignite the rumors that first appeared all the way back in September about the console’s overheating “issues.” Many sites mentioned the rumors in news pieces, including Den of Geek before we had any hands-on time with the console, but some journalists, like The Verge’s Tom Warren, were quick to point out their own experiences didn’t seem to match what was being spread online.

“The console will output system heat out of the exhaust, just as any other console will,” Xbox general manager of marketing Aaron Greenberg explained at the time on Twitter. “Our engineering team confirmed the heat leaving the console is not significantly different than Xbox One X. This matches my experience at home quiet, fast & impressive power for the size.”

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Perhaps one could make the argument that the Xbox team has opened itself up to these kinds of viral posts due to the way it’s already embraced the biggest memes making fun of the Xbox Series X’s design. Just take the Xbox Series X-shaped fridge, for example. It’s a lovely bit of viral marketing born out of a joke someone made after the console’s initial reveal. The popularity of the fridge meme has likely emboldened people online to try to make even more viral content for attention.

The difference between the fridge memes and a video of a console almost catching fire is that the latter isn’t very funny. Hopefully, we can go back to silly memes as well as serious conversations about each console’s actual merits now that we’ve passed the “Xbox Series X burns down house” phase of the discourse.

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This isn’t to say that there won’t be any faulty consoles or any issues for some users in the next few weeks. It’s entirely possible that at least a few people will encounter a malfunction or two. But Xbox and PlayStation will have undoubtedly taken the necessary steps to avoid any widespread “red ring of death” scenarios.

For now, go enjoy your next-gen console. And be nice!