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Xbox Series X’s expansion card costs $219.99

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USB external drives are still compatible, but not for next-gen games

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image showing the Xbox Series X 1 TB expansion card inserted into the back of the new console
The official Xbox One Series X 1 TB expansion drive recalls the old memory cards of the Xbox and Xbox 360 days.
Image: Microsoft

The officially licensed, 1 TB Storage Expansion Card for the Xbox Series X and Series S costs $219.99, Microsoft announced Thursday. It’s available for pre-order now.

The Microsoft Store listing confirmed information revealed in a product listing at Best Buy that went live earlier Thursday.

Seagate makes the solid-state drive, which Microsoft announced but gave no price for in March. It’s pitched as “the only available expansion card that replicates the Xbox Velocity Architecture,” which is what delivers “faster load times, richer environments, and more immersive gameplay” on the next-generation Xbox consoles.

Microsoft has promised that all the accessories you use on your Xbox One will work on the Xbox Series X. This goes for external hard drives, too, with USB 3.1 or 3.2 connectivity. However, all Xbox Series X games must be installed to the console’s internal SSD or the Seagate card — USB external hard drives are far slower than these NVMe SSDs, which use the new PCIe 4.0 standard. (Series X games can be backed up to a USB external drive, but can’t be played from one.)

Backward-compatible Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox games can still be played on the Xbox Series X if they’re installed on a USB external drive. And if you have one piled up with installed games for your Xbox One right now, it will be plug-and-play compatible with the new console launching Nov. 10. But Xbox One games that are “optimized for Xbox Series X,” like Gears 5 will be, can’t be played off a USB drive if users want “optimal performance,” says Microsoft.

Xbox Series X external storage options, compared

Feature USB 3.1 hard drive Seagate Expansion Card
Feature USB 3.1 hard drive Seagate Expansion Card
Stores any Xbox game Yes Yes
Plays Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Original Xbox games Yes Yes
Plays games optimized for Xbox Series X|S No Yes
Replicates speed and performance of internal SSD No Yes
Table: Microsoft

For comparison, a Seagate-made 2 TB external hard drive that’s designed for Xbox One is currently available for $89.99. The $219.99 cost for the Xbox Series X Storage Expansion Card may be a fair price for the cutting-edge technology in the device, although it’s hard to say; very few PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs are on the market, and even so, this is a custom-built SSD that’s designed to plug directly into the back of an Xbox Series X or Series S.

Unlike Microsoft with the Xbox Series X and Series S, Sony will not require a proprietary storage expansion solution for the PlayStation 5. PS5 owners will be able to upgrade the console’s 825 GB internal storage with an off-the-shelf PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD, although Sony will have to certify specific drives as compatible with the console. (For reference, Samsung announced its Evo 980 Pro SSD this week, and the 1 TB model will retail for $229.99.) It’s worth noting that stand-alone PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSDs will get cheaper over time, but a proprietary product like the Seagate-branded Xbox Series X card may not.

While NVMe SSDs are the state of the art for storage, 1 TB is not a lot of space for any PC or console currently available. The Xbox Series X itself has a 1 TB internal NVMe SSD, so $219.99 only doubles that capacity. The Xbox Series S has only 512 GB of internal storage — just above the amount of storage in launch Xbox One consoles seven years ago. (Next-gen games will at least take up less space on the Series S than on the Series X, because the smaller console is designed for gaming at 1440p resolution rather than 4K.)

Assuming an average of 50 GB per game — and that may be on the low side for next-gen games — you could store at most 20 games on a 1 TB card, despite a Best Buy listing that promises gamers can “collect thousands of games across four generations of Xbox without sacrificing performance.”

Update: Microsoft on Thursday published an Xbox Wire explainer with Xbox director of program management Jason Ronald that gives further detail about the Storage Expansion Card.

In it, Ronald confirms the Storage Expansion Card’s $219.99 MSRP and says that the Xbox Velocity Architecture’s performance, 40 times greater than that of the standard hard drive in the Xbox One, justifies the cost.

“The Xbox Velocity Architecture is a key innovation of our next generation consoles, delivering unprecedented speed and performance enabling transformative gaming experiences never before possible on console,” said Ronald. “This level of consistent, sustained performance requires advanced components which comes at a higher cost than traditional hard drives or SSDs often found in PCs.”

Ronald added that Microsoft will eventually offer further options for external storage with its next-gen consoles. “Xbox is continuing to invest in the Expandable Storage category on Xbox Series X|S with goal of offering choice for Xbox fans, including additional capacities and implementations in the future,” said Ronald. This likely means other third-party solutions, but when and for what price, who knows.

Regarding the Xbox Series S’ internal SSD, half the size of the Series X’s onboard storage, Ronald mentioned that Series S games would be “often up to 30% smaller on average,” as they don’t need the “highest level of 4K textures” that Series X games do.