Microsoft Aims for Hard-core Gamers with Xbox One X

LOS ANGELES -- Microsoft ratcheted up its bid for the attention of hard-core gamers on Sunday, unveiling the Xbox One X, a supercharged entry into the Redmond company's video-game console line.

The device, set for release Nov. 7 for $499, brings support for games displayed in ultra-high-definition 4K resolution.

Phil Spencer, the leader of Microsoft's Xbox unit, introduced the device at the beginning of the company's E3 gaming trade show presentation here.

He hearkened back to the ambition of the team of young executives who pushed Microsoft to enter the video-game hardware market 15 years ago with the Xbox, and spared no superlatives in describing the newest entry.

The Xbox One X, "the most powerful console ever made, sets a new standard," he said, and it's compatible with games built for the vanilla Xbox One.

It is also the most expensive mainstream console on the market, a test of whether there's room for a supercharged console priced somewhere between a traditional device and a high-end personal computer.

The Xbox One X is the latest stop on Microsoft's redemption tour after the initial stumbles of the Xbox One.

Before the 2013 release of that console, Microsoft pitched the Xbox One primarily as an entertainment hub, turning off a portion of the dedicated audience accustomed to shelling out hundreds of dollars for a gaming machine.

The PlayStation 4 grew a wide sales lead over Xbox One, and Microsoft has refocused its efforts on the game side of its console since. Microsoft also stopped disclosing console sales totals, focusing instead on metrics like subscribers to the Xbox Live multiplayer and social networking service.

Microsoft, along with Sony and Nintendo, typically release a new console every few years and compete to draw the most players and the best games to the platform. When the cycle starts over again, old hardware libraries are rendered obsolete. Spencer has said he's not a fan of that marketing model, and last year, both Microsoft and Sony released modified versions of their current-generation devices.

Microsoft's smaller, cheaper, Xbox One S, drew solid reviews. Sony debuted a more expensive and powerful PlayStation 4 Pro, though sales underwhelmed analysts, which some attributed to the device's $399 price tag, $50 to $100 above standard-issue consoles.

The Xbox One X is a bigger step, said Lewis Ward, an analyst with researcher IDC.

The new device is "something different," he said. "It's a generation-breaking system."

Still, at $499, it may be a costly one for Microsoft, Ward said. Based on a preliminary specifications readout, he estimated the Xbox One X's components cost as much as $650.

Microsoft executives are hoping technical advances convince consumers its worth the cash.

Specifications released before the show here show Xbox One X with an edge in processor speed and graphic processor count over the PlayStation Pro.

The company also touted a set of games set to be available on the platform, including "Forza Motorsport 7." The latest edition in the Microsoft-built racing franchise is coming in October.

Microsoft also touted Electronic Arts' new open-world sci-fi game, "Anthem," as well as Activision's "Assassins Creed: Origins," a version of the series set in ancient Egypt.

Matt Day: 206-464-2420 or mday@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @mattmday ___

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