Microsoft’s biggest announcement at the E3 2016 conference was, without a doubt, Xbox Project Scorpio, an updated and more powerful Xbox One console. The company described the device as the most powerful of all time, one that would certainly usher in a new age of console gaming. Featuring 4K graphics, the most powerful processor in a gaming console ever, the “highest quality pixels,” Xbox Project Scorpio came with an entire host of massive pronouncements.
Some people were skeptical of the announcement, but Microsoft seems to be putting their whole behind Xbox Project Scorpio. A new interview between Head of Xbox Marketing Aaron Greenberg and technology website Engadget, some new, bold claims are made about the system, the future of Xbox, and gaming as a whole.
An exciting time for the video game community
Whether you are a fan of the upcoming console or not, it’s hard to deny that the video game industry seems to be undergoing a massive change, or shift, if you will. Its seems as if Microsoft is set on completely changing the paradigm of console generations with Xbox Project Scorpio, which is intended to be nearly 5 times as powerful as the Xbox One yet also intended to sit and function alongside the older machine. It will play the same games, albeit at a much higher resolution, and will most likely have some sort of virtual reality functionality that has yet to be explained. It’s a bold idea, and one that has the video game industry engaged in a lot of discussion.
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One of the most pertinent issues surrounding Xbox Project Scorpio is Aaron Greenberg’s belief that the console signals the end of console generations for the Xbox:
I think it is [the last console generation] …. For us, we think the future is without console generations; we think that the ability to build a library, a community, to be able to iterate with the hardware – we’re making a pretty big bet on that with Project Scorpio. We’re basically saying, “This isn’t a new generation; everything you have continues forward and it works.” We think of this as a family of devices.
“The future of Xbox looks a lot like PC gaming,” wrote Engadget editor Nathan Ingraham after speaking with Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division. During this conversation, Spencer mentioned that he wanted to see a shift away from the typical seven-year gaps between consoles to a more flexible, adaptable stream of hardware innovation. Citing the smartphone market as an example, Spencer wants the video game market to shift to a more constantly-updating hardware system.
Aaron Greenberg took it to the next level, outlining that he thinks Xbox Project Scorpio is the last generation of Xbox consoles:
But we’ll see, we’re going to learn from this, we’re going to see how that goes. So far I’d say based on the reaction there appears to be a lot of demand and interest around Project Scorpio, and we think it’s going to be a pretty big success. If the games and content deliver, which I think they will do, I think it will change the way we think about the future of console gaming.
How will Microsoft (and the rest of the video game community) adapt and change?
There are a number of interesting things to take away from the interview with Aaron Greenberg, as well as a number of concerns. For example, many love the idea of continual forward compatibility, and think that it could bring a whole lot more utility to developers and gamers alike. Just imagine the possibilities. There would only be one group of gamers, not divided by console generations, that could play, communicate, and interact with one another, regardless of console level. Gamers could upgrade on their own time, and not worry about missing out on the newest, biggest, and best.
“That term of an upgrade is gone,” says Dave McCarthy, head of operations for Xbox. “As a gamer, it’s pretty cool. Because then I know the games I buy and play today and the controllers I use today are going to work on that machine of tomorrow. And that’s the real major step-change.”
On the other hand, many people would prefer to see gameplay upgrades with more computing power instead of just better resolution. There would not be noticeable upgrades or increases in technology, as it would just meld into a constantly shifting, changing community. Microsoft will also need to be much clearer on how this proposed system will actually function if it intends to convince consumers that this is the future of video games.
Taking all of this into account, it leaves many questions and concerns on the mind. Only time will tell how Microsoft plans to address and answer them. Microsoft’s next big test will be what happens when Sony makes its inevitable announcement regarding the future of its gaming architecture. The PlayStation Neo will be arriving to the public much earlier than Xbox Project Scorpio will, and it does not appear, at this stage, that it will be coming with the same scale of upgraded hardware. Perhaps the Neo will be able to test the waters a bit.
This is an incredibly exciting time for both companies, and the video game community in general. The next couple of years could potentially dictate the next few decades in terms of how the industry will adapt to different generations, or whether it will get rid of the generational paradigm as a whole. At this point, only time can tell.