Thanks to Digital Foundry, everyone now knows what the hardware specs will be on the new Xbox Scorpio. There are still a few things that have not been announced, however, that will most likely come at the Microsoft Conference prior to the start of E3 2017. The system will feature 12 GB of GDDR5 memory (8 GB available for games) at 326 GB/s of bandwidth. It will also feature a better 8-core AMD processor capable of new technology such as Dolby Atmos, which will allow 7.1 Surround Sound to pick up on vertical sounds. Most all the specs average to be about a 30% performance boost to its competition, the PlayStation 4 Pro. But what has Microsoft done lately to show that the system won’t be another paperweight?
The Nintendo Switch launched with hardware issues and not the best image, but the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild saved it and made the launch a financial success. If the Switch had a launch along the same lines of the Wii U, we might not be having this conversation. The point is, there was a great game that launched alongside the Switch, and that is putting it lightly to some. Many did not like the price point of the Switch when announced, but it was still affordable. What we don’t know about the Xbox Scorpio will be its price and what will launch alongside it to showcase its power.
When the PS4 Pro launched, patches were provided to games to up performance. It would take a couple of months to see some true results thanks go games like Horizon: Zero Dawn. Developers will not need to do the same with the Xbox Scorpio. It seems that all past Xbox One games, and even backwards compatible Xbox 360 games, will see an upconvert to 4K and a performance boost immediately. This is a great selling point for the system. It took a few months for the PS4 Pro to get a Boost Mode to allow a better frame rate for past games. So games like Forza Motorsport 6 and Gears of War 4 should see immediate results. The way the architecture is designed will allow new games to not need a patch to allow better performance, which can allow for an immediate customization experience to gamers. This is a plus.
The jury is still out on what the price will be on the Scorpio. If the system releases in the $400-$500 range, that seems to be acceptable to the general consensus. Many fear, however, that Microsoft may release the system for $600, which would be unacceptable to most. When you think about it, if the the system can achieve true 4K gaming at $600 with an included UHD Blu-ray player, it would be worth it in comparison to trying to build a 4K gaming PC that provides a consistent experience. When thought in that manner of speaking, a $400-$500 range would be a steal. No one will know this for at least the next two months.
While having the ability to play previous games with a performance and visual boost is certainly a plus, what does Microsoft have in store going forward? Within the past year, they have cancelled new IPs and shut down studios as exclusive game releases dwindled. Forza Motorsport 6 was shown to Digital Foundry and all that was received was a screenshot with a tech specification on it showing utilization and frame rate. It was at the beginning of a race when nothing is really happening. Many perceived that the next Forza would be shown off, but that could still be the case at E3. While Sony is killing it in the games department, Microsoft seems to have taken a backseat. Would it be worth shelling out the money for a system that gets less than five exclusives per year?
For the Scorpio to succeed, Microsoft needs to broaden its horizons and open its mind to new studios and new ideas. This involves taking chances and not resting its laurels on the few proven franchises it has. Forza has become a yearly release between its two games with Forza Horizon and Forza Motorsport, but it still comes down to being one franchise. Gears of War and Halo are the other go-to franchises and Dead Rising is something the company has in its pocket. There is also no point in pushing indie titles at 4K when most are not visually demanding to begin with. This brings us to multi-platform titles. It helps that the system does things automatically to improve performance where as a developer would have to incorporate features for the PS4 Pro. At the average of a 30% performance boost for Scorpio, you may see a difference of 1-5 FPS for it in comparison to the Pro. Without needing to do checker box rendering, there also may be a slight difference in the details. Is it worth shelling out the money for it, however, if Microsoft doesn’t show off any titles to support its new system?
It is clear that Sony firmly has a handle on this generation thus far. Microsoft could immediately take control, but it is going to take more than just selling the specs of its new system. It will take a fair price point and the evidence that it has a good library coming to support it. The company needs to take some chances on some new studios and games, because while multi-platform games may get a boost in performance in comparison to the PS4 Pro, would it really be worth forking out the extra dough? Only time will tell, but gamers do want to play games, and not have a $500 Netflix Box that can play 4K Blu-rays. There is already an Xbox One S for that.