So this week, a trove of internal Microsoft documents were accidentally released as part of their battle with the Federal Trade Commission in the FTC’s rightful attempt to block their acquisition of Activision-Blizzard.
So, it seems that a Microsoft employee uploaded these files to a federal court’s website last week. The upload somehow accidentally included schedules, internal communications, design files, and a ton more.
I’ve looked through these files and there’s a ton of insight into how the Borg, I mean Microsoft, work.
Here are six things we need to talk about with the MASSIVE Xbox leak.
Xbox is about to ditch the “box”
Since Xbox was introduced as a brand, Microsoft has been committed to the namesake. They’ve more or less produced large, square-ish devices. At least from a design perspective, the Xboxes have lived up to the name.
But the Series X refresh (codenamed Brooklin) is ditching the “box.” Brooklin appears to be cylindrical (or perhaps a cylindrical oval). I’ve seen the current Series X in person. To me, the Series X seems stable, if oversized.
This new cylindrical Brooklin design just looks unstable to me. Maybe it’s just the rendering, here, but it looks like it could fall forward or backward. It’s too tall and doesn’t have a wide enough base. It also seems like this is not going to be as versatile as the current design. You can’t lay it down or anything. Lame.
Besides that, though, the Xbox brand has the word “box” in it.
Boxes can be many different shapes. A cylinder isn’t a box. I wouldn’t call this a box either. Maybe it’s unwise for me to die on this hill, but it just does not feel right to me.
Xbox wants retail completely dead
Another important detail with Brooklin is that it doesn’t have a disk drive like the current design. This is yet another step towards the technocratic feudalism that Microsoft has been pushing for since the Xbox One days where you wouldn’t be able to share or resell your games.
The Brooklin’s introduction here also raises some important questions: what will happen to the physical collection of Xbox Series games that current Series X owners have amassed? What will happen to the physical inventory of Xbox Series games at retail?
Microsoft has been slowly warming the waters–in partnership with PlayStation–to get folks accustomed to the idea of no more physical media since last generation. But the question is: why? It’s because–much like we discussed in my last video–console gamers are a captive audience. It used to be that you could buy a game and play it right off the disc. You didn’t need to patch it. You didn’t need a day one title update. You just put the disc in the machine and play it.
The slow enshittification of Xbox and PlayStation consoles, though? It’s been a deliberate means of extracting more profit from console consumers and providing them with a worse experience.
Some will argue that abandoning the slow physical media for SSD-based games will save everyone time since disc based games need to be installed before they can be played. But to that I ask “What do you think enshittification actually means?”
It’s not just that Microsoft wants to sell you copies of games from at full retail price or that they don’t want someone else to be able to buy a copy of their game on the secondary market. It’s that they want you to see that elimination of your right to choose as a good thing. They’ve intentionally made their disc drives worse, the experience of playing a game from a disc as inconvenient as possible in order to convince you that your right is something you should be willing to give up in exchange for subjugation to their techno-feudalism.
The new controller
Along with the refreshed Brooklin Series X, a mid-generation controller refresh is also on the way. This one is really interesting. Where I’ve been pretty critical of most of the details coming out of this leak, I’ve gotta admit that this new controller is intriguing.
First, I’ve gotta commend the striking, two-tone design here. It looks great and it’s reminiscent of the iconic neo-fascist Storm Trooper design. Gotta love that.
Next, this new controller includes accelerometers as you can just pick up the controller in order to turn it on. That’s a first for Xbox controllers as far as I’m aware. This is great news as a controller without gyro is DOA as far as I’m concerned.
Importantly, this controller is even more repairable. This is huge. The thumbsticks are modular meaning their more replaceable than previous iterations. This leaked graphic says that it has a rechargeable and swappable battery and there’s been special attention paid to disassembly and repairability. Good news.
There's no indication that this controller includes anything other than an accelerometer, but I can hope. I’d like to try this new controller... but gyro-controls are a necessity for me at this point.
Another interesting feature is that this controller will apparently be able to connect directly to the cloud. Microsoft is literally tearing a page right out of Google Stadia’s playbook here, as their controllers did this as well. Essentially, this controller will connect to a WiFi network and communicate with the Xbox Cloud service. This is important since it cuts out the middle man of your Xbox or other streaming device having to receive the signal from your controller and then relay it to the cloud. I’ll never use this feature as I find the idea of cloud gaming morally repugnant. But it’s interesting to see, nonetheless.
Xbox’s Tower of Power
Towards the beginning of the document we see a small icon for the Xbox handheld that was leaked earlier this summer. There were rumors swirling that Microsoft was going to try and compete with the Switch and Steam Deck and that an Xbox handheld was on its way.
I didn’t really buy into that idea because, well, to be quite honest, Phil Spencer seems like the kind of “core gamer” dipshit that I figure looks down on handhelds and I doubt he’d ever approve something like that.
So I was a little shocked when I saw this. The Xbox Gaming Beyond slide includes a handheld design. And if you compare the slide to previous, there’s a growing number of devices. So what does this mean?
Does this mean we’ll see a first party Xbox handheld some time soon? Well, I don’t know. Scroll down to the “CURRENT GAPS IN FISCAL YEAR 23 TO REACH 2030 GOALS” and we’re treated to Xbox’s Pyramid scheme.
Notably, if we look at the very top of the pyramid scheme, we see a section marked “Not in Scope for 1st party” and it includes earbuds, media remote, mobile controller, and handheld.
So the handheld mentioned on the Beyond slide just saying that Xbox Game Pass is available on handheld PCs? And if that’s the case, then how come all first party Xbox devices are actual pictures while third party devices are line art? Only time will tell.
Speculation time: Microsoft will provide an Windows for ARM build that gives access to the Xbox Cloud. So it will be like the Logitech G Cloud and third parties may be able to make Xbox-branded ARM devices. I am not sure.
Phil Spencer’s not a deep thinker
It’s been clear to me for a while that Phil Spencer is not a… how do I put this gently… he’s not a deep thinker. He seems like the high school football player who can’t really comprehend the rules of football, but you just point him towards the end zone, hand him the ball, and tell him to run and he does it.
And we now have some evidence in the form of internal emails at Microsoft that show just how little this guys understands the gaming public.
We have the full, unredacted email that Phil sent to his Xbox team members the day the PS5 was announced. He said, quote:
“We have a better product than Sony does, not just on hardware but equally important on the software platform and services on top of the hardware. We have the ingredients of a winning plan. I felt the feedback from the Board of Directors discussion on being too confident and maybe this will just reinforce that perception [but]… today was a good day for us.
“We haven’t won anything… but we can take confidence in our product truth here… this was a good day for Xbox.
I know hindsight is 20/20, but mylanta that didn’t age well. Xbox is still in a pretty poor position in terms of console sales and PS5 is smoking them.
Not to mention, the follow-up email in this chain was comparing the Series X to the PS5 specs, despite the fact that everyone on their team knew the Series S was their real product offering at launch with only a limited number of Series X consoles available to purchase.
Couple all this with the fact that Phil doesn’t believe having good games does anything for the Xbox brand and I feel I’ve painted a pretty clear picture.
Microsoft wants to own everything
Most terrifying of all, with this leak, is how Microsoft wants to own everything. We could infer this from the spending spree that Xbox has been on acquiring studios (whose subsequent output have been suspiciously lacking, by the way)... but the fact that Xbox head Phil Spencer wants to acquire even more? It should be a cautionary tale for everyone. Especially now that we know just how grandiose their ambitions are written out in black and white.
In the leak, Phil Spencer is talking to Chris Capossela and Takeshi Numoto and he’s been talking about Microsoft’s dastardly plan to force Nintendo to accept a buyout proposal from Microsoft. What would this look like? How would it work?
Essentially, Microsoft has tight connections with another company, ValueAct, who has been acquiring shares of Nintendo, as well as Mason Morfit who has been doing the same.
FTC take note: Xbox won’t be satiated until they own every brand in gaming. They want nothing short of a monopoly and they should not be allowed to acquire Activision.
Essentially, when a company is publicly traded, that company is beholden to delivering on the demands of their shareholders. As Phil has laid out in the leaked email, quote:
“Our former MS Board of Directors member ValueAct has been heavily acquiring shares of Nintendo and I’ve kept in touch with Mason Morfit as he’s been acquiring. It’s likely he will be pushing for more [growth and appreciation] from Nintendo stock which could create opportunities for us.”
If you’ve heard of the term “hostile takeover,” it’s a similar idea. A publicly traded company has a hostile entity buy a majority of the company’s shares and then starts making demands of the company that they can’t meet. Then the hostile entity offers to buy out the company completely as an alternative to their unattainable demands. But Spencer’s plan is to use outside investors who are loyal to him to give them an inroad.
Truly despicable behavior. But Phil has kept Microsoft’s Board of Directors in the loop on this plan as, apparently, team Xbox has a full write-up on a potential acquisition with Nintendo and Valve.
Yeah, you had to know that was coming. Xbox wants to buy Valve. Thankfully, Valve is a private company. That means they don’t have stocks that can be bought out by Spencer’s moles and cronies. And Valve is exceptionally profitable so I don’t expect Gabe Newell is interested in selling out to Microsoft any time soon. Especially given how hostile Valve has been towards Microsoft in the past.
But yeah. This leak has been wild and it’s been really interesting to comb through. If you enjoyed this article, you know what to do. Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you!