Last night, the biggest Xbox leak in history revealed multiple new Xboxes, including plans for an ambitious hybrid Xbox that could arrive in 2028. It also revealed communications from Microsoft’s top execs — including one conversation from a joyous Phil Spencer to CEO Satya Nadella about the just-announced Sony PlayStation 5.
That email is now available completely unredacted, so you can see just how confident Microsoft seemed in March 2020 right after the PS5 spec reveal.
According to an executive summary prepared by former Xbox CVP Elizabeth Hamren for Microsoft’s Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and forwarded to Nadella, the company believed the Xbox Series X would have up to 30 percent higher real-world performance compared to the PS5 — a passage that was previously redacted.
“We expect that we’ll have 30% advantage on GPU performance and a 25% memory bandwidth advantage in terms of real-world performance,” she wrote.
Another previously redacted chunk: Microsoft admitted that PS5 might have a “long term” price advantage on expandable storage because Sony chose to use a standard M.2 NVMe SSD slot. “In the long term, their approach may provide price advantage.”
That certainly feels true three years later, as SSD prices have fallen off a cliff, and excellent PS5-ready drives have become exceptionally easy to find.
But neither Sony’s SSD speed advantage nor Microsoft’s teraflop advantage has always played out in the real world. At launch, the PS5 turned out not to need a particularly speedy SSD and yet outperformed the Xbox Series X. In June 2022, Digital Foundry’s John Linneman said that out of 15 direct Xbox Series X vs. PS5 game performance comparisons, Xbox did pull ahead eight times, while the PS5 pulled ahead twice.
As usual, game publishers and developers want to target both major boxes while simultaneously shipping more of their big-budget games to PC than ever.
“[A]fter almost 12 hours of soaking in their unveil, taking apart their specs and looking at the community responses I just wanted to say that I’m proud of our team,” said Xbox boss Phil Spencer.
“This is really great to hear Phil. Neither of us have announced pricing right?” Nadella replied.
In a different document, Microsoft revealed that it planned to subsidize the Xbox Series X and S to the tune of $1.5 billion in 2021 to hit its price targets of $499 and $299, respectively. “That’s our largest hardware subsidy ever in the Gaming P&L,” the document reads.