With Sony’s PlayStation VR headset receiving its first mainstream media reviews this week, the video games war between Sony and Microsoft entered its latest chapter. With both companies planning mid-generation consoles, the video game niche is about to hot up considerably in the next 12-15 months.
The PS4 Pro is, of course, planned for release considerably before the Xbox Scorpio, with Microsoft having already confirmed that it will delay its console until 2017. Early suggestions on the Microsoft device indicate that this will be a massive step forward over the Xbox One, whereas the Sony machine is much more of an updated version of the existing PlayStation 4.
4K Blu-ray row
Microsoft has already attempted to set its forthcoming console aside from the competition by emphasising the fact that the Scorpio will include a 4K Blu-ray drive. Sony has abandoned this concept with the PS4 Pro, with the video games market leader apparently deciding that physical media is not as important to the corporation as it once was. This is somewhat ironic considering that it was Sony that popularized the media-playing console with the PlayStation 2, but it is clearly no longer a central part of its overall strategy.
But Xbox chief Phil Spencer has been keen to emphasize the value of 4K Blu-ray.
“I think us stating a feature that we have in our box that we think is an important selling feature of our box is completely within fair game. It is a feature of our box and for somebody to look and say that talking about the features that you decide… I mean, we made a bet on a 4K Blu-ray disc, and they didn’t,” the supremo told GameSpot.
“And I’m not saying they made the wrong decision and we made the right decision, but if somebody wants a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive we have a console that has one, then we’re going to make sure that people know that. And if people say that that’s console wars, I think they’re wrong.”
It seems that the Microsoft strategy for the Xbox Scorpio is to produce a premium console very much aimed at hardcore gamers. This is essentially an admission that the company got things completely wrong with the Xbox One, which was pitched very much as an entertainment unit when it was unveiled.
Spencer has already told the media that the Xbox Scorpio will be priced at a premium when it arrives in time for the 2017 holiday season. The Xbox boss has stated that the recently released Xbox One S and Xbox Scorpio were indeed developed concurrently, with the idea of the two devices occupying completely different market niches. And Spencer has been keen to brand the Xbox Scorpio as a truly premium console.
“So I think you will feel like it’s a premium product, a premium console. And not something, anything more than that. So I wouldn’t get people worried that this thing is going to be unlike any console price you’ve ever seen. We didn’t design it that way.”
Nonetheless, while Microsoft has seemingly been listening to the concerns of the gamers, the company must be extremely careful regarding the price point of the Xbox Scorpio. The fact is that consoles are intended to be affordable alternatives to PC desktops, and with the price of such machines also coming down rapidly, Microsoft could easily price itself out of the market.
This is especially true considering that it doesn’t haven’t the customer base of Sony at present, with the manufacturer of the Xbox range having lost a lot of goodwill from gamers with its disastrous public relations campaign for the Xbox One.
PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio specs
Considering the language that Microsoft is using in relation to the Xbox Scorpio, it seems likely that it will significantly outperform the PS4 Pro, at least in terms of pure specifications.
The PS4 Pro features an eight-core, x86-64 AMD “Jaguar” CPU, and a 4.2 TFLOP GPU. The Scorpio is expected to be armed with a powerful GPU, capable of an impressive 6 TFLOPs. This would unquestionably make the Xbox Scorpio the most powerful console ever produced.
While the PS4 Pro boasts 4K functionality, it remains to be seen how this operates in the real world. Many are sceptical that a console with the specifications of the PS4 Pro is capable of delivering true 4K gaming, and this will be a massive challenge for the Sony machine when it is made available. If Microsoft is able to deliver a machine with the processing power linked with the Xbox Scorpio then it will be in a much stronger position to deliver 4K.
Aaron Greenberg, head of Xbox marketing, has indicated that there will be no platform-exclusive games when the Xbox Scorpio is released, very much mirroring Sony policy. And Microsoft has also been keen to emphasize that the console will have virtual reality capabilities, probably being paired with the Oculus Rift project in some capacity.
Sony is, of course, ahead of the game in this department already, with its PlayStation VR headset having received favorable reviews with the PlayStation 4 hardware this week. Considering that the PS4 Pro is significantly more powerful than the existing PlayStation 4, Sony could have a very capable virtual reality platform in place within weeks. This will give the corporation a massive head start over Microsoft, which could be extremely important in what is an embryonic technology.
In conclusion, Sony has very much aimed for the mass market with the PS4 Pro and its overall ethos and approach to the video gaming market. Microsoft clearly believes that it needs to change direction significantly, as it has been effectively thrashed in the existing console generation. If Microsoft is to close the gap on Sony, or even overtake it completely, it must surely convince hardcore gamers that the Xbox Scorpio delivers more bang for their buck than the Sony machine. This will be a serious challenge, considering that the PS4 Pro will have been on the market for over a year by the time we can finally get out hands on the Scorpio.