Project Scorpio: What We Know and What It Means

I’m a tech geek, at heart. Ever since I was 4 years old, learning how to use my first Windows 95 desktop tower, I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for technology, and the specs of a wide assortment of consumer products. So consider my interest risen when, this past week, Digital Foundry and Eurogamer were given exclusive access to the specs of the upcoming Microsoft gaming console, dubbed “Project Scorpio.” Not much was revealed about the console, apart from the specs, which has been a point of contention within the gaming world, along with the rest of the Xbox team’s recent decisions as of late. It is very likely that there will be a full and proper console reveal at E3, later in June, but for now, I’m going to give a deep look at what we know about Scorpio now, and what it all means as of now.

First, let’s address the big selling factor this console will have – native 4K gaming. Both outlets were given a look at Forza Motorsports running at a native 4K resolution, at 60 frames per second, and while that’s all well and good, how will older Xbox One games run on the console? Supposedly, many XB1 games, which run at either 1080p/60, 1080p/30, or even 900p/30, will also be able to run at a native 4K screen resolution, by adding in additional art assets meant for the proper 4K display. To note, though, citing Digital Foundry’s video on the Scorpio, the demo of Forza was only running between 60 and 70 percent of the total GPU power of the console – more on that in a moment. Now, admittedly, this is a substantial step up from what the PS4 Pro can do, offering a native resolution instead of upscaling to 4K, but we still need to know about how upcoming games will run – again, more on that in a moment. As far as benchmark tests go, Scorpio outperforms the competition, across the board. Looking at the detailed specs, the CPU is a 2.3GHz 8-core custom AMD processor, the GPU is an integrated AMD graphics card with six TERAFLOPS!!! (that’s a Training Stage bit) of processing power, it is sporting 12GB of GDDR5 RAM memory, and a 1TB 2.5” HDD and 4K UHD Blu-ray optical drive. Nothing we didn’t already know before last summer’s E3 presentation, but hey, here they are again.

So what does this all mean? Well, based on specs alone, nobody can really give a definitive answer as to whether or not the console will be something far greater than anything anyone has ever seen before, or if it’ll just be the Xbox One on steroids.

But right now, it’s looking more like it’s just the Xbox One on steroids.

Now, granted, there were some great points made, from the Digital Foundry and Eurogamer exclusives, that will grant game developers a lot of further access to create games exclusively for this console, but that’s all to be seen later on toward release, which Microsoft is still insisting on being Q4 2017. That’s not what concerns me, though. Lost in the shuffle, amongst all the talk about performance and cores and TERAFLOPS are one rather important element of what makes a game system successful: the games. Which is something Xbox has been lacking for a while; in the past year and a half, Microsoft has shut down the studios behind Fable and Project Spark, released Quantum Break to a middling response, and completely cancelled their PlatinumGames exclusive Scalebound. And by the way, Nier: Automata has sold over 1 million copies on PS4 and PC so far. I’m sipping my tea at you, Microsoft.

So what about their three core original IPs – Halo, Forza, and Gears of War? For what it’s worth, Microsoft has been relying on these three titles to sell their consoles, and so far? Xbox One – 26 million consoles sold; PS4 – 53 million consoles sold. And this is why all eyes will be on Microsoft, come E3, because they desperately need to come out swinging with the reveal of Project Scorpio. On top of revealing concrete physical details, aka the console itself, they need to announce a plethora of developers on board for the system, they need to let their consumer base know just what this product is and who they are targeting it toward, and they have to announce it at a price that will not be given an apathetic response. And if they have it in them, maybe announce a new original IP, or give an update on the status of Sea of Thieves. They need to sell a mass audience on this console, and it can’t just be filled with buzzwords and fancy promo spots. If this is going to be a gaming machine, they need to focus on games, games, and more games, and execute their mission without a hitch.

In other words, the Xbox team just needs to not have a repeat of 2013.

You all remember that 2013 E3 presentation, right? The show that cost Don Mattrick his job at Microsoft, filled with talk of disc-based DRM, the “it’s called Xbox 360” comment, the $499 price point, and that failed Assassin’s Creed demo. And then Sony kicked them in the ass, only a few hours later. Yeah, all that Phil Spencer needs to do with his team is just not have a repeat of that disaster, and everything will be fine. Just come out swinging, impress the crowd, offer a great demo presentation for the people at E3, and for the love of God, don’t let it be anything above $500.

Until then, all we can do is wait it out until E3. You can bet that there will be plenty of E3 coverage on here, and on The Training Stage, so let’s cross our fingers that things will go smoothly for everyone at Xbox this year.

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