Gamespulp looks at the latest Xbox One console specs and decides whether or not the Xbox Project Scorpio is a next-gen machine in all but the marketing guff.
You know what a scorpion is famous for? Wearing top hats when no-one’s looking, sleeping with their boss’s wife, stinging the living hell out of anyone stupid enough to try getting to third base with it.
That sting… Something very familiar about the sting. Like the fact that Microsoft are bringing out a brand-new console next year that’s part Xbox upgrade, part Xbox Two (or Three, or however we’re counting the damn things now). That stinging your wallet enough for you?
It’s a good job every gamer everywhere was asking for the option of blowing hundreds on a mid-cycle high-end console – because the Xbox Project Scorpio is the ‘We heard you console.’ Or Kinect heard you and relayed everything back to Redmond, at least.
Doesn’t matter who ‘won’ E3 2016 – the gaming world’s buzzing about Project Scorpio; how many people are talking about Sony exclusive Days Gone? Seriously, Google Bing both search terms and manually count how many articles each one gets. It’s cool – we’ll wait.
…Totally not waiting. While they go and do number stuff, let’s consider why Microsoft have announced their new console a year before launch, and what the point really is (Hint: Life is a soulless grind in which we attempt to live above our true, primal nature, which clears up that little mystery).
The Xbox One Console Versions
Gamers were pretty bummed out when Microsoft dropped support for the original Xbox in favour of their newer, flashier 360 model. Not that there was much knocking about on the original Xbox – it was the principle, see? So Microsoft heard that and kinda sorta slowly phased out the Xbox 360 games before cutting it dead when they realised most players had upgraded.
With this new burst of consoles, Microsoft are claiming that it’s the end of the generation game. What they really hope is that by the time their Scorpio has a couple of system-selling games under its belt, most gamers will have upgraded already. Rather than a console maker forcing the end of a console generation themselves, as has been the case since forever (or 1972, we can’t remember, we drank a lot that year), Microsoft can present it as being the gamers’ choice to bring about a next-gen. That’s not a bad deal for gamers, but it’s an illusion nonetheless.
But that sort of idea takes baby steps. Steps with a capital S.
So we all know that Microsoft, bless ’em, are starting out by giving us a smaller, better Xbox One: The Xbox One S. You can choose what the S stands for – Streamlined, Smaller, S-pensive. Slim-line consoles have been a mainstay for a few gaming generations now, so it was always a case of when, not if.
Eurogamer heard we were writing this article, and helpfully listed the Xbox One S specs for us a week beforehand.
40% smaller form factor with a new “robot white” colour scheme
HDR visuals for supported games and video, 4K video support for Blu-rays, apps and movies, and 4K upscaling for games
A New Xbox Wireless Controller with a revamped design and Bluetooth connection
The console can now be stood upright with an optional vertical stand
The ‘On’ button at the front of the console is physical, instead of being touch sensitive
The device pairing button and one of the three USB ports are now located to the front of the device
Offers up to 2TB storage, depending on the SKU
An IR Blaster on the front of the device, similar to the Kinect’s IR Blaster, allowing you to turn on other devices like your TV and set top boxes without traditional remotes
And then Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox and prolific t-shirt collector, piped up saying, like, ‘Don’t buy an S and think games will run better, you fools!’ They will, sometimes, and not, mostly. There are some minor enhancements gamers might like and developers won’t even notice; it’s not a straight port in a skinnier box.
This is pure salami tactics. With incremental steps, normalising the idea of minimal upgrades, which leads to further upgrades, which eventually leads to essentially a whole new backwards compatible console. This makes Project Scorpio an easier sell, despite arriving in the middle of the current gen cycle.
Xbox Project Scorpio Specs and Speculation
And what do we get with Project Scorpio? Our old friend Eurogamer offers up some answers in the form of ancient Arabic hieroglyphs known as numbers:
Big numbers are good, right? Spencer reckons the Scorpio will be the most powerful console ever released (excluding the almighty Dreamcast). Compare those Scorpio stats to those on the Xbox One. The old one that kinda looks like a fat VCR…
Yeah, that one. There’s a monumental difference between the two consoles’ capabilities. It’s like comparing a NES to an Atari Jaguar. Or a typewriter to your Mac. Or a toaster to an A-bomb. We could do this all day. Point is, it’s substantial enough to at least point towards Scorpio being an Xbox One-point-Five. Only, there’s the Xbox One S, which is already the 1.5 model – and besides, Phil Spencer doesn’t like the idea of a Xbox 1.5.
So logic follows that Scorpio is the Xbox Two.
What’s the real intention with Project Scorpio? It was pitched at E3 2016 – or, the biggest marketing event in the gaming world – as a machine designed for VR units and 4K resolution gaming. Except developers aren’t being told to use the extra power under the hood to achieve a resolution that’s still pretty ropey on high-end PC gaming rigs. In fact, studios are encouraged to use that power however they see fit. Like improving textures and lighting and…
Hang on, isn’t that what a next-gen console brings us?
Actually, that’s not quite what defines a next-gen console. What really makes them next-gen is its games catalogue. How did we know the SNES was an upgrade? Because Super Mario Bros. 3 wouldn’t play on its predecessor (we tried).
And here’s where Microsoft appear most confused.
Originally, during E3, we were told – pretty definitively – that no gamer gets left behind. Phil Spencer made that his big point: there will be no Scorpio exclusives, because whatever Xbox console you play on, you all play the same games. Neat selling point, by the way, plays well with the ad-men in the room.
But then Shannon Loftis, general manager of gamer publishing, told Youtube’s Geoff Keighley during E3 that exclusive games for the Xbox Scorpio would be ‘up to the game development community.’ That led Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg to tweet out to all his millions of trolls ex-lovers fans that Scorpio will be exclusive-free.
And then Greenberg confirmed that, actually, Scorpio will have exclusive games, built for VR.
Is the Xbox Scorpio a next-generation console?
What we suspect is that Microsoft will maintain its usual round of updates, as it does currently, and that one of those updates themselves will herald the ‘next-gen’ status. We’re expecting an update that’s just too much for the original Xbox One to handle. You know, the way you can’t use an old iPhone once the update version reaches a certain level, so you end up trading it in for the latest model.
By that point, Microsoft will be hoping that a lot more gamers own 4K TVs, and that VR doesn’t flop like every other time the industry’s tried it (third time’s a charm, guys). But mostly, they’ll be praying that developers will have mastered Scorpio’s extra horsepower to point where all players need the machine for the ultimate gaming experience.
So it is and it isn’t, but the Xbox’s Project Scorpio probably will be a next-gen machine – it’s 4.5 times more powerful than the Xbox One, for chrissake! – but it won’t rightfully take up that mantel for a few years yet. In short, Microsoft are bang on when they chat about leaving no gamer behind, they’ll just wait for the gamers to voluntarily catch them up.
What do you reckon?