With the PS4 Pro already having been released, fans of the Xbox range are already eagerly anticipating the release of the Xbox Project Scorpio. This next generation console from Microsoft sounds truly exciting and game-changing, and comments this week have whetted the collective appetite of video gamers even more.
Mahler speaks out
Thomas Mahler, developer of exclusive titles Ori and the Bind Forest, both Xbox exclusives, has had his say on the Xbox Project Scorpio. Speaking to NeoGAF, Mahler spoke bluntly about the power of the forthcoming console. “Scorpio isn’t just a half-assed upgrade (which the PS4 Pro kinda is…), but a full blown next-gen machine that’s just backwards-compatible to your current library.”
Already there have been rumors that the Xbox Project Scorpio will provide not only a massive power increase over the existing Xbox One, but also a significantly more capable package than even the PS4 Pro. While the Sony release is capable of rendering in native 4K, this is still challenging for developers. But it seems that the extra power included in the Xbox Project Scorpio will make this far more feasible.
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Most notably, the Xbox Project Scorpio has been linked with 6 teraflops of competing power; nearly 50 percent more than that of the PS4 Pro. This will obviously translate into outstanding outstanding real world performance, and would seem to give Microsoft a significant edge, although this rumored spec also poses several questions. Above all else, it is difficult to see how the corporation can deliver this level of computing power and also produce an affordable console.
Xbox Project Scorpio – VR technology
But early indications are that the Xbox Project Scorpio will be a major upgrade over even the PS4 Pro, and one that will be particularly compatible with the increasingly important virtual reality technology. Microsoft has yet to confirm what VR technology will be utilized with the Xbox Project Scorpio – although it is certain to embrace its own Hololens – but the smart money will certainly be on Oculus Rift, particularly considering the close PC ties anticipated with the console.
Nonetheless, it is a strong assertion from Mahler that the PS4 Pro doesn’t even represent a true next generation machine. But there is some logic to this statement, with the PS4 Pro perhaps more reasonably fitting the description of a mid-generation release. While this would seem to give Microsoft potentially major advantages over Sony, the situation isn’t as simple as it may initially appear.
Hitting the market first
Firstly, the history of video gaming, and indeed many other consumer electronic niches, indicate that it is not always the most technologically advanced machine that succeeds in the marketplace. It could be argued that the PlayStation 3 was technically superior to the Xbox 360, and there is no doubt that its fail rate was considerably better than that of the Microsoft console. Yet Microsoft benefited hugely in the early days of the last generation console war from the fact that it managed to get its machine out to market around twelve months ahead of the Sony competitor.
Now the situation is completely reversed. The PS4 Pro and VR headset will have been on the market for an entire year before the Xbox Project Scorpio appears. That is not a minor head start, it is a very serious advantage for Sony, and one that Microsoft will have to work extremely hard to overcome. Previous evidence in fact suggests that Microsoft will struggle to plug the gap between the consoles following this initial gulf in release date.
This will become even more difficult if the Xbox Project Scorpio is released at a significantly higher price tag than the PS4 Pro. Yet this is almost inevitable, as Sony has the possibility of aggressively reducing the price of the PS4 Pro roundabout the time that the Xbox Project Scorpio hits the stores. This will give Sony the advantage in pricing, even if Microsoft is able to match the initial price of the PS4 Pro for what promises to be a more technologically advanced console.
While console gamers may relish the additional power of the Xbox Project Scorpio, if Microsoft is able to deliver what is being promised, it is also worth bearing in mind the overall ethos of the console niche. Console gamers do not necessarily opt for this form of technology to get the optimum experience, they do so in order to enjoy an exciting and technologically-advanced form of gaming that is also affordable and convenient.
It is well established that PC gaming is the most advanced and rarefied form of gaming on the planet, hence the rather tiresome and seemingly endless ‘PC Master Race’ arguments. But gaming PCs require a bigger investment, and although efforts have been made to ensure that they are more convenient to use than was the case in the past, they can never match the convenience of a console.
Microsoft is clearly planning a mega-console, but it would be pretty pointless to release an expensive unit that ultimately fails to attract its core audience. It must strike an appropriate balance between delivering the most technologically impressive machine possible, while also serving the specific needs of console gamers.
Does 4K matter?
It is also important to note that next generation technology has yet to deliver anything truly ground-breaking, with the exception of virtual reality, which Microsoft has not even committed to in hardware terms. While 4K resolution is a nifty aspect of the contemporary video games marketplace, and certainly a welcome technological addition, the fact remains that, firstly, very few people currently own a 4K television, and, secondly, it adds nothing to the games themselves.
The success of consoles is not necessarily based on the highest screen resolution and outstanding visuals, but on the games themselves. At present, most neutral observers would agree that the PlayStation series has marginally better exclusive titles, and with Gran Turismo arriving in 2017 Microsoft’s major advantage in this area with its Forza series will also diminish. Microsoft will need outstanding exclusive titles out of the gate in order to sell this console, which promises a very exciting console war in the coming months.