The boss of the Microsoft Xbox video games console has hinted that the next generation of hardware released by the corporation could be an Xbox Two after all. The PlayStation 4.5 is pretty much an open secret by now, and it was believed that Microsoft may follow suit with more of an update to the Xbox One than a brand new console.
Xbox Two – Spencer rules out Xbox 1.5?
But the well-known Phil Spencer has stated at a press conference in the United States that the whole concept of an updated Xbox One is not attractive to him at all. “I’m not a big fan of Xbox One and a half,” Spencer stated. “If we’re going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers. For us, our box is doing well. It performs, it’s reliable, the servers are doing well. If we’re going to go forward with anything, like I said, I want it to be a really substantial change for people – an upgrade.”
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These comments are open to interpretation, and the word ‘upgrade’ is itself ambiguous. But Spencer has indicated that this shouldn’t be considered as manually updating a console with new components, as is of course common for PC users. In principle, Spencer is speaking about an Xbox 1.5, but with the clear implication that this will be far more powerful than such an updated branding would indicate. This could be a fully fledged Xbox Two.
This does perhaps contradict previous reports on Microsoft, which suggested that the corporation is considering a future in which its Xbox range is very much tied-in with PC gaming. Spencer actually addressed this at the event, discussing the monopolization controversy for Windows, while suggesting that Microsoft is unlikely to go down the road that Sony appears to be intending with the PlayStation 4.5.
PlayStation 4.5 confirmed
While Microsoft may not be considering an updated version of the Xbox One console, it seems increasingly clear that the PlayStation 4.5 will indeed land in stores around the world before the end of 2016. Digital Foundry, an esteemed hardware analysis publication, has reported that it has independently verified that the upgraded PlayStation 4 indeed exists, and that central to its portfolio features will be an upgraded GPU.
This move certainly make sense for Sony, with the PlayStation VR headset also expected for release in the second half of 2016. It seems absolutely clear that the PlayStation 4 will not be able to deliver the full virtual reality experience that Sony has in mind, and indeed the Japanese manufacturer has already confirmed that the PlayStation VR will be inferior in power to Oculus Rift, at least on the PS4.
But perhaps a PlayStation 4.5 can deliver a similar experience to the PC-based VR system, and certainly Sony looks to be hoping for this eventuality with the release of the ultra-powerful PlayStation 4.5. Early reports suggest that the system will have double the power of the existing PlayStation 4, and this bodes extremely well for its ability to run virtual reality, as well as delivering 4K resolution for gamers.
So why is Microsoft shying away from producing a similar product? It seems that there are two central reasons for this decision, with the first being simple marketing. The perception is that Sony has delivered a PlayStation 4 console experience that is simply superior to that of the Xbox One, and Microsoft has never really caught up with the PlayStation 4 after its initially disastrous public relations and marketing.
It was a nail in the coffin of the Xbox One that the system was unable to run some games in 1080p, and Microsoft probably wishes to give the impression that it is delivering the next generation system this time round, rather than Sony. If it can produce a console in a remotely similar timeframe to the PlayStation 4.5 that delivers notably superior power, this could lead to massive sales and something of a next gen head start for Microsoft.
There will, of course, be a PlayStation 5, and Sony could in fact gain some advantage by being able to assess the Xbox Two before committing to any particular specs. But Microsoft will remember fondly the fact that the Xbox 360 earned a significant edge over the PlayStation 4 simply by reaching the stores one year before the Sony machine. Microsoft could be returning to previous practice with the release of the Xbox Two in this regard.
Possible sales flop
Secondly, Microsoft has undoubtedly considered the sales impact of releasing an Xbox 1.5, and may have reasoned that it would simply be a disastrous investment. Only the most blinkered fan of the Xbox series would contest the assertion that Sony has dominated the existing console generation, and Microsoft may feel that it is not in a strong enough position to piggyback on to the Xbox One with an updated console.
The last thing the software and electronics giant wants is for the Xbox Two to follow in the footsteps of the Xbox One and be considerably outsold by a Sony competitor. This may be why Microsoft has decided to simply turn its attention to the next generation Xbox Two, and hope to deliver a unit that wows gamers and creates a buzz that Sony is unable to match with the PlayStation 5.
All will become clearer on the subject of the Xbox Two when E3 takes place in June. Both of the major console manufacturers will be presenting their latest wares at this trade show, and we could have more news on the Xbox Two at that date.
Numerous aspects will be important in building an Xbox Two console that truly appeals to the masses. While Microsoft will need to ensure that PR, marketing and the message behind the console is considerably more attractive and coherent than last time out, internals will also be critical. A more powerful graphics chipset, 4K out of the box, support for the Hololens system, cloud-based gaming, the retention of physical discs, better original titles at launch, and backwards compatibility from day one will all be considered important if the Xbox Two is to thrive.